County has its own rich store of folklore, including ghost tales.
In 1562, Jean Ribaut and his Huguenots came from France, founding the colony of Charlesfort on what is now Parris Island. Though conditions were harsh, the legend includes among the new arrivals a dwarf named Gauche (or Guenache), a jester by trade. There are several accounts of his death: he may have fallen to disease; a Captain Albert may have had him hanged once Ribaut was away; and Gauche may even have kept his mates-turned-cannibals alive on the tragic sea voyage away from the failed colony. One version tells that Gauche was among three colonists killed in brawls during an unusually cold winter in Charlesfort. The Danner family of Beaufort said that the restless spirit of Gauche himself told them that he was killed with a pike in a fracas, not in Charlesfort but close to the Danners home ("The Castle"), miles from the colony.
In The Beaufort Chronicles, Roger Pinckney gives the ghost a new homeland and another destiny, placing him in a different century altogether: the dwarf is "Grenauche le Griffien", Portuguese by birth, who died in 1709 during a Yemassee Indian raid. Whatever his mortal fate, the dwarf never would never see his birthplace again.
No documents have survived to confirm that a Huguenot dwarf ever sailed with Jean Ribaut to North America. Some people claim that it is through far more mysterious evidence that Monsieur Gauche has made his presence known, hundreds of years after the French colony fell.
Soon after the house was completed, the gardeners reported many apparitions. The doctor himself said that he once saw the dwarf walk outside the house. Johnsons daughter, Mrs. Lily Danner, was reported to have said that she saw the specter of Gauche many times when she was a child. The wrinkled old elf of a ghost would join Lily at the tea parties that she held for her dolls in the basement of "The Castle", dressed in his colorful jesters blouse, hose stockings, pointed shoes, and cap and bells. In a June 1940 interview in Harpers Bazaar magazine, however, a "Mrs. Danner" (no first name given) attested that Gauche himself was never really visible, but that it was "only by table tipping that we find him. Whoever taps, its always the same person who answers." The ghost taps out coded messages in 16th-Century French and, according to Mrs. Danner, " ... always swears and uses words the same way. He has no opinion of anyone. He called one of the family a hellion one night. She never listened in after that." Mrs. Danners brother called Gauche "a rough little customer" who "always swears" and "has no opinion of anyone." Houseguests have reported that Gauche is something of a poltergeist. Who moves furniture and opens and closes doors in the night, all to the sound of bells.
The Danners had trouble understanding Gauche at first. Only by writing down the tapping code and finding someone who could translate Gauches archaic French could they eventually communicate with the ghost. In Tales of Beaufort, Nell S. Graydon told of how Gauche spoke out (in English) to a Castle houseguest one stormy evening. Here is a "transcript" of that conversation:
This writer tried to contact Gauche during an evening stroll along the Castles fence. I called out an expression of François Rabelais (1494-1553), the ghosts compatriot and near-contemporary. "Fay ce que vouldras" -- "Do what thou wilt" seemed the perfect taunt for the irascible Gauche. I spoke, then waited, but never got the slightest reply. If Gauche really were listening, he may have had the same opinion of me as of that earlier houseguest: "I do not show myself to fools."
More recently (in 1969, to be precise), Gauche was suspected of stealing supper from the Danners one evening (and at a neighbor's house the very next night). See The "Roast Ghost", below, for more information.
The Lowcountry hag surpasses the modern meanings of the word in The American Heritage Dictionary, "an ugly, frightful old woman" and "a witch; sorceress", to attain an older sense of "a female demon". Any old woman who practices witchcraft and who bears a grudge against one of her neighbors can be a hag. Hags with the greatest powers of witchcraft are sometimes called "boo hags". A third party can pay a hag to harry someone unknown to the witch herself.
When night falls, the hag is free to leave her body (or to shed her skin, depending on who is telling the story) to wander unseen on land, underground or through the air. The hag is invisible, but her presence is warm to the touch, and feels like raw meat.
When a hag chooses to ride to her victims house, she will choose a horse and almost never a mule. The hag drives the horse nearly to death, and tangles the poor beasts tail into impossible knots. In the morning, the owner finds his horse in a heavy lather, all but crippled from the ghastly ride.
What does a hag do when she gets to her victim? She "rides" that person as well! The hag sits on a sleeping persons chest and face, weighing the sleeper down and meaning to choke or smother her victim. The victims struggle, never fully awake, as the hag "swallows" their voices so that not even the screamers themselves can hear their calls for help. The hags flesh is said to have the bounce of rubber whenever her victim strikes out at her in the dark.
A hag can pass through any door, but there are measures to prevent her from entering a room:
Of course, there are skeptics, too. Many Sea Islanders dismiss the whole idea of hags and blame the "victims" troubles on health problems like bad nerves or poor circulation of the blood.
But how to explain the tired-out horses with those impossible knots in their tails?
people will tell you that it appears only on moonlit nights.
About thirty years ago, sheriffs deputies could count as many as one hundred cars parked along the road on a single night. How many drivers were parked there just to be with their dates is unclear.
When first seen down the road, the Light looks like a single beam of an automobile headlight. The impression is of a car with one lamp burned out, but as it comes closer, it is clearly bigger but dimmer than any headlight. The Light has an oval shape and a hue between yellow and pale orange. It travels at a height of 10 to 12 feet above the road. The glow may move straight toward a parked car and suddenly disappear. Or it may hover right next to a parked car and remain visible when passengers turn on the interior lights of the vehicle. Some drivers have reported that the light has zoomed past their own speeding vehicles along the highway. At least two drivers have died (including, by some reports, a deputy sheriff) chasing the light in their automobiles.
One woman said that her hair grew stiff and made crackling noises as the Lands End Light passed her car. She felt that the Light put out an electric charge. Others would suggest a supernatural influence. In fact, a large share of eyewitnesses agree that the Light is a ghost. Where there is no agreement, however, is on the identity of the ghost. No less than five ghost tales center on the phenomenon:
Other witnesses are less willing to see mysterious forces at work at Lands End. Some claim that the "Light" is nothing more than marsh gas or swampfire. This ignis fatuus is methane gas in spontaneous combustion. Opponents to this theory say that the Lands End Light is a dim light of stable color, unlike the rolling, blazing spheres of swampfire with their changing colors. They add that swampfire has no recurring pattern (the Lands End Light is always seen along the same stretch of highway) and needs considerable time for enough methane to build up to feed its fire (while some say the Light on St. Helena Island appears every night).
In the early 1970s, researchers from Duke University came to St. Helena Island to study the phenomenon firsthand. A participant in the study, Catherine Wooley, published an explanation in 1973. She stated that along "ten perfectly straight miles of road", the headlight beams of a car coming on far in the distance would appear to be a single, stationary sphere of light. Wooley attributed the quirky appearances and disappearances of the Lands End Light to dips and hollows along the length of the road: the light beam would be in motion, after all, although the distance gave the illusion of motionless.
Local historian Gerhard Spieler based two objections to Catherine Wooleys conclusions on his personal observation of the Lands End Road:
So the Land's End Light remains a mystery ... and a local attraction for skeptics and believers alike.
Ghosts get hungry, too!
At 6:00 p. m., November 8, 1969, Mrs. Howard Danner of East Street opened her oven to remove the roast her maid had placed there that afternoon. The oven was empty, and there was no trace of the roast anywhere in the kitchen!
Mrs. Danner had just taken the maid home and had left the house door unlocked for that short time. According to the report of Beaufort city police officer G. D. Smith, "Either a very hungry person entered the house while Mrs. Danner was gone or it may be surmised that the 'Ghost of the Danner House' (see Gauche, the Huguenot Ghost) became hungry and absconded with the practically cooked roast, being unable to withstand the temptation and waiting for it to cook."
The roast thief -- spectral or human -- struck again the following night at the 707 North Street home of Mrs. Isiah Thomas. Mrs. Thomas, unlike Mrs. Danner, had taken the precaution of locking her door leaving her roast unattended. When she returned from a visit with nearby relatives, her supper was missing, too!
L. H. Martin, the police officer reporting this incident, wrote, "when (Mr. and Mrs. Thomas) returned hungry and ready to feast on the roast, the roast was gone." There had been no evidence of forced entry.
Mr. Spieler has identified several other ghosts said to haunt places in Beaufort County. Here is a list of four other, otherworldly Beaufortonians:
I have been working at the Library since the fall of 1995. I quickly realized that in this job you dealt with a lot of chaos. It seemed that in just a few minutes the shelves that I had just straightened were once more out of order and quite messy. Several staff members including myself often joke about the presence of "gremlins".
Of all of the events that I have seen or experienced, a few stand out as exceptionally unusual. Around 1997-1998, I was spending an increased amount of time shelving in the Childrens Library. The Childrens Library is built within the foundation and structure of the old Library (completed in 1964 at 710 Craven Street).
At certain exits we have several alarm systems designed to limit the theft of library materials. These systems operate using an system to interact with a device placed in our materials. When activated, the electromagnetic frequency system emits a piercing alarm that can not be ignored.
During this time, the alarm in the Childrens Library began to go off without any apparent reason, a phenomenon known as "ghosting". This persisted for some months, not happening every day, occurring primarily in the evenings. It did not occur every day, but a week did not go by without it happening. It was quite unnerving to be focusing on putting the books in order in a quiet room -- and to have this alarm suddenly ring out.
This was not the only unusual event to have taken place in the Childrens Library. Several times while shelving alone in the room, I heard noises that I normally associate as being made by another person. These usually were quiet noises; a cough, what sounded like the shuffling of feet, or a sniffling sound. Although I often tried to attribute such noises to the building settling, or some other natural cause, I was not able to always convince myself of their "naturalness".
In 1998, I took on duties that now focused more on public service than on shelving books. On Saturday mornings, I would usually arrive at around 8:00 a.m. to prepare the Library for opening. This left me working alone for about twenty minutes, and I quickly came to realize that this is a very noisy place, filled with the many sounds that a building can generate. The creaking and popping of the building settling, the quiet sighs of the ventilation system, and the chatter of computer hard drives all contribute to a background noise level.
But occasionally there would be a sound; a sound as if made by another being, never very loud but very distinctive that would usually give me quite a startle.
I, too have experienced some strange and hair-raising events. The Children's Department is built within the old Craven Street library building, where I began my service for Beaufort County in 1986. It was after the new addition was built that I began to hear strange noises that left me with a chill. Once - when I was hurrying to the restroom - the stall door stopped me cold. It was locked from inside. I said, "Excuse me," but not a soul answered. "Hello? Hello?" - but nothing, so I quickly left. This was strange, since the children and the general public never used this restroom.
But the strangest events not once, but several times in a row. I was walking past a connector door that had been propped open with a doorstop, when it slammed shut right behind me! Scared stiff, I ran to the Children's Room, then turned to meet my "intruder" face to face. But nobody was there! Cautiously, I walked back, checking all doors, the kitchen, and the restroom. Nobody!
A few days later, it all happened again, and once more I went through the same routine, checking and watching - but I saw nobody. Then I heard laughter.
We think the connector door may be triggered by a loose floorboard, after all. The old building was always a very noisy place to work. Now I just say to whatever the cause may be, "Stop playing tricks on me!", and I smile.