Home to some of America’s oldest churches, graveyards, and buildings, Hilton Head Island has been bewitching guests for generations. As the nights get cooler and Halloween draws near, we’re steeling ourselves to explore a different side of the Lowcountry, one of ghouls, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night. Read on for Hilton Head Island’s haunted tales…if you dare.
The first eerie tale on our list is one that is close to home, the tale of The Blue Lady. In the 19th century the daughter of the Leamington Lighthouse keeper suffered a terrible tragedy one fateful stormy evening and can still be seen walking the lighthouse grounds on stormy nights.
Some paranormal creatures are harmless; even friendly. The Boo Hags of Gullah lore are not those creatures. These vampiric ghouls are red, skinless creatures that come out only in darkness and survive by sneaking into bedrooms to steal breath and skin, sucking the life from their victims as they sleep. Gullah folklore says that the only thing that wards off Boo Hags is the bright blue color of indigo, which explains why you might see bright blue doors on the houses of the Lowcountry.
Not far from Hilton Head Island, in Yemassee, Beaufort County you’ll find the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. Built in the 1700s, the church was torched during the Revolutionary War. It was rebuilt only to be razed again during the American Civil War. The site is a favorite for local photographers who snap stunning pictures of the beautiful old ruins. It is also frequently visited by a different kind of guest. Among the ancient gravestones surrounding the ruins is the small grave of an infant. Visitors who approach it are overcome with an overwhelming feeling of sorrow. They might even hear sobbing – or catch a woman in a brown dress kneeling at the grave.
Take a drive to St. Helena Island and you may come across the ruins of a burnt down church. The church dates back to the 1700s and its cemetery houses the bones of many residents from that era. Our story concerns a particular headstone—a mausoleum, in fact. The vault sits to the right of the ruins, housing the remains Edgar Fripp and his beloved wife Eliza. During the Civil War, it’s said that Union soldiers tore apart the vault looking for treasure but found nothing. Disappointed, they bricked up the opening and left. The next day they returned to find the bricks stacked neatly next to the vault. Shocked and shaken, the soldiers left empty-handed. The vault remains eerily half-open to this day.
The origins of this ghost story date back to 1562 when French settler Jean Ribault arrived in Beaufort County with his jester, a dwarf nicknamed Gauche. Though Ribault would go on to explore, eventually making his way to Florida, Gauche never left. The Castle, a home built in the Italian Renaissance style by Dr. Joseph Johnson nearly 300 years later seems to be the place Gauche likes best. He's been known to prank residents of The Castle ever since, moving furniture, opening doors, leaving handprints on windows. Every so often the jingle of the bells on his jester hat can be heard as he wanders the grounds.
Not all Lowcountry ghosts are from centuries ago. Tony Hooks, lead guitarist for Sly and the Family Stone was staying at his mother Sara Hooks’ house in Bluffton in the winter of 1988 when he was shot dead at 32 when he answered his door. Though the house has since fallen into disrepair, on quiet nights locals swear they can hear Tony playing his guitar.
Have you ever felt a presence as you explored the Lowcountry? What ghostly tales have you heard on your travels? One thing is for sure, Hilton Head, with its haunted homes, ghastly ghouls, and unsettled souls is definitely ready for Halloween.