Lowcountry Ghost Stories ~ Part 4

Part 4 – Hampton

lowcountry sc ghost stories
Hampton POW Camp image from SC Archives.

Did you know Hampton was once the sight of a German Prisoner of War campsite??? Several POW camps were established in South Carolina during World War II. In 1942 America found itself the captor of 275,000 German and Italian soldiers. They were put to work on farms across the south. Hampton’s POW Camp was in operation from 1943-1946. 250 prisoners captured from North Africa were held here. POWs lived in tents with wooden floors or wooden barracks. The Hampton Armory was located across the street and housed the US Army officers in charge of the camp. POWs worked 8-10-hour days harvesting peanuts, cutting pulpwood or at the Plywoods-Plastics Corporation. They were paid 25 to 80 cents a day in script which they spent in the camp store.

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Several prisoner-of-war camps were established in South Carolina to house captured Germans. This is the street of a camp in Hampton, photographed around 1944. Courtesy of Mildred B. Rivers.

Over the three years of activity at the camp, prisoners captured in Italy and France were brought to Hampton. The only thing remaining of the camp today is a historical marker that marks the spot. One must wonder if any of the souls who died here roam the grounds of Hampton, looking for a way home???

lowcountry sc ghost stories
Hampton County Museum at the Old Jail image by Carmen Pinckney.

Hampton is home to another particularly eerie building. The Hampton County Jail was built in 1878 to house inmates while they awaited trail. Those accommodated here were only supposed to be guests of the facility for 48 hours or less. Many unfortunate souls were forced to stay in the cramped and inhumane building for much longer.

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Hampton County Jail image from SC Archives.

The first floor served as living quarters for the jailer and his family, along with one cell that was reserved for white women. In the 1960s, two rooms were converted into four cells to accommodate more “guests”.

lowcountry sc ghost stories
Hampton County Jail image from SC Archives.

The heavily reinforced upstairs was reserved for all other visitors. Seven cells occupied this floor, all sharing the same latrine. Although the ceilings were ten feet high, the cage containing the prisoners was only seven feet. In the 1960s, the cells were divided into more cells.

lowcountry sc ghost stories
Hampton County Jail image from SC Archives.

According to a 1916 report from the State Board of Charities and Corrections, the conditions at this jail were very unsanitary. The building had very poor ventilation and the floors were only cleaned three times a year. Inmates with tuberculosis and syphilis shared quarters, bedding and eating utensils with healthy cellmates. Bed linens were only washed once or twice a year. One prisoner froze to death while incarcerated. By 1919 the jail was rated as the worst jail in the state. A new jail was built in 1976 and this building would no longer be used to hold prisoners. Today it houses the Hampton County Museum. If you’re brave, go visit the old jail and see if you can run across the spirit of the poor soul that froze to death in his jail cell.

Thankfully, today is a new day and things like this don’t happen very often in the modern world. Humanity has come a long way. There’s nothing left of the POW camps and the Old Jail is now a museum. You can visit… if you dare!

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