Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Hurricane Harbinger: The Gray Man of Pawley’s Island

Author: Petra Van Houtte

Pawley’s Island, located just off the coast of South Carolina, has been plagued by hurricanes for centuries. These storms tear apart whatever their winds can pick up, ranging from beach umbrellas on the strand to houses belonging to the island’s residents. If the storm is believed to be
strong enough to do the latter,islanders are told to leave by their local weatherman. That might not seem unusual, until you hear the weatherman is a ghost.

Pawleys Island Pier, Foggy Morning. Photo by Mark Hillard.
The ghost in question, called the Gray Man,is said to appear as a stranger clad in all gray to one or more lucky people before a big storm hits. He has been described as standing far away and waving his arms in warning as well as speaking to people. Though he keeps his distance from large groups and tends only to speak to those alone, all accounts report a strange foreboding at his appearance as well as the need to heed his warning to leave, which is always understood, regardless of how the spirit communicates his warning. Those to whom the Gray Man shows himself often return to their houses after the storm to find them untouched, even when the rest of the island’s buildings have been blown away. A few notable Gray Man sightings, noted by Christie Gordon in her article titled “The Gray Man of Pawleys Island”,include a young couple who saw him on their honeymoon in 1954, just days before Hurricane Hazel.Another older couple saw him on the beach several years later and left the island just before Hurricane Hugo hit Pawley’s Island. They returned after the storm to find their house was one of few intact. There have been several less well-known sightings  of the Gray Man that date back over 200 years. Many believe the latest sighting of the Gray Man was on a livestream recorded by Jim and Billy McClency during Hurricane Florence, as shown below.

Gray Man caught on livestream during Hurricane Florence

The Gray Man’s origin story has several variations. These include the idea that Gray Man was originally George Pawley the original owner of Pawley’s Island,who lived in the eighteenth century. Another story claims the ghost was a sailor who himself was a victim to a storm, and him being a man who drowned himself after finding out the woman he loved had married his best friend while he had been away at sea. The most commonly known origin story for this legendary ghost is written out in detail by Ashley Hall in their article The Gray Man of Pawleys Island. In this tale, the Gray Man was returning to his lover to ask her to marry him when both he and his horse drowned in the island’s marshes. Several months later, his lover saw a strangely familiar man on the beach who warned her that a storm was coming and that she needed to get off the island, which she did after convincing her family to come with her. After the storm, they returned to find their house untouched while the rest of the island lay in devastation.

Regardless of whether the legend of the Gray Man of Pawley’s Island is real or not, his story enthralls tourists and locals alike as he continues to protect his fellow islanders from storms.

Sources used:
“Pawleys Island Ghost –The Gray Man.” Real paranormal experiences, 24 March. 2018 Accessed 24 March. 2019.

“The Gray Man Ghost of Pawleys Island Real Footage During Hurricane Florence.” Jim McClency and Billy McClency, YouTube, posted by ghost guys go, 16 Sep. 2018. accessed 24 March. 2019.

Fleming, Tyler. “Who was the Hurricane-Predicting Ghost of Pawleys Island?” TheSun News, 11 Sept.2018, Accessed 25 March. 2019

Gordon, Christie “The Gray Man of Pawleys Island,” Mysterious Universe, 27June, 2013 Accessed 25 March. 2019.

Hall, Ashley. “The Gray Man of Pawleys Island”, 21 Apr. 2015, Accessed 25 March. 2019.

Hillard, Mark. Pawleys Island Pier, Foggy Morning. X-E2 with 10 stops of ND, 30 seconds. Accessed 26 March. 2019.

Links for further research:
Myrtle Beach Online
Tyler Fleming compiles a list of possible origin stories for the Gray Man of Pawleys Island. Stories claim he is either the victim of a hurricane himself, a scorned lover or the original owner of the island.

Southern Living
This article delves into how South Carolina residents experience the island ghost and how he has been integrated into the culture. It includes stories depictions of several tweets of local eyewitness accounts as well as an informational video.

The Paranormal Guide
In her article, Ashley Hall tells a version of the most well-known origin story of the Gray Man wherein he is depicted as a young man drowned with his horse in the marshes before he could make it home to his lover, who he later tells to get off the island right before a storm hits. Hall also explains the nature of Gray Man sightings, wherein he is dressed in gray and often waves in warning, and his storm-predicting abilities.

This article uses these features to link hurricanes with Gray Man appearances from as far back as 1893. It uses maps showing hurricane paths and its analytical approach to the link between Gray Man sightings and hurricanes.

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