James Cameron called his movie on the actual exploration of the Titanic Ghosts of the Abyss. I would call theAiken-Rhett House, in Charleston, SC, Ghosts of the Old South. For the benefit of conservation, the Historic Charleston Foundation, present owners of the house, have left it virtually untouched since 1975 when Mrs Rhett, the last Aiken descendent to live in the house, moved out
Double wide, double hung windows in the sitting room pull up and become doors leading to the piazza on the first and second floors. Nothing has been done to improve the house since 1858 so the windows have missing paint. Wallpaper is falling off the walls. It’s a historian's dream but it gives the place a haunted appearance.
Gov. William Aiken, Jr. was the richest man in South Carolina before the Civil War. In the fashion of the time, he and his wife toured Europe and brought back crystal and brass chandeliers, sculptures and paintings that are still in place throughout the house. Looking up at the very high ceilings in the empty bedrooms we could see the place where mosquito nets had at one time hung over the beds. Mrs Rhett used the former ballroom for her bedroom and had used a mosquito net. The dining room was empty except for a huge highly polished dining table and a painting on the wall. The Aikens bought the house and expanded and redecorated in the 1830s to the 1850s.
The warming kitchen in the cellar hasn't been altered since the house slaves brought the prepared food from there, up the back stairs, to the dining room. In the outbuildings, the kitchens and laundry, with slave quarters on the second floor, haven't changed in over 150 years. The elaborate horse stables and carriage house still include two old carriages, probably the one used by the governor when he escorted the Confederate President Jefferson Davis around Charleston when he visited the city. Only the outside privy has been altered. A white porcelain-flushing toilet had been installed.
We entered the house from Elizabeth Street. That marble entry hall has two sets of stairs leading to the first floor. They curve around a third set going to the stone basement. We validated our house tour passport at the gift shop in the basement and were given earphones and a cassette player and then we were on our own. Docents were here and there throughout the house. One assured me ghosts have been detected. There's no doubt in my mind.