“Grey Man” Legend

Owen Lord studies Anthropology at the University of Southern California. He is originally from Columbia, South Carolina but currently lives in Los Angeles, California while he attends university. Owen’s southern upbringing led him to adopt a number of southern customs. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he was immediately struck by the differences in the way people speak, how they behave, and the traditions they practice. Many of Owen’s favorite folkloric phrases were lost on his new peers in Los Angeles. Below, Owen describes one specific legend his grandmother recited to him as a child:

Owen: “When I was a young lad, at the beach in South Carolina… when it was raining outside, my grandma would tell us that it was the Grey Man rattling his chains. He was this kind of ghostly figure tat haunted the beaches in South Carolina. And I assumed she told us that so we wouldn’t go outside, but it didn’t really seem like that was why… She seemed to just love getting us scared.”

This transcript details a legend that is unique to Owen’s family, and potentially the larger South Carolina community. “Grey Man” represents the fears that young people have towards mysterious figures; by reciting this legend to Owen, Owen’s grandmother was leveraging these fears, thereby encouraging him to stay inside. The Grey Man legend conveys no moral lesson but it does dissuade certain behaviors (i.e. going outside in the rain).