Right off the coast of South Carolina is an “arrogantly shabby” barrier island, which has been visited for generations. Pawleys Island is approximately 70 miles north of Charleston and about 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach. The Civil War and several major hurricanes have changed the face of the island but it still retains the nickname “arrogantly shabby.” Pawleys is still well known as the town that loves to tell ghost stories and enjoys laid back living.
There are many haunted stories and wicked tales told all over the Palmetto State, one of the most prominent being, “The Gray Man of Pawleys Island.” Just like every story, there are always many different versions of it. In the South, it is tradition to tell stories orally, so they may be passed down from generation to generation. Whether it is a bed time story, a love story or a ghost story, everyone tells it differently and it is interpreted differently as well.
The most popular version tells us that the “Gray Man” was coming to see his long lost lover. He was engaged to be married to her and was anxious to see his beautiful, soon to be bride. As mode of transportation, he was on horseback. Unfortunately, in the middle of his trek, he got stuck in quick sand and began to sink. The horse and rider were later found dead. His lover, who was mourning over her late fiancé took a stroll on the beach. As she was collecting her thoughts and emotions on the Carolina coast, a man in a gray suit came up to her, suddenly. She was taken back because he resembled her fiancé! He told her to get off the island and to flee from the coast. She obeyed and that night, a level 3 hurricane ripped through the island demolishing every house in the town sparing her home.
In the Statesville: Record and Landmark, It tells us many different stories about sightings of the “Gray Man.” A couple of newlyweds on were supposedly warned by a "man in rumpled gray clothing" who awakened them when he knocked on their door early in the morning before the storm's arrival They prudently left the area as soon as they were able. That night, most homes on the island were obliterated. However, the couples’ honeymoon spot was left untouched.
In Unsolved Mysteries: "The Grey Man Friendly Ghost Spirit," Genevieve Peterkin, a Georgetown resident gives some insight on what she knows about the legend.
She tells us that everyone who the “Gray Man” comes in contact with will be spared from all danger. She said that if you see the “Gray Man” you should consider yourself blessed. Peterkins reports that in 1954, before Hurricane Hazel that a man spotted the “Gray Man”. This Pawleys Island resident’s home was so protected that beach towels left on the railing from the previous day were left untouched. Peterkins witnessed Hurricane Hazel and she said that story made her a believer of the “Gray Man”.
Even though there are many accounts of people spotting him, there is no idea of who the “Gray Man” is or his fiancé. This story is so well known through out South Carolina but its one that’s harder to believe if unseen because the “Gray Man” has no identity. An alternative to the common myth, in Ghosts of the Carolina Coast the “Gray Man” is portrayed differently. He writes that a woman and man had already been married and they owned a large estate on Pawleys Island. According to Alan Brown, the husband rode off to join the forces with Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox.” That Summer, there was a shipwreck on the island and there was only one survivor. The survivor was pulled to safety and it was her husband. The wives cousin as also on Francis Marion’s team and he died. Brown goes on to say that the “Gray Man” is the cousin who lost his life shipwrecked on the shore. Even though this is a very different version of the story, what we have heard about the ghost is unchanging. He is still a friendly ghost who warns people about hurricanes.
Growing up in South Carolina, it’s easy to see why old men shoot the bull and talk about the “Gray Man.” It’s also interesting when northerners come to visit our Carolina beaches that they actually come out at night to see this phenomenon.
Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2010. Print.
Zepke, Terrance. Ghosts of the Carolina Coasts. Sarasota: Pineapple Press, 1999. Print.
Stonestreet, O.C. “Pawleys Island and the Ghostly Legend of the Gray Man.” Statesville: Record and Landmark, 18 Jul, 212. Web. 11 Oct, 2012.
Rachel Tipton. “Gray Man.” YouTube. Web. 26 October 2011. 12 October 2012.
Bolick, Julian. The Return of the Gray Man. Clinton: Jacobs Brothers, 1956. Print.
markmauvis. “Unsolved Mysteries: The Grey Man Friendly Ghost Spirit.” YouTube. Web. 24 August 2012. 18 October 2012.
Links for Further Research:
This video is a quick re-cap on what the “Gray Man” is up to today and what he has done in history.
This website is great to further research not only just the “Gray Man” but other haunted places in South Carolina.
The Moonlit Road
This website offers cool audio and a lot of information on the “Gray Man” and a lot of other ghost legends.