The Trembley Group Real Estate Professionals love everything about living in Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand. What’s not to love? There are plenty of wonderful fresh seafood and great restaurants, lots of live entertainment, world-class golf courses, a wide variety of amusements, and of course, the 60 miles of sunny beaches that make up the Grand Strand and gives Myrtle Beach half of its name. There’s another worthwhile reason, however, to spend time along the shores of South Carolina: history and heritage. The compelling past of Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand comes to life through its history, its heritage, and its folklore.
Of all the Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand stories told over time, some of the ones most dear to The Trembley Group Real Estate Professionals are ghost stories. While the city Myrtle Beach doesn’t have particularly long history, parts of the Grand Strand have a long, rich, and colorful history. The Grand Strand is filled with haunted houses stories, but the real history of Grand Strand ghosts is hidden away from the neon lights, north and south of the city. From Little River to Georgetown the spirits of the dearly departed make regular appearances on the beaches, in historic buildings, and along little-traveled back country roads. It is said that when driving through some of the swamps at night, meeting one of these earth-bound apparitions is not uncommon.
Locals know of the area’s most famous ghosts, Alice and the Grey Man, but other spirits often made their presence known with lights, noises, and by other means.
The Grand Strand’s ghost stories involve the popular themes of pirate ghosts, lost loves, and even the Grand Strand’s very own neverworld-version of a Weather Channel weather-alert anchor. There are the pirate ghost stories of Black Beard and Drunken Jack, and the folklore figures of Alice Flagg, the ghost of the Hermitage, and the Gray Man. But one of the most endearing ghost stories is of the four-legged variety.
According to legend, there are quite a few ghost stories surrounding the Pelican Inn, on Pawleys Island. Located on the “arrogantly shabby” Pawleys Island, the Pelican Inn is a charming bed and breakfast built in the 1840s. This whitewashed, house-turned-inn is hauntingly beautiful and original to the historic section of the island. Its guests enjoy the quiet atmosphere and home-made meals. While it’s situated in Gray Man territory (the famous spirit that walks the Pawleys Island shoreline warning of dangerous weather), the property is home to two canine ghosts: a pair of Boston terriers belonging to a former owner.
Ghosts of Pirates
Who can tell ghost stories of Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand without talking about pirates?
Blackbeard the Pirate
On the opposite end of the Grand Strand is the sleepy little town of Little River, the oldest settlement in Horry County, that sits on the shore if its namesake, the Little River. This quiet, little town was once the refuge of pirates seeking safe havens, resting ports, and treasure vaults. It was a favorite of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate.
Blackbeard was captured and killed in a fierce sea battle with English Lt. Robert Maynard. He was beheaded and his body was thrown overboard. His head was hung from the ship’s main mast. Legend has it that he swam around the boat six times before sinking into the deep. Many have seen the tall, headless body of Blackbeard roaming the beaches or swimming underwater, sometimes accompanied by an eerie glow. Locals say he can be seen wandering the shores of the Little River searching for his treasure and, of course, his missing head.
Drunken Jack the Pirate
Another Grand Strand Ghost died with a smile on his face. Legend has it that early in the 1600’s, Blackbeard anchored off a small island in Murrell’s Inlet. There, he and his crewmen unloaded and buried a large quantity of pilfered rum. After a wild night of feasting, drinking, and debauchery, Blackbeard’s crew, Jack among them, collapsed in a drunken stupor. The pirates snored through the night and rose early to cast off for the Caribbean… All except Jack. The crew came under attack and didn’t make the return to Murrells Inlet for two years. On their return to the island, they found 32 empty rum kegs and the bleached brittle bones of old Jack. In honor and in memory of their shipmate, the island became known as Drunken Jack’s Island. Today’s visitors can visit the Marsh Walk of Murrells Inlet and may see the spirit of Jack wandering the shores of Drunken Jack’s Island looking for some more rum.
The Ghosts of Pawleys Island’s Boston Terriers
Legend goes that these two dogs were once owned by an elderly caretaker of the Pelican Inn. One day, one of the dogs heard a boy in the surf crying for help. The little dog swam to the lad and saved him. The dog, exhausted from the ordeal, died soon thereafter. Its companion pined away for its lost friend and soon died of the resulting loneliness. Visitors to the Pawleys Island beach near the inn at sunset, sometimes see the two dogs romping on the beach and playing in the surf, oblivious of time. Visitors to the Pelican Inn claim to see the dogs and hear the dogs barking.
To this day it is said that the ghostly image of two terriers can be seen along the surf near the Pelican Inn when the sun goes down on Pawley’s Island. They can be heard barking and can be seen running and playing in the sand and water, but in an instant they’re gone, leaving only footprints behind.
The Ghost of the Grey Man
The Grey Man is unquestionably a permanent resident of the area who warns unsuspecting Pawleys Island residents of approaching danger.
There are several different stories of his origin. According to the legend most commonly accepted, The Grey Man is the ghost of a young soldier who was returning home to Pawleys Island to marry his fiancé at her parent’s Pawleys Island home. Eager to see her and not wanting to waste another precious moment, 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 deep and deadly pluff mud. His manservant watched in horror as the young man and his horse disappeared into the mire.
The young woman was heartbroken. One morning, mourning her childhood sweetheart, she was walking the windswept, lonely beach of Pawleys Island where she and her love once strolled in happier times, not far from her parents’ home.
Suddenly a figure appeared ahead. As she walked closer, the young woman was sure it was her fiancé. As she walked toward him. He said, “Leave the island at once. 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 made plans to leave Pawleys Island for their inland home. They did not know why or what danger they were fleeing, but they knew that their daughter was a sensible person, 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.
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.
Residents who are lucky enough to see the grey man and wise enough to heed his warning always find their homes undamaged after a storm. Encounters with the Grey Man have taken place before every major hurricane that’s 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 most homes on Pawleys Island, but the Moores’ 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.”
The Ghost of Alice Flagg
The most famous ghost of Murrells Inlet is Alice Belin Flagg (1833-1849). According to legend, Alice roams the shores of Murrells Inlet, searching for a ring she received from a young man her family did not approve of. As she lay in bed ill with a fever, her brother discovered the ring on a ribbon around her neck, became enraged, and flung it into the inlet.
As sister to the wealthy Dr. Allard Flagg, the owner of Wachesaw Plantation, Alice was expected to marry well. But the fates had other plans. Alice fell in love with a lumberman. Of course, Dr. Flagg intended to put an end to this, and he ordered Alice to return the lumberman’s ring and sent her away to boarding school in Charleston.
There, Alice contracted malaria and returned home to Pawley’s. Before she died, Dr. Flagg discovered the ring still secreted around Alice’s neck, and in his anger, threw it into the marsh. With each day Alice grew sicker, but she never forgot her precious ring.
She died, begging for it with her last breath.
Soon after her death, Alice began appearing at her former mansion, the Hermitage, and her final resting place beneath the ancient oaks and palmetto trees just off the highway at the All Saints Church cemetery in Pawleys Island. The church was a land grant from King George and has graced these hallowed grounds since 1739. Dr. Flagg buried his sister beneath a simple concrete slab in All Saint’s Cemetery, inscribed with only her name: Alice.
For years, many people have glimpsed the ghost of Alice wandering the cemetery and surrounding marsh looking for her ring. It is said if a person can walk backward thirteen times around her grave without stumbling, Alice will appear and will find her treasured ring. Dressed in a white wedding gown, she is said to try and snatch rings from women’s fingers.
Alice is also said to be seen combing the creekside in Murrells Inlet in search of her lost treasure.
At The Trembley Group, we pride ourselves on being the experts at more than just selling real estate. We are local residents, some of us have been here for a lifetime. The rest of us will be here until the end of time. We love living, working, and playing in the diverse backyard of Coastal Carolina, and look forward to helping you live and love your dreams soon too. Please reach out to us by phone or email for personalized service and one-on-one advice.