The Whistling Ghost of Charleston

Charleston South Carolina has its fair share of ghosts. Some mysterious, some evil and some downright jovial. This is a tale of the latter. Although, he died in less than ideal circumstances, Dr. Joseph Brown returns to 59 Church Street to whistle a happy tune.

Joseph Brown came to Charleston on a cold, dreary night in 1786. He had come to South Carolina hoping the weather would do him good, but he was missing his native Rhode Island already. The driver of the carriage had all but kicked him out in front of a tavern where he told Brown it would be better if he found lodging there for the night.

Brown sat in the tavern, afraid for his life as the rest of the people there were much rougher around the edges that the educated Brown. Suddenly, a well dressed man walked into the bar. Spying Joseph, the man made his way over and introduced himself. "My name is Ralph Isaacs" the man told him. "Forgive me for saying, but this is no place for a gentleman. Follow me and I'll take you somewhere you'll be more comfortable".

Brown followed the man and soon they were in a quiet carriage headed for a better inn. Along the way the two discovered they had much in common and began to build a friendship. Over the following months, Brown found permanent lodging with two elderly sisters. They both grew to adore him and looked forward to the song he would whistle as he bounded down the stairs. It was and old English tune and it let the old women know that he was in the greatest of spirits. He built up a successful medical practice through his poetry and charm was rocketed to the top of Charleston society.

The quick pace and ease at which Joseph Brown became a star in social circles began to make his friend Ralph Isaacs jealous. The rift between them grew until it exploded over, of all things, the quality of performance at the theater one night. The two traded barbs in the local papers until things escalated to the point where only a duel would settle the score.

The morning of the duel dawned and the two men met at the designated spot. Brown had not wanted it to come to this, but it was too late to back out now. The men were placed back to back, they walked twenty steps and turned. Brown fired his pistol straight up into the air. Isaacs, filled with jealous rage, fired a shot into each of Brown's legs just below the knee. He wanted to cripple the young doctor for life.

As it turns out, his life wasn't that long. try as the two sisters did to care for him, within a few weeks Joseph Brown was dead. But his whistling tune and bounding footsteps can still be heard in the house where he lived and died 59 Church Street.


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