Every town has myths or documented events that shaped its present. Aiken is no different.
Tidbits of the town’s past – from het unsavory history of a general who feared ghostly repercussions from those killed by his invention, to a unique connection to the presumed cursed Hope Diamond – are explored in Aiken’s downtown walking ghost tour.
“Everyone loves a good ghost story, especially if it’s got a good backstory or some drama behind it. Most of my stories do,” said Kent Cubbage, a biology professor and a self-described “aficionado” on Aiken’s history who has led the tours for nearly 20 years now. “For a small Southern town, we really have amazing, unique history.”
Each year, Cubbage leads up to 40 people through historic downtown Aiken’s most notorious spots and gives a glimpses of its past. Some of the stories have the tendency to stick with the participants long after the tour ends.
The tour begins at the graveyard of St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church, where dozens of veterans from a variety of wars and other notable figures rest, and then glides through other downtown areas.
One of the most popular spots on the tour is the Old Aiken Post Office, currently the location of the Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
The story goes that an employee of the post office was raising a flag during a rainy day, only to slip and become an indentation on the cold, muddy ground.
Many witnesses have said they’ve seen a man in period clothing floating above the dome of the building, Cubbage said, especially on similar, wet days.
“I once had an older woman who works down the street at Bank of America come on my tour and say, ‘I used to see him all the time,’ and, like a good ghost, anytime (she) called someone over to see, he’d be gone,” Cubbage said.
The tour has shortened significantly since its start in 2003, however, what the tour has lost in distance can still be made up of in the telling of fascinating stories along the way.
“…Some of the best stories I’ve gotten and incorporate in the tour are the ones guests have told me,” Cubbage said.
Knowing Cubbage’s background as a biology professor has led many to believe him a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal.
Truth be told, such things like Bigfoot or even aliens are a stretch for the man of science, however, the idea of spirits living among us seems perfectly logical, especially from a scientific standpoint, he said.
“Every time in history we thought we had science figured out and we’ve always been wrong. There’s so much to know about the universe, it might be a millennia before we get it all figured out. I always leave the door open to the unknown because the unknown has always taken us by surprise,” he said.
After 17 years of exploring Aiken and learning the stories of those who have long passed and contributed to the area’s development in one way or another, Cubbage has come to find that each headstone, marker or building holds a memory of someone who walked among its grounds at one point.
And such memories can manifest themselves into the living world.
“Once every year or two (a photo) will show up in my email (from a tour member,) Cubbage said. “There was one about five years ago of an outline of a human being … it was sort of standing behind everybody … I asked the lady who sent it to me, ‘Did you photoshop this?’ and she said she didn’t know how to do something like that.”
Many attendees will leave shaking in their shoes, Cubbage said, later telling him they “couldn’t sleep for a week.”
However, many leave enlightened, Cubbage said, not just about Aiken’s history, but also of the spiritual world that many still don’t understand.
“When people can relate the stories they hear to other human beings or their own lives … they become a little more open-minded,” Cubbage said. “It’s not a bad thing to leave the door cracked, especially if they find a way to connect with what’s on the other side.”
Ghost Tour schedule
Ghost Tours will be held Thursday, Oct. 29 through Saturday, Oct. 31. Each tour costs $10 and lasts approximately an hour-and-a-half. Flashlights are recommended.
Though the tour is outside and patrons will be socially distant, masks are insisted, Cubbage said.
To make a reservation, call Cubbage at 803-270-0773 or email email@example.com.