Editor’s note: This story was originally published at thestate.com in October 2016.
Like most ghost stories, the tale of the spirit that roams the S.C. State Museum begins with a tragic death that occurred inside the building’s historic brick walls.
“Many people don’t realize that the State Museum’s largest artifact is the Columbia Mills building that houses the museum itself,” said spokesman Jared Glover.
Built in the late 1800s, the textile business was the first totally electric powered mill in the world. The mill closed in 1981, and the building was donated to the state.
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During the days of Columbia Mills, the large freight elevator — still in operation today — was used to haul cotton up to certain floors.
An employee of the mill was looking down the shaft of the elevator thinking the elevator itself was below him. But it wasn’t. It was above him. And before he realized it, the elevator came down on his head, decapitating him.
“After the mill’s conversion to a museum, a ghost, nicknamed ‘Bubba,’ was reported on the third floor,” said Glover, adding he has never seen the ghost.
The story of Bubba is one of many floating around the Capital City and South Carolina.
Ghosts supposedly haunt other Columbia landmarks, like the Adluh flour mill, Fort Jackson, the Babcock Building at BullStreet and even a haunted hitchhiker on the Gervais Street bridge, among others.
And that doesn’t even mention the ghost stories in places like Charleston and Beaufort.
Bubba, it is said, has been seen by some witnesses wandering about the exhibits wearing overalls and boots .
“We’ve had some former employees that have had encounters with Bubba, near the schoolhouse on the fourth floor,” Glover said. “There are reports of the bell ringing while nobody is around. Others have said they spotted a dark shadowy figure near the hearse.”
Here are some other stories of encounters with Bubba:
▪ Tonia Alston, chief of security at the museum, once encountered Bubba while making her morning rounds.
“I was walking up the stairs near the Best Friend train located on the third floor,” Alston said. “I noticed a strange figure on top of the train. At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at until I got a little closer and noticed it had on overalls. That’s when I knew it was Bubba. I was pretty startled at first. I kept doing my rounds and came back to where the train was and he was gone.”
That wasn’t the only time Alston encountered the overall-wearing ghost.
“I was on the fourth floor and I heard a bell ringing. I knew I was the only person in the museum, so I figured it had to be him.”
▪ Two visitors walking toward an elevator saw a man climb on just ahead of them. When they ran to get on the elevator before the doors closed, it was empty.
▪ Pam Borawski, a volunteer at the museum, was alone in her office one evening preparing the schedule for the upcoming ghost tour. “I had not yet put Bubba’s story into the tour,” she said. “There was a rapid knocking on my desk, very loud and so hard that it made my desk shake. There was no one around, no one in the office or even in the hallway. I know it was Bubba, telling me that he did not want to be forgotten. I included him immediately!”
▪ In an SCETV video,former employee Bemo Prince told the story of a security guard who saw a man walking in the museum while it was closed. He followed him and saw him disappear into a wall.
Prince also saw a man walking on the fourth floor while preparing the museum for opening one morning. He too followed the man only to have him disappear.
“I stopped in my tracks and I decided maybe I’ve seen Bubba this time.”
Prince’s mother-in-law complained to him about seeing a mannequin dressed in a dusty costume – only there were no mannequins where she saw it.
IF YOU GO
Learn more about Bubba the Ghost during the Growl At the Moon event Thursday at the S.C. State Museum, or the Tuesdays in Oz promotion on Oct 30.
Tours are free with museum general admission and start at 6:30 p.m.
The museum is at 301 Gervais St.; hours, admission and other details at www.scmuseum.org