Owen Lord, a sophomore studying anthropology at the University of Southern California, who hails from Charleston, South Carolina, provided two pieces of folklore for this collection.
The interview was run, amidst dinner and drinks, at the University of Southern California located Greenleaf, a popular post-class bar for many students at the prestigious institution.
Folk Type: Legend.
“Tell me a scary story Owen, I want chills!” – Stanley Kalu
STORY: um, when it was thundering outside my grandma would tell us that the Gray Man was rattling his chains. The Gray Man was this kind of ghostly figure that haunted the beaches in South Carolina. I assume she told us that because she didn’t want us to go outside but it didn’t really seem like that was why. She seemed to just love getting us scared.
Background Information: The Gray Man, according to legend, is a ghost situated on Pawleys Island, South Carolina that appears before storms and hurricanes. The first recorded sighting of the ghost was in 1822, which predates the towns’ official formation. The Gray Man is said to be the ghost of a man on his way to visit his fiancée. He was then caught in a terrible storm and died. He now roams the beach, searching for his lost lover.
Context of Performance: As Owen mentioned, his grandmother would tell the story of the Gray Man in part to keep her grandchildren safe and indoors and, in part, for her own entertainment.
The context of Owen’s rehashing of the tale was done after our “Forms of Folklore” class taught by Tok Thompson because the both of us had a folklore collection project due.
Thoughts: I find it interesting that the ghost story tradition often uses heartbreak/lost love archetype to describe the un-dead. I suppose it reflects our societies obsession with love and, perhaps more so, the lack of it. Is a life without a partner akin to death? I’m also interested in The Gray Man’s practical function of appearing before storm. This seems to invert the tradition of a ghost being a haunting, menacing nuisance and turns it into something that actually serves the community.