PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – Those who live in one Lowcountry beach town know when they see the ghost it’s time to leave the coast.
The legend of the Gray Man dates back hundreds of years – to 1822. He’s a cloaked figure who roams the beach at Pawleys Island ahead of major storms that threaten the area.
A woman claims to have seen the ghost before Hurricane Hazel in 1954, another sighting happened prior to Hurricane Hugo’s devastating landfall in 1989, and the most recent appearance was ahead of Hurricane Florence in 2018.
The Legend of The Gray Man
Although there are variations of the legend, the most common is that of a love story – a young man, who had been at sea for a very long time, was traveling from Charleston to see his fiancée to ask her hand in marriage.
Hoping to shorten the trip because of an approaching storm, the man and his horse would take a shortcut through the marsh just outside of Pawleys Island. As the sun began to set, his horse became bogged down in the pluff mud and threw the man to the ground. The water and thick mud entrapped him and pulled him under the surface, killing him.
Devastated by the news of her lover’s death, the young woman started taking regular walks on the beach to clear her mind.
She would later come across a figure standing in her usual path – it was a familiar man dressed in all gray. As she approached the figure, she would recognize the face of her lover.
Knowing he had been killed, the woman began to question the man – but all he could do was warn her to leave the island, a serious storm was approaching. He then vanished.
The woman rushed home and told her family what had happened. In shock from the sighting, they heeded his warning and gathered their belongings and headed inland.
Soon after the area would be lashed by a powerful hurricane – leaving only one home untouched – hers.
According to local lore, the Gray Man still roams the island in the days before a storm is set to make landfall. Many believe he is still searching for his lover.
The not-so-menacing ghost often reveals himself to a select number of people warning them to leave before the storm hits. Those who see him and heed his warning return to find their home and property untouched from the passing storm.