Beaufort County Library Logo
The Beaufofort Arsenal's crenels, or spaces alternating with blocks as along medieval castle walls
Crenellated walls of the Beaufort
Arsenal at night
Ghost Stories of
Beaufort County, SC

Retold by
Dennis Adams
Information Services Coordinator

Beaufort County has its own rich store of folklore, including ghost tales.
Here are just three of the best-known local stories, followed by a short list
of other local ghosts!

Ghostly red hand

Gauche,
the Huguenot Ghost

Ghostly red hand

In 1562, Jean Ribaut and his Huguenots came from France, founding the colony of Charlesfort on what is now Parris Island. Though conditions were harsh, the legend includes among the new arrivals a dwarf named Gauche (or Guenache), a jester by trade. There are several accounts of his death: he may have fallen to disease; a Captain Albert may have had him hanged once Ribaut was away; and Gauche may even have kept his mates-turned-cannibals alive on the tragic sea voyage away from the failed colony. One version tells that Gauche was among three colonists killed in brawls during an unusually cold winter in Charlesfort. The Danner family of Beaufort said that the restless spirit of Gauche himself told them that he was killed with a pike in a fracas, not in Charlesfort but close to the Danner’s home ("The Castle"), miles from the colony.

In The Beaufort Chronicles, Roger Pinckney gives the ghost a new homeland and another destiny, placing him in a different century altogether: the dwarf is "Grenauche le Griffien", Portuguese by birth, who died in 1709 during a Yemassee Indian raid. Whatever his mortal fate, the dwarf never would never see his birthplace again.

No documents have survived to confirm that a Huguenot dwarf ever sailed with Jean Ribaut to North America. Some people claim that it is through far more mysterious evidence that Monsieur Gauche has made his presence known, hundreds of years after the French colony fell.

His ghost is still said to inhabit "The Castle" (411 Craven Street, Beaufort), a home built in the 1850s by Dr. Joseph Johnson. When Federal troops occupied Beaufort in 1861, the still-unfinished Castle became a military hospital. The outbuilding did duty as a morgue, and the grounds surrounding the house may very well have served as a graveyard. Did these macabre circumstances draw the spirit of the Huguenot ghost from his own grave and bring him to the Johnson House?

 

 
Pass through an iron gate up the walway to a huge live oak. The Castle awaits you with its tall columns and mysterious stairway!
"The Castle," 411 Craven Street, Beaufort
Photograph by Dennis Adams (August 7, 2002)
Soon after the house was completed, the gardeners reported many apparitions. The doctor himself said that he once saw the dwarf walk outside the house. Johnson’s daughter, Mrs. Lily Danner, was reported to have said that she saw the specter of Gauche many times when she was a child. The wrinkled old elf of a ghost would join Lily at the tea parties that she held for her dolls in the basement of "The Castle", dressed in his colorful jester’s blouse, hose stockings, pointed shoes, and cap and bells. In a June 1940 interview in Harper’s Bazaar magazine, however, a "Mrs. Danner" (no first name given) attested that Gauche himself was never really visible, but that it was "only by table tipping that we find him. Whoever taps, it’s always the same person who answers." The ghost taps out coded messages in 16th-Century French and, according to Mrs. Danner, " ... always swears and uses words the same way. He has no opinion of anyone. He called one of the family a hellion one night. She never listened in after that." Mrs. Danner’s brother called Gauche "a rough little customer" who "always swears" and "has no opinion of anyone." Houseguests have reported that Gauche is something of a poltergeist. Who moves furniture and opens and closes doors in the night, all to the sound of bells.

The Danners had trouble understanding Gauche at first. Only by writing down the tapping code and finding someone who could translate Gauche’s archaic French could they eventually communicate with the ghost. In Tales of Beaufort, Nell S. Graydon told of how Gauche spoke out (in English) to a Castle houseguest one stormy evening. Here is a "transcript" of that conversation:

GAUCHE: This is Gauche.

GUEST: What are you doing here?

GAUCHE: I live here -- in the cellar.

GUEST: Why?

GAUCHE: It reminds me of my English home
that I will never enter again.

GUEST: Will you let me see you?

GAUCHE: No, I do not show myself to fools.

Ghostly red hand

The ghost has left his red hand prints
on "The Castle’s" windows.


Other houseguests, however, have seen a wisp of fog or mist rise out of the tidal creek beside the house just after a chilling breeze blew past. The wisp would move slowly toward the Castle, take human form, then disappear into the night. The ghost has reportedly left his red hand prints on the house’s windows as well.

This writer tried to contact Gauche during an evening stroll along the Castle’s fence. I called out an expression of François Rabelais (1494-1553), the ghost’s compatriot and near-contemporary. "Fay ce que vouldras" -- "Do what thou wilt" seemed the perfect taunt for the irascible Gauche. I spoke, then waited, but never got the slightest reply. If Gauche really were listening, he may have had the same opinion of me as of that earlier houseguest: "I do not show myself to fools."

More recently (in 1969, to be precise), Gauche was suspected of stealing supper from the Danners one evening (and at a neighbor's house the very next night). See The "Roast Ghost", below, for more information.

Small red hand SOURCES:

  • Graydon, Nell S. "The Castle" in Tales of Beaufort. Beaufort Book Shop, 1963.
  • Lowndes, Marion. "They Still Come Back." Harper’s Bazaar. June 1940.
  • Pinckney, Roger. The Beaufort Chronicles: Old Houses, Old Stories. Pluff Mud Publishing, 1996.
  • "The 'Roast Ghost' Strikes in Beaufort" Beaufort Gazette. November 13, 1969.

  • Wright, Renée. "The Lowcountry’s Haunted Houses and Other Strange Bumps in the Night." Beaufort Magazine. Volume 1, Number 2, Fall. 1992.

Hags

A skull-faced hag has shed her skin and put on an old black cloak
It's an evil day when this guest comes
to call.
  Some African-Americans of the Sea Islands still believe in multiple souls: the "soul" leaves the body and returns to God at death, but the "spirit" stays on earth -- still involved in the daily affairs of its living descendants. The spirit of a dead (or dying) older woman may become a "hag", though in a great many of the stories, a hag is not a ghost or a dead spirit, but a living member of the community.

The Lowcountry hag surpasses the modern meanings of the word in The American Heritage Dictionary, "an ugly, frightful old woman" and "a witch; sorceress", to attain an older sense of "a female demon". Any old woman who practices witchcraft and who bears a grudge against one of her neighbors can be a hag. Hags with the greatest powers of witchcraft are sometimes called "boo hags". A third party can pay a hag to harry someone unknown to the witch herself.

When night falls, the hag is free to leave her body (or to shed her skin, depending on who is telling the story) to wander unseen on land, underground or through the air. The hag is invisible, but her presence is warm to the touch, and feels like raw meat.

When a hag chooses to ride to her victim’s house, she will choose a horse and almost never a mule. The hag drives the horse nearly to death, and tangles the poor beast’s tail into impossible knots. In the morning, the owner finds his horse in a heavy lather, all but crippled from the ghastly ride.

What does a hag do when she gets to her victim? She "rides" that person as well! The hag sits on a sleeping person’s chest and face, weighing the sleeper down and meaning to choke or smother her victim. The victims struggle, never fully awake, as the hag "swallows" their voices so that not even the screamers themselves can hear their calls for help. The hag’s flesh is said to have the bounce of rubber whenever her victim strikes out at her in the dark.

A hag can pass through any door, but there are measures to prevent her from entering a room:

  • No hag will pass a broom placed by the door. Hags will avoid brooms night or day, in human form or in their demonic shape.
  • Hags share a compulsive nature and must count every hole in a sieve hung on a doorway or each bristle of a brush. One reason for their dislike of brooms is that they must count each and every straw in any broom that they encounter. It may take the whole night to count some objects left by a doorway -- and by daylight (the second "fowl crow") the hag must go back to the body or the skin she has left behind. But beware! Some hags have learned to count quickly over the years and so can manage to get past the obstacles set in their way.
  • Because the smell of gunpowder terrifies hags, some people have put a loaded gun at the head of their beds at night!
  • Others have stuck match sticks in their hair before going to bed.
  • To get rid of a hag once and for all, a victim should throw salt at the demon to keep her from getting back into her shed skin. A hag will soon die without her skin.
  • Praying or cursing will kill a hag, too, if done fervently enough.

Of course, there are skeptics, too. Many Sea Islanders dismiss the whole idea of hags and blame the "victims’" troubles on health problems like bad nerves or poor circulation of the blood.

But how to explain the tired-out horses with those impossible knots in their tails?

Small red hand SOURCES:

  • Daise, Ronald. "Early One Mornin’, Death Come Creepin’ in M’Room!" in Reminiscences of Sea Island Heritage: Legacy of Freedmen on St. Helena Island. Sandlapper Publishing, 1986.
  • Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Volume I: North America. G. K. Hall & Co., 1991
  • Hare, Mildred and Chalmers S. Murray, "Hags" and Murray, Chalmers S. "Boo-Hags" in South Carolina Folk Tales: Stories of Animals and Supernatural Beings. (Compiled by Workers of the Writer’s Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of South Carolina.) University of South Carolina Press, 1941.

The Land’s End Light

Some people will tell you that it appears only on moonlit nights.

Others insist that it happens only on the darkest of moonless nights. Many claim that it can be seen almost any night. Whatever the best time, there are not a few people in Beaufort who will swear to having seen the famous Land’s End Light.
Dave Hendricks (in the Beaufort Gazette), called Land's End "South Carolina's own Sleepy Hollow".

Suddenly a single spot of light appears at the end of the dark road
Many local folks claim to have seen "The Light."
  These eyewitnesses have driven over to St. Helena Island on
U. S. Highway 21. At the intersection in Frogmore, they have turned down Land’s End Road in the direction of Penn Center. They have passed the tabby ruins of the Chapel of Ease and driven a few miles more until they come upon a long, straight stretch of highway. Then they park their cars, turn off the engine and wait.

About thirty years ago, sheriff’s deputies could count as many as one hundred cars parked along the road on a single night. How many drivers were parked there just to be with their dates is unclear.

When first seen down the road, the Light looks like a single beam of an automobile headlight. The impression is of a car with one lamp burned out, but as it comes closer, it is clearly bigger but dimmer than any headlight. The Light has an oval shape and a hue between yellow and pale orange. It travels at a height of 10 to 12 feet above the road. The glow may move straight toward a parked car and suddenly disappear. Or it may hover right next to a parked car and remain visible when passengers turn on the interior lights of the vehicle. Some drivers have reported that the light has zoomed past their own speeding vehicles along the highway. At least two drivers have died (including, by some reports, a deputy sheriff) chasing the light in their automobiles.

One woman said that her hair grew stiff and made crackling noises as the Land’s End Light passed her car. She felt that the Light put out an electric charge. Others would suggest a supernatural influence. In fact, a large share of eyewitnesses agree that the Light is a ghost. Where there is no agreement, however, is on the identity of the ghost. No less than five ghost tales center on the phenomenon:

  • The Light may be the lantern of a Confederate soldier who was on patrol along Land’s End Road in November of 1861, on watch for Union soldiers who were expected to invade St. Helena Island (some say the sentry's post was Bermuda Bluff, according to Land's End resident Kelly Brown. A Yankee soldier (or soldiers) sneaked up behind him and cut off his head with a long knife, tossing the head into the waters Port Royal Sound -- the body was left ashore to rot. The poor soul now goes up and down the road in search of his head, carrying his old iron lantern. "People around here really believe in that fella without the head," Mosse Road resident Troy Beaman told Dave Hendricks (again in the Beaufort Gazette)
  • On the other hand, the Land’s End Light could be a Union soldier beheaded after the Federal forces occupied St. Helena Island in 1861.
  • A few months before October 2000, Land's End resident Kelly Brown herself saw three ghosts in uniform leaning on their rifles around a campfire near Ft. Fremont.
  • The Light is said to be the spirit of an unhappy slave who was sold to an owner far away from the Island. He now haunts the land he was forced to leave, searching for the wife he left behind.
  • The Light may be a fairly "young" ghost, the spirit of a soldier from Fort Fremont killed in a fight around 1910 (Pvt. Frank J. Quigley). The Beaufort Gazette of May 2, 1910 reported that six artillerymen were wounded in a brawl with local civilians. One of them died soon afterwards.
  • Charles LeBold of Hilton Head Island recalls a version of the "Frogmore Lights" story from his Marine Corps days on the Beaufort Air Station from 1968-1969. This account differs from most others in that it involves two lights (ghostly headlights) instead of just one ball of light. Mr. LeBold recalls hearing about a certain oak tree on St. Helena Island. "where, many years prior a schoolbus load of children ran off the road and hit the tree with the loss of many young lives. The story was, if you sat under that tree, on a certain full moon night, you would see headlights come down the road, see them leave the road and hear the screams of the children." Mr. LeBold tried a number of times to find the tree and to encounter "the Lights", without success.

Other witnesses are less willing to see mysterious forces at work at Land’s End. Some claim that the "Light" is nothing more than marsh gas or swampfire. This ignis fatuus is methane gas in spontaneous combustion. Opponents to this theory say that the Land’s End Light is a dim light of stable color, unlike the rolling, blazing spheres of swampfire with their changing colors. They add that swampfire has no recurring pattern (the Land’s End Light is always seen along the same stretch of highway) and needs considerable time for enough methane to build up to feed its fire (while some say the Light on St. Helena Island appears every night).

In the early 1970s, researchers from Duke University came to St. Helena Island to study the phenomenon firsthand. A participant in the study, Catherine Wooley, published an explanation in 1973. She stated that along "ten perfectly straight miles of road", the headlight beams of a car coming on far in the distance would appear to be a single, stationary sphere of light. Wooley attributed the quirky appearances and disappearances of the Land’s End Light to dips and hollows along the length of the road: the light beam would be in motion, after all, although the distance gave the illusion of motionless.

Local historian Gerhard Spieler based two objections to Catherine Wooley’s conclusions on his personal observation of the Land’s End Road:

  1. "The straight stretch of road consists not of 10 miles, but of 2.8 miles."
  2. "There are no dips or hollows in the road, there is not even one dip."

So the Land's End Light remains a mystery ... and a local attraction for skeptics and believers alike.

Small red hand SOURCES:

  • Hendricks, Dave. "Spooky Fort Guards Lands End" (Ft. Fremont). Beaufort Gazette. October 31, 2000; p. 3-C.

  • LeBold, Charles. E-mail message of April 29, 1999.

  • Poucher, Dean. "The Ghost of Land’s End". Savannah News-Press. November10, 1974
  • Spieler, Gerhard. "Land’s End Light -- Real or Imaginary?" Beaufort Gazette. June 20, 1974.

The "Roast Ghost"

Ghosts get hungry, too!

At 6:00 p. m., November 8, 1969, Mrs. Howard Danner of East Street opened her oven to remove the roast her maid had placed there that afternoon. The oven was empty, and there was no trace of the roast anywhere in the kitchen!

Mrs. Danner had just taken the maid home and had left the house door unlocked for that short time. According to the report of Beaufort city police officer G. D. Smith, "Either a very hungry person entered the house while Mrs. Danner was gone or it may be surmised that the 'Ghost of the Danner House' (see Gauche, the Huguenot Ghost) became hungry and absconded with the practically cooked roast, being unable to withstand the temptation and waiting for it to cook."

The roast thief -- spectral or human -- struck again the following night at the 707 North Street home of Mrs. Isiah Thomas. Mrs. Thomas, unlike Mrs. Danner, had taken the precaution of locking her door leaving her roast unattended. When she returned from a visit with nearby relatives, her supper was missing, too!

L. H. Martin, the police officer reporting this incident, wrote, "when (Mr. and Mrs. Thomas) returned hungry and ready to feast on the roast, the roast was gone." There had been no evidence of forced entry.

Small red hand SOURCE:

  • "The 'Roast Ghost' Strikes in Beaufort" Beaufort Gazette. November 13, 1969.

Other Ghosts of Beaufort County

Mr. Spieler has identified several other ghosts said to haunt places in Beaufort County. Here is a list of four other, otherworldly Beaufortonians:

  • The Ghostly Lovers of Fripp Island Beach. According to the legend, the famous pirate Blackbeard kidnapped a girl from Charleston and brought her to his lair on Fripp Island. When she resisted him, Blackbeard killed the man to whom the girl had been betrothed. The pirate brought the girl her sweetheart’s severed hand, which still wore the engagement ring. The horrified girl rushed into surf to drown in the ocean currents. Their love prevailed over Blackbeard’s wickedness, none the less. In the light of each full moon, the ghosts of the lovers stroll arm in arm along the beach to this very day.
  • The Ghost of William Baynard. The Baynard mausoleum on Hilton Head Island (Zion Cemetery on William Hilton Parkway) is the haunting-place of a particularly unhappy ghost. William Baynard lost his young bride to fever in 1830, and he never recovered from his grief. So when it storms at night, the specter of the mourning widower rides his wife’s hearse, driving a ghostly team of four black horses before him.
  • The Ghost of Wigg-Barnwell House. A woman murdered in an apartment of the house took ghostly residence there for years after the crime. The house was later moved from the corner of Prince and Scott Streets to a new site on the Point. Mr. Spieler wonders, "Did the ghost also move or did it remain at the old location?"
  • The Ghost of Frogmore Manor. If the Land’s End Light is really a Union soldier’s ghost, there is at least one Confederate ghost on St. Helena Island. Here is another ghostly light, feared to be the lantern of a doomed blockade runner.

Small red hand SOURCE:

  • Spieler, Gerhard. "Ghosts, Past and Present". The Beaufort Gazette. August 5, 1980; p. 6-A.

Our Library Gremlins!
by
Michael Broam

(Circulation Represenative,
Beaufort County Public Library)

and
Darlene Flynn
(Children's Representative
Beaufort County Public Library)

  • Library "gremlins" -- like library cats -- have long been a part of bookshelf folklore. The most notorious library gremlin was the frightful spook in the 1984 movie, Ghostbusters, who scattered catalog cards like dead leaves in a windstorm and shrieked like a banshee through the "quiet reading areas"! More typical are the gremlins who keep out of sight and haunt the stacks only at night or in the least busy parts of the library. Apart from some minor mischief and good-natured pranks, library gremlins are harmless and even likeable little sprites. We even suspect they love to read!
  • Judge for yourself from these "gremlin reports" by two staff members at our headquarters (311 Scott Street) Library location. Believe it -- or not!

Small red hand Michael's Story:

I have been working at the Library since the fall of 1995. I quickly realized that in this job you dealt with a lot of chaos. It seemed that in just a few minutes the shelves that I had just straightened were once more out of order and quite messy. Several staff members including myself often joke about the presence of "gremlins".

Of all of the events that I have seen or experienced, a few stand out as exceptionally unusual. Around 1997-1998, I was spending an increased amount of time shelving in the Children’s Library. The Children’s Library is built within the foundation and structure of the old Library (completed in 1964 at 710 Craven Street).

At certain exits we have several alarm systems designed to limit the theft of library materials. These systems operate using an system to interact with a device placed in our materials. When activated, the electromagnetic frequency system emits a piercing alarm that can not be ignored.

During this time, the alarm in the Children’s Library began to go off without any apparent reason, a phenomenon known as "ghosting". This persisted for some months, not happening every day, occurring primarily in the evenings. It did not occur every day, but a week did not go by without it happening. It was quite unnerving to be focusing on putting the books in order in a quiet room -- and to have this alarm suddenly ring out.

This was not the only unusual event to have taken place in the Children’s Library. Several times while shelving alone in the room, I heard noises that I normally associate as being made by another person. These usually were quiet noises; a cough, what sounded like the shuffling of feet, or a sniffling sound. Although I often tried to attribute such noises to the building settling, or some other natural cause, I was not able to always convince myself of their "naturalness".

In 1998, I took on duties that now focused more on public service than on shelving books. On Saturday mornings, I would usually arrive at around 8:00 a.m. to prepare the Library for opening. This left me working alone for about twenty minutes, and I quickly came to realize that this is a very noisy place, filled with the many sounds that a building can generate. The creaking and popping of the building settling, the quiet sighs of the ventilation system, and the chatter of computer hard drives all contribute to a background noise level.

But occasionally there would be a sound; a sound as if made by another being, never very loud but very distinctive that would usually give me quite a startle.

Small red hand Darlene's Story:

I, too have experienced some strange and hair-raising events. The Children's Department is built within the old Craven Street library building, where I began my service for Beaufort County in 1986. It was after the new addition was built that I began to hear strange noises that left me with a chill. Once - when I was hurrying to the restroom - the stall door stopped me cold. It was locked from inside. I said, "Excuse me," but not a soul answered. "Hello? Hello?" - but nothing, so I quickly left. This was strange, since the children and the general public never used this restroom.

But the strangest events not once, but several times in a row. I was walking past a connector door that had been propped open with a doorstop, when it slammed shut right behind me! Scared stiff, I ran to the Children's Room, then turned to meet my "intruder" face to face. But nobody was there! Cautiously, I walked back, checking all doors, the kitchen, and the restroom. Nobody!

A few days later, it all happened again, and once more I went through the same routine, checking and watching - but I saw nobody. Then I heard laughter.

We think the connector door may be triggered by a loose floorboard, after all. The old building was always a very noisy place to work. Now I just say to whatever the cause may be, "Stop playing tricks on me!", and I smile.

Small red hand SOURCES:

  • Original staff reports of October 1999.

 
| Local History and Nature |
| Return to Home Page |
Website User Agreement |

Last Revised 2-23-07. Send comments on this web page to Webmaster.
Copyright © 2007, Beaufort County Library, SC
All Rights Reserved.
 
Beaufort County Seal. Click to go to County website
 
 
 
Beaufort County Library, 311 Scott Street, Beaufort, SC 29902 || Telephone: (843) 470-6504
Fax: (843) 470-6542