- Emily Kohler
The Grey Man – Legendary Ghost of Pawleys Island
Fall is the Time for Ghostly Tales This is the time of the year when tales of ghosts, ghouls and goblins abound, and in the South you’ll find plenty of ghost stories. Charleston, just 90 miles south of Grand Palms Resort, was voted by the Travel Channel as one of the “Top Haunted Cities in America.” To add to the haunting tales of the season, here are some accounts and the history of our own local favorite, the “Grey Man,” who is the most famous and most talked about ghost on the Grand Strand.
The Grey Man Ghost Warns of Impending Storms Just down the road from Grand Palms Resort you’ll find one of the oldest summer resort towns on the East Coast, Pawleys Island, SC. Pawleys Island is home to antebellum attractions, historic homes, tranquil marshes, beautiful beaches and ghosts. The most famous legend in this tiny community is that of the Grey Man, a mysterious figure who warns of impending storms. According to numerous documented accounts, he appears on the beach at Pawleys Island prior to hurricanes. Everyone who has seen the Grey Man says that he warns them to leave the island. Residents who are wise enough to heed the Grey Man’s warning always find their homes undamaged after the storm. Encounters with the Grey Man have taken place before every major hurricane that has struck the island for more than two hundred years.
Such was the case of Jim and Clara Moore who encountered the mysterious figure just two days before Hurricane Hugo roared ashore.
“We were taking a walk late in the afternoon, which we usually do,” Jim said in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. "You see so many people walking on the beach at that time of day. That particular afternoon we only saw the one, and he was coming directly toward us. When I got within speaking distance, I raised my hand to say ‘hi’ or ‘beautiful evening’ and he disappeared.” Hurricane Hugo decimated Jim and Clara’s neighborhood, but the couple’s home suffered little damage. Clara attributes their good fortune to the Grey Man and the Lord.
Though eyewitness accounts vary, most people describe the Grey Man as a figure dressed in all grey clothing. The man usually appears on the beach—either stepping out of the dunes or waving to boaters from the shore—before vanishing without saying a word. Most of the sightings occur in Pawleys Island, though the figure has been known to travel. One fisherman spotted the Grey Man in Murrells Inlet, a coastal town about 10 miles north of Pawleys Island.
“I had been out on my boat nearly the entire day and the sun was beginning to set,” the man said. “I was going to do one more sweep of the Inlet for oysters when I noticed a man standing alone on the shore, waving to me. As my boat drew closer to him, I realized he wasn’t waving at all. He had his hand out as if he was telling me to stop. He was dressed in all gray and looked like an old pirate. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I literally rubbed my eyes and looked again. He was gone.” A few hours later, a powerful storm rolled ashore, pounding Murrells Inlet with heavy winds and lashing rain. The fisherman believes the Grey Man appeared to get him off the water and out of harm’s way.
The Origin of the Grey Man The Grey Man is unquestionably a permanent resident of the area, but what causes this kind spirit to warn unsuspecting residents of approaching danger?
There are many different stories of his origin. According to one legend, a young woman was walking the windswept, lonely beach not far from her parent’s Pawleys Island home. She was in mourning for her childhood sweetheart who had recently died in a tragic accident on the island. Her love had returned to Georgetown by ship after an absence of several months. He was so eager to see his beloved fiancée that, rather than wasting one more precious moment away from her, he took a shortcut across previously untraveled marshland.
With his faithful manservant riding a short distance behind, the eager fellow and his horse came to a sudden stop and began to sink rapidly into a patch of deadly quicksand. His manservant watched in horror, unable to help his young master, as the young man and his horse disappeared into the mire. When the young woman heard of her fiancé’s tragic death, she was heartbroken. After the funeral, she took to walking the stretch of beach where she and her beau used to stroll in happier times. This particular day was windier than most, but it suited her recent mood. She was alone with her sadness in the whipping wind with the ocean crashing by her side.
Suddenly a figure appeared ahead. As she walked closer, the young woman could have sworn it was her fiancé. With no fear, she walked toward him. “Leave the island at once,” he said. “You are in danger. Leave the island!”
Then he disappeared.
The young lady hurried home to tell her mother and father about the strange, unsettling experience. Upon hearing their daughter’s strange story, her parents immediately began making plans to leave Pawleys Island for their inland home. They did not know what danger they were fleeing, but they did know that their daughter was a sensible person and not prone to flights of fancy.
The family left Pawleys Island before dawn the following morning. That night, as they lay sleeping in the safety of their inland home, a fierce hurricane ravaged Pawleys Island. The hurricane destroyed most of the homes, but the home of the young woman’s family was undamaged.
The Grey Man is Still Watching Whoever the Grey Man may be, he continues to patrol the beach of windswept Pawleys Island and elsewhere, appearing before deadly storms to warn people of impending danger. The truth may never be known, but one thing is for sure, this mysterious grey man seems to bring no harm and acts as a protector for people along South Carolina’s Grand Strand.
To experience Pawleys Island beach firsthand, make your reservation now at Grand Palms Resort by calling 888-913-4477. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones to see the Grey Man. If you do, just be sure to heed his warning!