Quintessentially Lowcountry: Area ghosts don't just wait for Halloween

147875 articles in the archive and more added every day

Quintessentially Lowcountry: Area ghosts don't just wait for Halloween

By RENEE DUDLEY rdudley@islandpacket.com 843-706-8138
Published Friday, October 30, 2009   |  596 Words  |  news

It's Halloween, the time of year when spirits come out to haunt the living.
In Beaufort, though, the ghosts hang out all year long, according to local lore.
Nearly every old home in a Lowcountry historic district has its own ghosts. On October weekends, no one recounts their stories with the panache of the nearly 100 volunteers organized by the Beaufort Exchange Club.
It's the club's 17th year presenting the walking and carriage-drawn ghost tours around historic Beaufort. Proceeds from the volunteer-run tours goes to the Child Abuse Prevention Association, which serves Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. This year, the Exchange hopes to generate about $14,000 for CAPA, said Katie Grindle, past president of the Exchange.
Organizers had expected to give as many as 20 tours on Friday, the final night of the tours, according to Grindle, whose husband is a storyteller on the 16-passenger carriage tours. All told, about 1,500 people will have taken ghost tours this year, she said.
Beaufort City Council member Donnie Beer is among the handful of costumed storytellers to lead the tours. She's been at it for each of the 17 years the tours have run.
Beer, who dresses in a Victorian-style black skirt and hat, said the stories were passed on to CAPA and the Exchange club primarily from residents who live in the haunted houses.
Are the stories true?
"We leave that up to the people listening," she said. "Just about any building 100 years or older has ghosts. A lot of strange things happen that just cannot be explained. Voodoo is alive and well in Beaufort County."
She likes to tell the story of the lights at Lands End, a tale that many Beaufort residents know without needing to take the tour.
Legend has it that if you go to the wooded area of St. Helena Island late at night, you might be able to see a light in the distance over the water. If you remain there long enough, the light appears to come closer and closer, she said.
Once it gets close enough, you'll see one of two images. The first is a slave with a lantern in search of his master. The second is a headless Confederate soldier, his uniform covered in blood. He apparently is looking for his head.
Beer also likes telling stories of ghost ships and pirate sightings (one of the storytellers dresses as a pirate), and about the haunted house on Federal Street, where a girl can be seen walking around the home when no one is there.
But the most intriguing point on the tour might be the Johnson-Danner House, better-known as "the Castle," which was built in the middle of the nineteenth-century, according to "Tales of Beaufort," a 1963 book written by Nell Graydon.
A dwarf supposedly has haunted the house since it was built.
"Visitors tell of standing on the edge of the tidal creek which flows beside the house and feeling a gust of icy wind, and then seeing a thin streak of mist rise from the water," Graydon wrote in the book. "It floats toward the house and as it reaches land, takes the shadowy and indistinct form of a man, then disappears into the darkness."
Beer is a believer.
"Every time we've had a problem with the horses or with the carriages, it always happens behind the Castle," she said. "There's something -- someone -- back there trying to make our lives miserable. You don't see anything -- it just happens."