Informant: Well there is one thing. I haven’t really encountered it, but my grandparents have. They always tell me about this. In South Carolina on Pawley’s Island is where we have a house, and it’s where my grandpa grew up. There’s this story about the Gray Man. I guess he supposedly was like, in the Civil War or something, and then he like went off to battle, but he was in love with this girl and there was this whole long story about that. But, she died before he got back and he was killed. I don’t really know the exact details. But, anyway, he was known for being seen walking on the beach right before hurricanes come.
Collector: That’s actually really cool.
Informant: Yeah, it’s supposed to be like his anger and his tears and sadness.
Collector: Is he supposed to be causing the hurricane?
Informant: Yeah! He’s supposed to be an ominous, foreboding presence. And he’s also known to, like, talk to people. Like, if you’re walking on the beach people claim that they’ve talked to him. My grandma says that she has. I don’t know if I believe her, but Hurricane Hugo in 19… I think it was 1995, ruined the whole island, and she said she was like walking, and there was some guy in Civil War clothes and was talking to her.
Collector: Yeah we have a fort near our house where that supposedly happens a lot.
Informant: It’s creepy!
Collector’s Notes: This was a really cool ghost story that I hadn’t heard before. In my hometown, we have a fort from Commodore Perry’s time, and there have been similar stories about the soldiers being seen around town. I really like that the people of South Carolina connected this story to environmental disasters and giving what seems like an arbitrary thing a purpose. A version of this story that I found was that the Gray Man was a soldier, who was very eager to see his fiancee who lived on Pawley’s Island. Apparently he wanted to see her so badly that, on his way home, he took his horse off the path. Then, they got into trouble and got stuck in quicksand, where he and his horse died. In her grief, his fiancee walked the beach of the island mourning her lost lover. Then, she saw a man dressed in uniform who she recognized as her dead fiancé. She ran up to him, and he told her to get off the island as soon as possible. When the girl got home, she told her family that they needed to leave, and they fled the island. That night, a hurricane came and destroyed the entire island. The site that I got this version from said that the first person saw the Gray Man in 1822 before an especially disastrous hurricane. Some others have had them knock on their doors as well, so there is some differentiation to the story. While the hurricane is supposed to be the embodiment of The Gray Man’s sadness and anger, most people see him as a good omen, and people say that those who see him have homes that remain untouched by storms. Therefore, he’s a ghost but he brings good luck instead of fear. A different and very local legend!
REFERENCES: “The Gray Man.” Haunted Lowcountry. Lowcountry Paranormal, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.
A published version of this legend can be found in:
Johnson, Talmadge. Civil War Ghosts of South Carolina. N.p.: Post Mortem Paranormal, 2013. Print.