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Standing tall over the Charleston, SC coastline sits an unassuming building with a history longer than the country in which it resides. Built before the American Revolution, the Old Exchange and Dungeon served many purposes throughout its reign. Some stories include revolutionaries and even more include the ends of captured pirates during the height of piracy in the Atlantic Ocean. With energy like that in the floorboards, it’s not hard to see why this historic building is a hotbed for paranormal activity. Let’s explore the history and hauntings of the Old Exchange and Dungeon, today on Ghost to Coast. 

Built originally in 1771, the exchange was meant to be a helpful organizing body for the growing trade and merchant needs in the port city. The building served as several things on the upper floors, including a post office, City Hall, military headquarters, and a museum. The dungeon in the lower level has seen more than its fair share of misery and bloodshed. First used by the American Revolutionary Army as a military prison, the dungeon served to incarcerate pirates during the period before the US declared independence. Legend even has it that the infamous Blackbeard was incarcerated briefly, escaping the noose his pirate comrades would hang by until dead. 

The Half-Moon Battery was built nearly 70 years before the building that would sit on top of it, today called the Dungeon. A military asset for the revolution, the only piece of the former fortification can be seen within the dungeon itself, with the Old Exchange sitting above it after demolition of the fortifications after the war. 

Many of the various uses of the Old Exchange reads like a time capsule of revolutionary colonialism. The Exchange was used for entertaining General George Washington as he toured the colonies during the revolutionary war. Lavish parties and entertainment, dinners, concerts and more were held in the General’s honor. Parts of the constitution would be written in the Old Exchange while the Charleston elite helped dictate some of the language in the final document. A very dark part of the history of this building came during the Atlantic slave trade, where enslaved peoples were bought and sold on the grounds of the Old Exchange. 

Unsurprisingly, the building that housed so much pain, suffering, and death would have it’s fair share of spirits and apparitions behind the thick brick and earth walls. Chains in the dungeon have been known to swing and move on their own, with ghostly cries of pain and moans of misery echoing through the dungeon’s narrow hallways. With so many prisoners housed there until their demise, the sense of a heavy, imposing feeling follows visitors through the dungeon and Old Exchange. Most frighteningly, many guests have reported being pushed, shoved, or choked by unseen hands within the dungeon, maybe looking to take their deserved revenge for their incarceration and later execution. 

On the upper floors, a full bodied apparition has been reported. Guests believed the figure dressed in period revolutionary clothes was an employee of the museum, only to ask a question and watch the figure dissolve in front of their eyes. Some ask if the spirits of those who used the exchange for nefarious and greedy purposes may have stuck around to keep an eye on their profits from either trade or piracy. No one is sure how many prisoners passed through the dungeons in it’s heyday, but today the building is a National Historic Landmark and houses a museum focusing on colonial Charleston and the Revolutionary War. 

You can visit the Old Exchange and Dungeon for yourself if you’re feeling brave. They offer daily guided tours through the buildings, including the dungeon. 

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