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Shadows of a Swinging Corpse: The Wagener Building

The Wagener building is one of the stops on my Stories in the Cemetery Interactive Ghost Hunting Experiences and I felt the need to dive further into this huge building on East Bay Street.

A Ghost Story

The building holds an often told ghost story of George Poirier, a suicide from the third floor. His story goes a little like this:

After inheriting a very wealthy cotton business from his father, Poirier knew very little about investments and business management. To escape the demise of his cotton business from the boll weevil insect, and to pay off debts, Poirier sold his cotton stock to the British.

Poirier was already a depressed man, having his fill of dealing with his father’s passed down business and being in over his head after spending his inheritance.

East Bay Street Wagener Building
Photo found in “Indelible Photographs” of Charleston, S.C. from the Low Country Digital Library (lcdl) of the College of Charleston. 1890-99

With the British ship loaded with his last load of cotton, Poirier watched the ship head out to see from the third floor of the Wagener building. The ship allegedly caught fire from someone smoking a pipe too close to the load of cotton and caught the entire ship ablaze.

In all the stress of handling a business he was not trained to manage, losing his inheritance and now the shame to his family of selling the last bit of cotton to the British that was set to fire, Poirier was at his ultimate limit. The story says that Poirier stacked the furniture in the room with his captain’s chair on top; climbed the furniture and hung himself from the rafters. It is said that a broken window on the third floor invited the crows to feast on his carcass before a newsboy found Poirier’s swinging remains the next morning.

Not too bad of a ghost story, huh?

Paranormal Evidence

The claims of furniture moving, being stacked, cold drafts that can’t be explained have all pushed subsequent owners and tenants out of the Wagener building.  There are also claims of a swinging corpse shadow on a stormy night from the third story windows.  I’ve had some subtle evidence come through on my tours of downtown Charleston while passing by the building.

20191004_095116
Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Taken from a rooftop across from the Wagener Building.

EMF spikes around the corner doors and my trusty ghost detector app giving off phrases like “Under the Chair” and “Insects Itching” all come to light after this research. I’m taking the “Insects Itching” as the boll weevil insect that invaded the cotton crops of South Carolina during this time. According to a CDC study, the boll weevil can cause rashes and itching to those allergic to the beetle.

Just before writing this post, I visited the building one last time to look for more paranormal evidence other than a few EMF spikes. What I found was a construction crew working diligently inside and in a restricted area.

With the EMF detector and Ghost Detector app running, I paced around the building a few times waiting for answers. One name, in particular, showed up that I’ve never seen come through the app before: “Elias”. I did my research.

Writer Richard Fowler wrote an article on the building while he, too, was researching the haunting. He discovered a scandal from the original Wageners whose name bears the building but also involving a Washington Whilden, son of Elias Whilden, wrapped around lost business ventures around the great earthquake of 1886.

Reading his article and speculative theory, I’m convinced (again) that I have come across paranormal evidence that my tools are working. You can check out Fowler’s theory here:

Nothing New Under the Sun by Richard Fowler

Future Use

The Wagener Building has plans to be used for an upscale restaurant (yet to be determined) and for wedding receptions. This makes complete sense since the three floors facing East Bay Street are all wide open floorplans and would be a perfect venue for a Charleston wedding.

The back of the building is currently comprised of condos. During one of my tours, a guest explained that she had a friend who lived in one of those condos and has never mentioned any abnormal or paranormal activity. If I’m following the story of George Poirier, I can see where this would be legitimate due to his hanging in the front of the building.

More than just a Blog

This is episode 18 of the Stories in the Cemetery podcast.

E42: The Stone Tape Theory and Lodge Alley Stories in the Cemetery

This episode discusses The Stone Tape Theory and uses Lodge Alley in Charleston, South Carolina as a study for the theory. You can always become a sponsor the Stories in the Cemetery Podcast by going to Anchor.fm and searching the name of the podcast. Sponsorships buttons are available. See the blog post for this episode on http://www.storiesinthecemetery.com along with our other Ghost Hunting 101 posts and Paranormal Investigations. Or if you'd like to see/hear more about the Interactive Ghost Hunting Experiences, visit the same website and click the "Let's Go Ghost Hunting" tab.  Resources used to create this episode and blog post:  References for The Stone Tape Theory Bos, P. B. (n.d.). The Stone Tape Theory. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from Haunted Walk: https://hauntedwalk.com/news/the-stone-tape-theory/ Danielson, L. (n.d.). Using GIS to Analyze Relationships to Explore Paranormal Occurrences in the. Retrieved from http://gis.smumn.edu/GradProjects/DanielsonL.pdf Lucia. (2020, March 9). How Does It Work?: The Stone Tape Theory, Residual Hauntings and the Deep Influence of Memory and Emotion. Retrieved from Ghost in the Machine: https://theghostinmymachine.com/2020/03/09/how-does-it-work-the-stone-tape-theory-residual-hauntings-and-the-deep-influence-of-memory-and-emotion/ ParaPedia. (n.d.). Theory behind Limestone Quartz and Magnetite. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from ParaPedia: http://www.panicd.com/encyclopedia/theory-behind-limestone-quartz-and-magnetite.html Potter, C. (2004, October 14). Were Pittsburgh's original finished roads and streets paved with cobblestone, Belgian block or some other type of brick? Retrieved from Pittsburgh City Paper: https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/were-pittsburghs-original-finished-roads-and-streets-paved-with-cobblestone-belgian-block-or-some-other-type-of-brick/Content?oid=1336413 References for Lodge Alley SC Picture Project. (2022). Lodge Alley. Retrieved from SC Picture Project: https://www.scpictureproject.org/charleston-county/lodge-alley.html Zierden, M., Calhoun, J., & Paysinger, E. (1983). Archaeological Investigation at Lodge Alley. Charleston, South Carolina. Retrieved from https://www.charlestonmuseum.org/assets/pdf/ArchaeologyReports/Lodge%20Alley%201983%20-%20AC%205.pdf References for Cesium Foist, L. (n.d.). What is Cesium Used for in Everyday Life? Retrieved June 22, 2022, from Study.com: https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-cesium-used-for-in-everyday-life.html Nelson, R. (n.d.). Cesium FAQ. Retrieved June 22, 2022, from Rochester: https://www.cs.rochester.edu/users/faculty/nelson/cesium/cesium_faq.html U.S. Geological Survey. (2018, June 14). Mineral Resource of the Month: Cesium. Retrieved from Earth Magazine: https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/mineral-resource-month-cesium/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/support
  1. E42: The Stone Tape Theory and Lodge Alley
  2. A Few Announcements
  3. E41: Types of Hauntings with BONUS Audio
  4. E40: St. Augustine Lighthouse; St. Augustine, Florida
  5. E39: New CoHost Amy Smart and Interview from Hillbilly Horror Stories Podcast

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One Comment on “Shadows of a Swinging Corpse: The Wagener Building

  1. Pingback: From Nicholas McGirr’s Blog : The Wagener Building in Charleston | Charleston Cavalier Tours

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