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Vandals damage historic AME church featured on hit Netflix show ‘Outer Banks’

‘This is not a haunted house, this is the Lord’s house’

Old Bethel AME Church
The Old Bethel AME Church in McClellanville, South Carolina |

A historic South Carolina church where scenes from the new hit Netflix show “Outer Banks” were shot has suffered from a spree of vandalism as fans from the show are beginning to travel to the site. 

Rev. Francis McPherson is raising his voice against the ongoing destruction of the Old Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in McClellanville that he says began after the “Outer Banks” premiered on April 15. 

“In the last couple weeks, there’s more traffic and we have much more problems than we had in the past,” McPherson told WCSC.

“We don’t have a problem for them to stop by and look at the church. But when you start breaking the windows and breaking the doors, then it’s a problem for us.”

People have broken windows, busted doorways and written the name of one of the series’ characters on the front door of the historic church, he explained. 

The pastor added that some have trespassed inside the church to take pictures for social media. 

The historic structure, owned by Bethel AME Church, was built in the early 19th century and was last used for service in the late 1970s.

“[Built] in the 1800s, it is still standing,” McPherson said.  “We treasure this building.”

Though set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the show was shot in South Carolina from May 1, 2019, to Oct. 9, 2019, according to IMDB.  

In the show, a lead character named John B (played by Chase Stokes) takes another lead character named Sarah Cameron (played by Madelyn Cline) to his “secret place.” The “secret place” is the church's property. 

“This abandoned Civil War-era church is a must-see for the avid fans of ‘Outer Banks,’” suggests walktourscharleston.com in a post titled “10 Film Locations from ‘Outer Banks’ You Need to Visit.” 

McPherson wants people to know that the church is "not a haunted house." 

"[T]his is the Lord’s house," he said. “They have no respect at all for the Lord’s house nor this holy ground." 

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that “deputies will investigate and arrest violators that unlawfully enter or damage the church.” The sheriff’s office also said there will be increased patrols in the area of the church. 

According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the church building is a one-story, rectangular frame vernacular Gothic Revival church with a pedimented gable-front roof that supports a square-based steeple.

The compound includes a church cemetery with tombstones dating from the 1880s to the late 20th century.

The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

“Outer Banks” fan Reece Hewit told WCSC that most people come to take pictures of the property and to “see where it all happened.”

Another fan, Luke Berg, said that it is “sad” to see the vandalism. 

“That’s a beautiful church for people just to destroy it,” Berg said. 

The “Outer Banks” series is about a group of teenagers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina who are called “Pogues.” They are on a mission to investigate the disappearance of the father of the group’s ringleader, John B. Their quest leads them to discover a legendary treasure that is tied to John B’s father.

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