It’s that time of year again. The time of year we shake off the heavy, humid days of summer and wait for fall to make her debut. Pigskin and pom-poms fill the night air on Fridays and lumbering school buses dot the city streets. Stores are already beginning to showcase the latest in Halloween fashion … something new for every goblin or ghost. And did I mention it was my favorite holiday? Yup, the pumpkins are already out on Blossom Street!
Just the other day, someone asked if I’d heard the ghost stories of Old State Road. Having been asked this same question several times recently, I began to wonder more about the ghostly happenings or urban legends surrounding this lonely stretch of road that runs nearly parallel to the Congaree River, just on the outskirts of West Columbia. And having been riveted by stories of the paranormal since childhood, it was a tale I was anxious to explore. Could Old Columbia’s ghosts actually venture past Shandon?!?
Most teenagers in the Columbia area have heard stories of a school bus loaded with children that stalled on a track in the 1970’s, and was subsequently plowed down by an oncoming train. Legend has it that if you stop your car on these same tracks in the dark of night, spirits of these long-departed students will give you a hand and safely push the car over the tracks. While some have reported crossing the track with the help of unseen hands, it’s become ritualistic to sprinkle baby powder across the back of the trunk in hopes of picking up hand prints from the ghostly helpers. Latent prints or those from invisible hands … who’s to say?
Many tales surround this old highway; some are history and others legend. The Ku Klux Klan is purported to have conducted meetings and activities deep in the woods and satanic churches reportedly held services and performed rituals in this rural area. But no one disputes the role history has played in adding further to the legend and mystique.
As Union Major General Sherman continued his march into the South, intent on taking Columbia, it was State Road that he and his troops traversed along their route. Union troops were able to surround Confederate soldiers by crossing a creek running along the old highway. The troops held their line of breastworks on the north side of the flooding creek but retreated when outflanked by Union troops.
Take a drive along this stretch of road—South Carolina’s first planned highway from the beach to the mountains. A night visit is especially eerie, and many interactive ghost tours make this their destination of choice. Since no one under age 16 can participate, it’s a safe bet there’s something lurking in the shadows. Whether it’s the ghost of long gone teenagers who never completed a trip home from school, a Ku Klux Klan member revisiting the scene of his crimes, or even Sherman whose spark ignited the fire, you’re sure to be sufficiently spooked!
Been there? Done that? Tell us about it!
J.L. Mann (Bubba) Cromer is an Attorney in Columbia, whose practice focuses on DUI Defense, Criminal Defense & Probate Administration and Estate Planning. Admitted to practice in South Carolina, California & The District of Columbia, “Bubba” has been in practice for 26 years. In addition to his Solo Practice at Cromer Law Offices, LLC, Bubba Served as the only true Independent In the S.C. Legislature from 1990-1998. For the past 16 years, he has Served as the Reading Clerk of the House.Bubba resides in Columbia, S.C and Rosman, N.C. where he built a cabin 4 years ago. Bubba lives with his Hungarian Golden Retriever Casper (pictured).
With Cissy Pope of CP Creative.