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Who was the hurricane-predicting ghost of Pawleys Island?

Ignoring the gathering storm, people fish and crab in the marsh surrounding the western side of Pawleys Island. 07/24/12
Ignoring the gathering storm, people fish and crab in the marsh surrounding the western side of Pawleys Island. 07/24/12 jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Residents of Pawleys Island have a watchful, dead friend. The Gray Man is known to haunt the coastline near Pawleys Island, revealing himself to onlookers when a major storm is heading to the area.

Not only does he warn people, but he is also known to protect their property from a storm. A woman in 1954 claimed to see the Gray Man ahead of the infamous Hurricane Hazel hitting the area. She said not only was her house spared from the devastation, the beach towels she left on her balcony were still hanging up.

But who was the Gray man and why does he linger? The Georgetown Museum has a few different origin stories for this Grand Strand ghost.

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A lost lover

One theory is the Gray Man was a victim of a storm himself. During the Storm of Sep. 27, 1822, which made landfall near Charleston, he was trying to get home to see his family.

He had been abroad for two years and was in a rush to get home as the storm swept into the Lowcountry. He was hurrying back mostly to see his fiance so they could set a wedding day. He decided to take a shortcut home.

Then he drove straight into a pool of quicksand and never made it home.

His fiance was overcome with grief and begin wandering the shore for long hours. As the sun was setting, she saw a shadowy figure. As the shadowy, gray figure approached her, she saw it was her lost lover. Then he disappeared.

Later that evening, she saw him in her dreams and became overcome with sorrow. Her father decided they needed to return to their main home farther inland.

The next day a hurricane destroyed the area, leaving many dead. Had her family not fled, they might have died too.

A lover lost

Other theories tell a different story. One still has a man returning from the sea, but this time his fiance decided to marry his best friend instead. He throws himself into the Waccamaw, and then later his fiance and friend do the same.

Other stories say he was an unknown sailor who washed up on shore and died shortly after. Some believe he is the original owner of Pawleys Island, George Pawley, who lived there in the early 1700s.

Regardless, the myth of the Gray Man persists. The Georgetown Museum has a story from 1893 of a family saying the Gray Man saved them from a major storm.

In modern times his weather-predicting powers may not be as useful, but the ghost could still protect your house.

So if you’re on the beach the day before a hurricane and see the Gray Man, you might still want to leave town, but your house could be spared.

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