South Carolina is a pizza slice-shaped triangle bordered by North Carolina in the north, the Atlantic Ocean in the east, and Georgia in the South and west. Also called the Palmetto State, South Carolina is a unique feast of colonial history spanning hundreds of years.
Loved for its gorgeous flowers, live oaks, barbecue, and hospitality, the Palmetto State is also home to fascinating mysteries, weird stories, unusual places, and fun facts.
Bouncing British Cannon Balls
In Fort Sumter, on June 28, 1776, during the Civil War, the British navy sailed into Charleston Harbor and opened fire on a Sullivan Island fort. The Brits were undoubtedly shocked and dismayed to see their trusty cannonballs bounce right off the flimsy-looking walls.
The fort was constructed with Palmetto logs, the texture of which is tough, spongy, and dense. The cannonballs that didn’t bounce off and roll away remained embedded in the walls.
Ultimately (it’s a long and colorful story), the Patriots won the day, and the Brits were sent packing.
No wonder the Palmetto Palm is so revered in SC.
Palmetto one – cannonballs zero.
How did the little Spotted Salamander become the SC “official state amphibian”?
In 1997 third graders from Spartanburg, SC, with the support of their teacher, decided the lowly amphibian needed some recognition. They campaigned successfully to have the Spotted Salamander named the State Amphibian. Finally, in March 1999, state Governor Beasley signed the bill that made the Spotted Salamander the South Carolina State Amphibian.
Never underestimate the power of third-grade kids.
There’s a whole lotta monkey business on Morgan Island.
Just off the coast of Beaufort, South Carolina, Morgan Island is home to almost 4000 rhesus monkeys. They were introduced to the island in 1979 as research animals and are owned and maintained to roam freely in a natural habitat by the National Institute of Health.
The island is only accessible by boat, and human visitors are forbidden to set foot on the island. You can view the primates best by arriving early in the morning when they are most active and quite noisy!
Sumpter Island Gingko Biloba trees are older than dinosaurs.
The Gingko Biloba tree, known as a living fossil,is one of the world’s oldest living tree species. It is the only survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to before dinosaurs roamed the Earth. That is between 245 and 66 million years ago! The tree has stunning yellow foliage, but its seeds (fruit) emit a strong unpleasant odor that is said to be reminiscent of old gym socks. Yes, it’s probably a good idea that these trees are on an island.
So why are Ginkgo trees grown on Sumpter Island? Despite its unpleasant odor, Ginkgo is valuable as an herbal remedy. It may be best known for treating dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and fatigue. It is also used to treat anxiety and depression.
There’s cheese in that Stumphouse tunnel!
A railroad company started building the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel in 1856. The tunnel is bored for more than a mile deep into the Stumphouse Mountain. The Civil War in 1859 stopped work on the project, but in 1940 someone found a use for all that cool, damp air inside the abandoned tunnel.
A Clemson University professor used the tunnel to make blue mold cheese successfully for the first time in the South.
The Clemson Blue Cheese Company replicated the tunnel’s atmospheric conditions with air-conditioned rooms in 1958, and the tunnel, deemed unsafe, was closed to visitors for many years.
You may not be a fan of blue cheese – although you should try Clemson’s prize-winning blue, but you can now visit the tunnel, which has reopened for tourists.
There is a water monster in Lake Murray. Probably. Maybe.
First seen in 1933, the snaky prehistoric-looking creature surfaced in the lake and was spotted by residents of Irmo and Ballentine. In 1973 it emerged again, and all 30 feet of it lunged at Buddy and Shirley Downing’s boat and was said to try to climb aboard! Buddy repelled the creature with a blow to the head using the boat’s paddle. The critter dove into the depths.
They compared it to Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, who everyone knows is real. Probably.
The locals named the creature Messie, and the lake, Loch Murray.
If you go, rent a boat and try your luck. Make sure you have some oars, though.
The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp is not a fan of automobiles.
A monster seven feet tall with green, scaly skin, red eyes, and three toes on each foot attacked a car belonging to high schooler Christopher Davis. When a flat tire stopped the youngster’s car near the edge of the Scape Ore Swamp, the creature emerged and deeply scratched Davis’ car. Since that midsummer attack in 1988, Deputy Chester Lighty, who patrolled the Scape Ore Swamp area, heard many more stories of the monster. Tom and Mary Waye had their car “nearly chewed up” by the Lizard Man.
A Columbia radio station offered a one-million-dollar reward for the critter’s capture, and hundreds of “tips” were logged, but Lizard Man remained elusive.
A researcher suggested the sightings were merely a “skunk-ape,” more commonly known as “Bigfoot.”
Whatever – whoever – it is or was, it is still out there.
You’ve been warned. Watch your car.
How do you like your coffee?
In 1969 it rained a powdered non-dairy creamer called Creamora®, in the town of Chester, where the creamer-manufacturing plant sometimes developed exhaust vent issues and released puffs of the powder into the air. If it was rainy or there was dew, the powder became a creamy sticky mess. Thankfully, the issue was fixed (and the plant was fined $4000), and now the people can pour their creamer into their coffee like everyone else.
We Welcome Everyone!
And just in case some extraterrestrials stray out of their universe and pop down here to Earth, there is always The South Carolina UFO Welcome Center ready to offer them some iced tea. The center is a tourist curiosity located in Bowman, South Carolina, United States, built in the back yard of Jody Pendarvis. It boasts a 42-foot-wide flying saucer built of wood, fiberglass, and plastic. There is also a couple of wobbly silver-colored spaceships made of scrap metal and wood where the site’s owner stays cool during the hot weather.
The lower floor of one rickety ship has alien amenities such as a shower, toilet, AC, and such. Though the sign spray-painted in big black letters on the corrugated metal fence says, “Space People Only” – we common folk can get in for $20.00 each.
Hope we see you soon!
When you visit the Palmetto State to explore its stunning landscapes and historical structures, during your trip try exploring some of the state’s most unusual areas to learn even more interesting facts—and keep an eye out for the legendary lizard man. Remember to eat some barbecue, grits, and biscuits right here where no one makes them better. Wherever you go in South Carolina, you’re sure to have a one-of-a-kind experience. And a good meal!
At Celadon, we’ve made it easy for you to visit Beaufort, South Carolina.
Spend three days and two nights in beautiful Beaufort on a Celadon Discovery Visit. Come to the place Southern Living and Coastal Living say all Southern towns aspire to be. We’ll be waiting for you, a pitcher of iced tea in hand.
Remember, you can explore the delights of Beaufort and Celadon by enjoying a three-day, two-night Discovery Visit.