Do you believe in ghosts? Well, if you’re reading this article, chances are your answer is a resounding, yes. But, what are your thoughts on Sunday brunches with homemade biscuits and sweet tea? If you’re a proponent of all these things, then boy, do we have the place for you.
In a city as deep rooted in history and tradition as Charleston, you’ll find countless paranormal hotspots, and endless restaurants to satisfy your appetite for southern cuisine. But, since you’re looking for a one stop shop for your ghost hunting endeavors and biscuit lovin’ cravings then you need to stop on by Poogan’s Porch.
Poogan’s Porch is a unique place as it serves up some of the best food in Charleston, and dishes out some of the best ghost stories too. Ghost stories of a dog named Poogan, and yes, that is where the name of the restaurant comes from. But, their most frequently seen spirit is the ghost of Zoe.
The grand Victorian home that now houses Poogan’s porch (at 72 Queen Street) was built in the year of 1888. The neighborhood in which the house was built, remained predominately residential for nearly a hundred years.
By the time the country’s bicentennial (1976, for the folks who like me, weren’t alive yet) rolled around, the neighborhood had agreed to allow the house at 72 Queen to be converted into a restaurant.
When 72 Queen was purchased, the previous owners left in such a haste, that they didn’t even bother to bring their dog with them. This little wiry haired white dog named Poogan, was left behind without cause, left behind on the porch of the house to wonder why? Why he had been abandoned?
The new owners, baffled as to why anyone would leave such a sweet dog behind themselves, decided to keep Poogan. Taken with the dog immediately, it was decided that the restaurant would be named after the pup.
Another variation of this story is that Poogan was a neighborhood stray who would wander from porch to porch, always looking for his next meal. As the house at 72 Queen was be converted, Poogan began showing up on the porch to the house everyday, looking for some workman lunch. The Owners began to joke that the porch did not belong to them, but to Poogan instead.
Regardless of the account you choose to believe, Poogan was a real dog and not just some restaurant story. Poogan for years served in the capacity of official greeter at the restaurant. A position he held until his passing in the year of 1979.
Poogan, is still greatly missed by the owners and the people of Charleston as a whole, but the restaurant continues on, ensuring Poogan’s lasting legacy. It’s even been said, if you visit Poogan’s Porch today, you just may catch a glimpse of a ghostly dog, a dog rumored to be the one and only Poogan.
Poogan’s ghost is not the only entity who is believed to haunt the restaurant. Another, is the ghost of Zoe.
Long before Poogan’s porch, dating back to the early 1900s, a woman named Zoe St. Amand lived at 72 Queen with her sister, Elizabeth. Zoe was a local school teacher, who had given up on ever finding true love.
Most of the people in the neighborhood thought of Zoe as nothing more than a spinster, and her choice of clothing didn’t help in disproving her reputation. She frequently was seen wearing long black dresses and thin framed glasses.
Both Zoe and Elizabeth were incredibly close, preferring each other’s company to the uncaring outside world. The sisters would continue to keep to themselves for decades.
Sadly in the year of 1945, Elizabeth passed away, and with Zoe’s lone friend gone from her life, she became even more withdrawn. Clearly depressed, Zoe’s mental health quickly began to decline.
Late one night Zoe left her house, and begin walking down the street, hollering out her sister’s name. Neighbors came out to check on the frantic Zoe, one of whom took her to Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital.
From then on out, Zoe spent the rest of her life at the hospital. When she departed, she was buried at Charleston’s St. Lawrence Cemetery.
It’s believed, the ghost of Zoe haunts her old home, still looking for her sister, Elizabeth. Reports of her spirit began popping up shortly after she died, but intensified once her residence was turned into the restaurant.
A bit odd, considering she wasn’t much of a people’s person while alive, perhaps her desire to find her sister takes precedence over her phobia.
Staff members and guests alike have seen her ghost, wandering around the house. Some guests of the restaurant who have taken notice of Zoe, had no clue that she was actually a ghost. The realization that they had a paranormal experience usually doesn’t kick until they see the photo of Zoe hanging on the wall.
Others, staying at the hotel, located across the street from Poogan’s (unaware of the restaurant's history), have claimed to have seen an elderly woman in a black dress standing in front of the top floor window.
On a few occasions, people who have seen Zoe in the window, have called the police believing that a poor woman was accidently locked inside the restaurant and was indeed of help.
When it comes to ghost stories, Poogan’s Porch is in no short supply. The owner of Poogan’s, Bobbie Ball has had her own experiences with Zoe. She remembers one specific time that occurred one night, when she was closing up for the evening.
Bobbie, was in process of setting the alarm, when she was startled when one of the wooden stools suddenly was knocked over to the ground, seemingly on its own will. Then the door began opening and shutting quite violently.
Ms. Ball isn’t the only one who has had an experience at Poogan’s, her daytime chef had an encounter with Zoe as well. It was still a bit early, so the chef was making coffee. He had just poured himself a hot fresh cup of Joe, when he heard a knock at the back door. It was a delivery from the produce guy.
So, the chef put his cup of coffee down on his stool, and went to the back to let the guy in. When he returned for his coffee, his cup had disappeared. He was baffled by this, and begin to question whether or not if he had actually fixed a cup of coffee or just imagine doing so. It was early in morning after all, and not everyone is 100 percent sound of mind in those early hours.
Rather than dwelling on the oddity, the chef decided just to make another cup. Afterwards he returned to his stool, and there it was, his original cup had reappeared, right in the same spot he had first placed it down. The only difference is that it was now empty. The chef picked it up, and then noticed that it had a lipstick mark. I guess Zoe is a fan of the Chef’s coffee.
Late one night, well after closing, a staff member was cleaning up, when she began to get this unnerving sensation that something was behind her. She looked around, but found nothing. However, she could not shake the feeling that someone or something was watching her.
When she later resumed cleaning, she happened to look into a mirror, and was startled. Startled, for that it was not the sight of her own reflection that she saw, no, it was the face of an old woman wearing wire thin glasses. It was Zoe. Shortly after her spoke, the image of Zoe disappeared from the mirror.
Another staff member, who worked as the pastry chef, a cooking endeavor which required her to work overnight. Customers need their biscuits! Anywho, she was up doing her baking, while listening to her favorite jams on the radio (biscuits and jam, yo), when she began to her quite the ruckus upstairs. A ruckus so loud that it out noised the radio.
The pastry chef, was curious of how this could be, as she was there alone. Was she scared? Yes, but, nonetheless she decided to venture upstairs to see what in the world was actually going on.
Once she reached the top floor, she took a deep breath, and begin to explore. She searched every inch of the upstairs, but found nothing, nothing at least that could have caused the loud noises that she had previously heard.
So, after being unable to find the source of the ruckus, she returned to the kitchen and resumed baking all the goods. After a bit, she decided to turn the radio back on. A few songs later, one of her favorites came on, and thus began singing along. Then, she suddenly started to her another voice, a voice singing right along with her.
She turned around expecting to find one of her co-workers, possibly playing a trick on her this whole time. But, no one was there, and the alarm had been set, so it was not possible for anyone who didn’t work for the restaurant (as only staff members knew the code) to enter unannounced.
This time she searched the entire restaurant, but she could not find anything out of the ordinary. The only conclusion that she could come to is that she and become the latest staff member to have an experience with the ghost of Zoe.
A woman ironically named Elizabeth had an experience at the restaurant. Her friends had asked her where she wanted to go for her birthday dinner. Since they were going on a ghost tour afterwards, she wanted to pick a spot that was rumored to be haunted. Where? Poogan’s Porch of course.
She had heard that Poogan was supposedly haunted by the ghostly spinster Zoe, and wanted to checkout the house turned restaurant for herself. After they dined on some of Poogan’s famous southern cuisine, Elizabeth broke out her Ghost Radar app on her phone in search for a “spooky vibe.”
Elizabeth claimed that there were energy spots all around her and her friends, and began to feel unnerved. Their server took notice of Elizabeth’s ghost app, and proceeded to tell them an eerie tale about an orb she (the server) encountered in the corner where the group of friends were dining.
Charleston’s own Ed Macy has been studying the city’s haunted history since the 1990s, and has co-author several books exploring Charleston’s ghostly past.
Growing up in Charleston, Macy heard all of the stories, stories filled with scandals and secrets, and is known as as walking, talking excelopedia of the city’s folklore.
According to Macy, the Ball family had no clue the location that they had chosen to establish their restaurant, was not actually vacant, and had also never previously heard about the story of Zoe. But, after experiencing the paranormal activity within the house, they sought out the truth.
Speaking of Zoe, Macy says,” To my knowledge, she's been seen well over 200 times, oftentimes in broad daylight like during the brunch hour.”
Located at 72 Queen Street, the charming Poogan’s Porch is open seven days a week, and offers a Norman Rockwell setting. Over the years, Poogan’s has been the site of family breakfasts, young couples enjoying “the brunch hour”, and business related lunch meetings.
But, remember when you are eating your southern cuisine to keep an eye out for the ghost of Poogan. Some guests have even claimed to have felt the fury spirits brush against their legs, as Poogan searches for table scraps.
Also, be sure to keep that other eye out for Zoe, as she may start chatting you up in the bathroom (if you’re a lady). If she’s not in a chatty mood, then drink your coffee quickly, otherwise she may just finish it off for you.