Elizabeth Huntsinger: Bringing the Past to Life

By Leslie Moore

Elizabeth Huntsinger: Bringing the Past to Life

Discovering the secrets hidden in the past of her beloved Georgetown is a passion of Elizabeth Huntsinger’s life. Author of the popular, Ghosts of Georgetown series and Waterline, her first Cheshire Cat Maritime Antique Shop Mystery, this talented writer shares her extensive knowledge not only through her books, but as a historical reenactor and popular local tour guide.

And, best of all, she’s a pirate!

The day we met on the picturesque Harborwalk in Georgetown, Elizabeth came dressed and ready to do battle with anyone who might threaten her or any member of the Charles Towne Few, her group of historical reenactors (pirates) that attend events all over the state. “Our next event will be at Georgetown’s Wooden Boat Show on October 15 and 16. We will make camp at the Chamber of Commerce,” Elizabeth told me as we walked through town. Everyone passing by stared at the lovely, but fierce-looking, pirate in period dress so accurate it was almost as if she had taken a step through a time machine.

“I attended the pirate siege during the former Harborwalk Festival many times and was always fascinated,” she told me when I asked what led her to join the swashbuckling crew. “I went to the Pirate Camp at the Maritime Festival in Charleston and that’s when I began to fill out my kit.”

By “kit,” Elizabeth means her costumes and accessories that include a working antique pistol that she can actually fill with powder and fire, and a gorgeous period reproduction sword, along with handmade outfits that are meticulously designed to be historically correct. “The clothing needs to be silk, cotton or linen, and I make or remake most of my own. Everything can be purchased online as well.” She went on to tell me that her outfit was based on one worn by Tia Dalma/Calypso, a character in the popular movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End. “In the heat of summer the women would take the sleeves out of their dresses and sew the bodice directly to the stays.”

Her love of history also led Elizabeth to become a Civil War reenactor. “I have to create my own outfits for this as well,” she said. “We leave the 21st century behind – no technology, no modern comforts.” I asked what the group ate during their encampments and was a little surprised by her answer. “Most of the time we have a camp cook, and the food is good – we’ve had squirrel stew, venison and even pork chops.” Laughing, Elizabeth told me a story of how some members do take a few shortcuts. “I remember seeing a chicken roasting on a spit one day at camp. It smelled wonderful, and I thought it was such a lovely period scene,” she said. “When I mentioned it, they told me they had brought the chicken already cooked and put it on the spit!”

“I’ve been writing ever since I can remember,” this prolific author told me when I asked about her books. “I had my first poem published in the second grade!” Her fascination with ghosts and mysteries came from her childhood, “My great-grandmother would tell my mother ghost stories when she was a child,” Elizabeth said. “Mama said she would tell the most wonderful stories, and she had to look under her bed and in the closet every night before she went to sleep. She wouldn’t tell me the scariest ones when I was younger and it tantalized me – I didn’t hear those stories for years!”

A native of Manning, South Carolina, Elizabeth always knew her family had a Georgetown connection and was fascinated by the little harbor town. “My fourth great grandparents were from Georgetown and are buried here. I never knew how many resident ghosts we had in the area until I moved to Georgetown. It’s a seaport town, very humid, with a lot of water. That seems to be a conductor for spirits.”

As much as she is fascinated by the spirit world, Elizabeth has never had a direct encounter. “I wish I would see one,” Elizabeth laughed when I asked about her personal experiences. She works part time as a ranger doing tours at Hampton Plantation outside of Georgetown and the first time she visited the property was the closest she’s ever come to a supernatural experience. “I walked into a room upstairs, there were no walls, but when I stepped into one corner it was like I entered into someone’s private room – you know the feeling you get if you go to visit someone in the hospital and accidentally step into the wrong room? That was the feeling.” Elizabeth later found out that this very spot had been John Henry Rutledge’s room, and his spirit is believed to still linger there.

“I have interviewed many people who have seen spirits,” Elizabeth said as we continued. “And, surprisingly, these are not people who wanted or tried to see ghosts. It’s often the ones who don’t believe in the supernatural who see them!” She shares her knowledge of the mysterious stories surrounding the spirit world through her popular, evening Ghosts of Georgetown Haunted Tours. “The tour is a mile and a half and takes about an hour and a half,” Elizabeth began. “We walk by some of the most haunted spots in town, such as the Winyah Indigo Society Hall, which has drawn paranormal investigators from around the country.” Elizabeth went on to tell me the Kaminski House also has a resident spirit, as does the Keith House, now a B & B on Front Street. “In the Keith House, many have seen a woman in black come from under the stairs to foretell a death in the family.”

All of this busy writer/historian’s work is not with the past; she is also very involved in the present, and works as a naturalist on the tour boat, Carolina Rover twice a week, educating passengers about our estuaries and the work it takes to preserve them. Of course, passengers learn some of the fascinating history of the area as well. “I’m so blessed to have work that reflects my interests.”

“I love exploring Georgetown – I can always find something new,” began Elizabeth when I asked her what she did for fun. “I really enjoy historical research.” Spending time with her daughter, Virginia Lee, is also a high priority – Virginia Lee is a senior at CCU, Elizabeth’s alma mater. The writer and her family make their home in the Maryville section of Georgetown.

As we finished our interview, Elizabeth invited me to join her for Hampton Plantation Historic Site’s upcoming event, on Saturday, October 22, beginning at 5:30 pm. “It is named “Legends and Lore” and will be very eerie and historic, including sights most visitors to Hampton have never seen.”

Elizabeth’s books are available locally at Waterfront Books, The Rice Museum, The Kaminski House, Litchfield Books and Hammock Shops General Store, as well as most major bookstores and online. To join one of her fascinating tours, visit www.ghostsofgeorgetown.com.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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