Anna Ravenel and the Unitarian Church Graveyard

Unitarian Church Graveyard entrance (Nanseaj, 2009)

Legends abound in Charleston.  And what better legend than one of a tragic love story?

One of the most popular legends in Charleston is about a young girl named Anna Ravenel.  Even today, Ravenel is a big and popular name in Charleston.  In fact, when the Cooper River Bridges were demolished 2005, the new, larger bridge was named the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.   There’s a town named for the Ravenels, a Ravenel car dealership, a realtor, and all kinds of other Ravenel “stuff.”

In 1827, Anna Ravenel was 14 years old.  A little young for marriage, but because she was the daughter of a wealthy family, she was already dowered to a prosperous and aristocratic young man.  But Anna, as young girls often are, was fickle and romantic.

She fell in love with a young man, a soldier, stationed at Fort Moultrie, located just across the Charleston Harbor.  Edgar Perry was 18 when he met Anna Ravenel.  Although he was several years older, he was instantly smitten.  She was smart and cultured, and she had just enough giddiness to keep him smiling.

Fort Moultrie, Sullivan’s Island, SC (DDima, 2006)

When Anna’s father realized she was seeing a soldier, he tried desperately to keep them separated.  He tried locking Anna in the house.  He tried sending thugs to dissuade Edgar from pursuing her, but the pair always found a way to be together, even if it meant having clandestine meetings in a local cemetery.

In December, 1828, Edgar was transferred away from Fort Moultrie.  It’s still suspected that Anna’s father had pulled some strings.  Regardless of the reason, Edgar was gone, and Anna’s father began to relax.

Then Anna was stricken with “fever,” possibly Dengue fever, as it was sweeping down the southeastern coast during that time.  Her sister was able to get word to Edgar that Anna was gravely ill, but before Edgar could get to her, Anna died.  Poor Edgar was devastated, and came as soon as he could.  He attempted to attend Anna’s funeral, but Anna’s father had anticipated his arrival, and Edgar was turned away.

Anna’s father was still determined to separate the two young lovers, even in death.  He purchased six plots at the Unitarian Church Graveyard…the very cemetery where the lovers would secretly meet.  He buried Anna in one grave, and had the remaining five dug to a depth of three feet.  All of the plots were unmarked.  He couldn’t keep Edgar from visiting the cemetery, but he did ensure that Edgar would never determine which was Anna’s grave.

Unitarian Church Graveyard (Tour Charleston LLC, 2011)

Edgar never did properly pay his final respects.

If you go through the service records of all of the soldiers stationed at Fort Moultrie, you’ll find that a young man named Edgar A. Perry was there from November, 1827 to December, 1828.  You’ll also find that Perry enlisted under a pseudonym.  The real name of this lovestruck soldier was Edgar Allan Poe.

Records also show that while Poe was there, he befriended a conchologist named Edmund Ravenel, who kept a house on Sullivan’s Island near Fort Moultrie.  In fact, it’s said that Ravenel, who was also one of the founders of the Medical University of South Carolina, was the inspiration for the character William Legrand in Poe’s story “The Gold Bug.”  Charlestonians insist that Poe’s last complete poem, Annabel Lee, was written for Anna Ravenel.  The Poe connection to Charleston is real.  Whether the legend is real, well, you’ll have to visit and decide for yourself.

Edmund Ravenel’s Office (Peterson, 2012)

If the legend is true, and Charlestonians are adamant that it is, Anna was probably not the daughter of Edmund Ravenel.  Edmund would have only been about 16 when Anna was born.  Edmund did have a few older brothers, but there were most certainly several branches on the Ravenel family tree, so it’s impossible to tell for sure whether they were part of the same immediate family.  It is said, though, that when the romance came to a head, Edmund closed his house on Sullivan’s Island, and worked exclusively from his office at 52 Meeting Street.

Years ago, various tour companies could enter the graveyard at the Unitarian Church at 8 Archdale Street.  But the church has since closed the area to tours after dark.  You can still visit during the day, though.  The entrance is between 161 and 163 King Street, marked by two brick pillars on either side.

It’s been said that Anna Ravenel still makes appearances around her still-unmarked grave, searching for the love that changed her life.

If you want to see it, you can visit it on your own.  But to experience all kinds of stories  about this graveyard, try the Haunted Charleston tour with Rebel Sinclair of Black Cat Tours.   If you do go, and you have allergies, you may want to pack some antihistamine.  There’s a lot of vegetation in there.

Image Credits:

Unitarian Cemetery Gate:
Nanseaj. (2009, November 18). Gate on king street. Retrieved from http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/nanseaj/4/1258680177/gate.jpg/tpod.html

Fort Moultrie:
DDima. (2006, December 27). Fort moultrie. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Moultrie

Unitarian Graveyard:
Tour Charleston LLC. (2011). The unitarian church graveyard. Retrieved from http://www.tourcharleston.com/Unitarian_Church_Graveyard_Ghosts_of_Charleston.htm

Ravenel Office:
Peterson, B. W. (2012, March 14). Category archives: Architecture. Retrieved from http://brucewpeterson.wordpress.com/category/architecture/

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~ by scareschs on March 15, 2012.

9 Responses to “Anna Ravenel and the Unitarian Church Graveyard”

  1. I am quite skeptical about ghosts when I see one, and Anna may have been my first encounter. I was on a vacation trip with my family and another family friend. We went on a tour while riding a carriage (I forgot what it was called—it was being pulled by a horse). We were passing slowly by the Lutheran Church and the Unitarian Church right next to it. I took a peak at the Unitarian Church Cemetery to find what seems to be a young white lady. She caught my attention for a second and I looked back at the tour guide to listen to him. As I looked back a few seconds after seeing her, she was gone.

    Like I said, I am skeptical in these type of situations. I asked my siblings and friends if they saw anyone in the cemetery, and they said, “no”. I then stumbled upon some websites like this explaining Anna and her tragic love-story, and her associations with Poe. I have heard of Poe and read his stories in English Class (maybe that somehow connects me to it? But maybe there was more?

    My World Religions teacher (a very respectable Catholic Priest) briefly taught us about Psychic Residue.

    Here are the notes I typed down about it:
    • Psychic Residue
    ◦ Place of great emotions—it becomes an atmosphere
    ◦ If you are speaking about those things—you begin to hear echoes of the past
    ◦ Times when people would be talking about it
    ◦ The psychic residue would be present

    I have a feeling that my deepest emotions connected in some way. I am quite the pessimistic person, so maybe a sad depressing emotion caught her attention?

    The other stories in this comment section are quite shocking and more interesting than mine. Hopefully her soul may Rest In Peace. God Bless to anyone touring Charleston.

  2. Oh my goodness!!!

  3. […] haunted love story is hidden by the mysteries that come with time. I recently read about Anna. May her soul find peace and her […]

  4. This story reminded me of another of Poes poems:

    ‘To _____’
    “I heed not not that my earthly lot
    Hath little little of earth in it –
    That years of love have been forgot
    In the hatred of a minute: –
    I mourn not that the desolate
    Are happier, sweet, than I,
    But that you sorrow for my fate
    Who am a passer by.” – Poe

  5. […] https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/anna-ravenel-and-the-unitarian-church-gr… […]

  6. I used to live in a house behind this graveyard. One night (late at night), I went outside to take some trash out and saw a young woman in a white dress at the iron gate on Jacob’s Alley. I thought it was really strange and started approaching to get a better view of what was going on. As I got closer I realized the girl was actually inside the gate as opposed to outside, as I originally thought, and her back was turned to me. Even though I am sure it was a ghost, I don’t really believe in ghosts, so I am somewhat conflicted about what I saw with my own eyes, since the graveyard was most certainly closed at that time. She didn’t disappear or attempt to move as I approached and I was sure to make noise to see if the person would run or seek help. That said, I oddly did not feel any fear and did not sense that whatever it was was there to harm anyone. I am from Virginia and live on the same street as Poe’s wife’s home and felt this was just too weird not to give my two cents. I had no idea about the Annabel Lee connection or why I waited so long to look into any past ghost sightings at that graveyard because I have told the story many times and always felt a little ridiculous telling it.

    • Hi William,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can appreciate the embarrassment you feel when telling it. I have my own strange stories about this graveyard. Last year, I was taking photos of the walkway into this cemetery while standing outside the gate on King Street. Every single photo was filled with weirdness. One picture, in particular, somehow captured a girl standing on the sidewalk BEHIND me. You can view it in the list of visitor photos here.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment. It’s quite a story!

      -ME

  7. […] https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/anna-ravenel-and-the-unitarian-church-gr… […]

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