The Grand Strand is rich in history and legends alike, but some of the most well-known tales harken out of Pawleys Island.
The Gray Man
The legend of the Gray Man has been around for more than a century and persists with each new storm formed along the coast. Locals and tourists claim to see him before and during storms, protecting a certain property in Pawleys Island proper.
Early in September of 1822, a young man was on horseback along the sandy road that led to Pawleys Island with his man-servant riding behind him. They were going to see the young man’s fiancée at her father’s beach house, who had made preparations for his return.
Hoping to save time, the young man took a shortcut into a marshy bog and the horse accidentally pitched its rider headfirst into quicksand. The servant desperately tried to help his master, but the sand quickly sucked both the horse and the rider under.
When the fiancée learned of the young man’s death, she spent days in bed, refusing to eat or sleep. Her parents, fearing for their daughter’s health, convinced the girl to walk along the beach daily to alleviate her sadness.
Late one afternoon, while strolling along the beach at nightfall, she noticed a man dressed in gray slowly moving toward her. She quickly realized it was her dead lover, but when she ran toward him, the man gestured toward the mainland and then vanished.
That night, the girl dreamed of a terrible storm sweeping toward the island. Upon waking, she told her father of the Gray Man and her dream, and he quickly rushed her to a doctor in Charleston. Soon after the family left the island, the hurricane of 1822 struck. It was one of the worst storms on record, resulting in tremendous loss of life and property.
When the family returned to Pawleys Island, they expected their house to be in ruins; instead, it sat unharmed, surrounded by rubble.
The Gray Man has been spotted many times before storms over the years, giving warnings about Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Hurricane Gracie in 1959 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Though technology exists to caution about approaching weather, the Gray Man continues to watch out for the residents of Pawleys Island.
Alice Flagg, whose brother Dr. Flagg owned Wachesaw Plantation, was raised in wealth and grandeur along the Atlantic Ocean. She fell in love with a poor, young man and they maintained a secret affair, and later an engagement.
Once Dr. Flagg found out about the lovebirds, he quickly shipped Alice away to a boarding school in Charleston.
While there, Alice grew ill with fever and a broken heart. She returned home and, while being prepared for bed, Dr. Flagg found her engagement ring on a chain around her neck. Consumed with bitter rage, Dr. Flagg tore the ring from Alice’s neck, marched out onto the marsh and threw the ring into the muck.
With each day Alice grew sicker, but she never forgot her precious ring. She died, begging with her last breath for her ring. She is believed to be buried in the Waccamaw Cemetery, underneath a plain, white stone marked “Alice.”
To this day, many people claim to see Alice wandering around her grave, searching for someone or something. Some have reported a slight tug or spin on rings worn around fingers and on chains. Legend has it that walking backward around Alice’s grave on a certain night of every year causes the ghostly white figure to appear, searching for her lost love.
Source: “Tales Along the Grand Strand of South Carolina” by Blanche W. Floyd