The majority of places we visited on the island were related to historical and cultural locations or events. However, most of Hilton Head has been developed in recent years. The majority of the island is divided into tourist and residential resorts with condos, hotels, and summer rental homes. With such relatively recent history, it was interesting to note the preponderance of ghost stories on the island. They were printed in restaurant menues, referred to in tourist literature, and displayed within the little museum in the Harbour Town Lighthouse. It would be fascinating to do a study to see at what points in time ghost stories arise in the popular culture. Perhaps in this case, the amount of ghost stories is related to the need to express a vast history (as “ghosts” are typically historical, by their very definition, their death/creation occured in the past)
Here are some of the stories:
The Ghost of the Harbour Town Lighthouse
Some people have reported that while walking up the steps of the lighthouse (which was completed in 1970), they have felt a chill and shrill shrieking of air upwards to the top of the lighthouse. According to the lighthouse museum, this may be the ghost of a Yemassee warrior, who over a thousand years ago left his family to fight, and when he returned discovered that his family had died near the spot where the lighthouse exists today. His mournful presence can still be felt in the lighthouse.
The Ghost of William Baynard
There seems to be several versions of this one. According to this story, the Baynard mausoleum located in Zion Cemetery is haunted by William Baynard. You may remember him as the man who legend says won the plantation from “Saucy Jack” Stoney, thus adding his name to the Stoney-Baynard plantation, whose ruins we visited. “William Baynard lost his young bride to fever in 1830, and he never recovered from his grief. So when it storms at night, the specter of the mourning widower rides his wife’s hearse, driving a ghostly team of four black horses before him.”
Another version says that William Baynard’s funeral procession can be seen passing by the ruins of the Stoney-Baynard ruins (we kept our eyes open, but to no avail) and his tomb in Zion Cemetery.
In doing a bit of genealogical research, however, it seems that William Baynard married Catherine Adelaide Scott in 1829. They went on to have four children, and he died in 1849. He acquired the Stoney plantation (Braddock’s Point Plantation) in 1840. Doesn’t seem that his “young bride” died of a fever after all! But facts don’t have to play an important role in ghost stories, as we well know!
The Blue Lady
This was the first ghost story we encountered on the island. Our first night we dined at the restaurant CQ’s. This tale also seems to have several versions, or have blended with each other. CQ’s menu provides a version of the tale that depicts recent encounters with the Blue Lady. It describes a woman in a blue dress who has been seen from time to time.
The restaurant next to CQ’s is the Harbour Town bakery and cafe, which is housed in an old lightkeeper’s house, which was moved to its present location in the Sea Pines resort. Although we believe the sign said the lighthouse keeper’s cottage had originally been located in Charleston, SC, it helps to provide a link to the evolution of the Blue Lady ghost.
Because elsewhere on the island, the ghost of a young girl named Caroline Fripp haunts Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse, where she died during the hurricane of 1898. The Blue Lady is most reported during the hurricane seasons. People say they ‘ve gone or rode by the Old Lighthouse and would hear a women sobbing.
A history of lighthouses provides the probable basis for this story. When a hurricane hit the island, keeper Adam Fripp remained in the lighthouse, to keep it lit for ships on the ocean. Supposedly the wind extinguished the light, as he had a fatal heart attack. His daughter Caroline successfully kept the light lit throughout the storm, but she died shortly thereafter in her home, the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.
Ghost stories have followed. Whether she has been sighted at or near the lighthouse (on the opposite side of the island from the Harbour Town Lighthouse, which is where CQ’s and the Bakery are located), or in Harbour Town itself, a woman’s sobs and appearance in blue has been reported time and again, the original story blending into the local folklore in different ways.
Overall, we were entertained and intrigued by the prominence of ghost stories on the island. Although it was easy to imagine the basis for many of the tales, the island itself had its moments of haunting beauty, with its evening fog rolling in from the ocean, or the Spanish-moss draped old oak trees at twilight…
5 thoughts on “Ghost stories of Hilton Head, SC”
Having grown up on Hilton Head back in the 70’s, I have all sorts of stories about the Blue Lady. I just wanted to correct one fact: the lighthouse keeper’s cottages were originally adjacent to the old lighthouse in Palmetto Dunes. She’s also been sighted at the old Zion Cemetery along with CQ’s in Harbour Town.
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I grew up on Hilton Head in the late 70s and early 1980s and spent a lot of time at the then abandoned Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse. I was drawn to the seclusion of the light which then sat on a vast plot of wilderness before developers built up the area with houses, condos and golf courses (the plight of the whole island!). I spent a lot of time sitting in the old light room gazing out at the expanse of trees, sky and wildlife which unfolded before me. A friend and I even spent the night next to the lighthouse one rainy night back in the summer of 1982. I can say that I believe in the Blue Lady as we experienced a couple of very odd occurences that defy "normal" explanation. The first was a weird "mist" that appeared suddenly and seemed more like a liquid rather than fog. It meandered about two feet off the ground and emanated a distinct bluish glow. This mist came within about a foot of the tent we were in and nearby trees but didn't actually touch them. Rather it seemed to move just out of the way and blanketed the area with its odd glow. I should say there was no moon out that night and no marsh nearby (marsh gas) so explanations are not that simple. At around daybreak we were startled by a bizarre "scream", for lack of a better word, which pierced the silence. It was like a combination of a person and an animal but was absolutely the creepeiest sound I have ever heard. It sounded like nothing "normal" and provided all the urging we needed to pack up our tent and leave. It wasn't a sound I had ever heard living on the island before and I have never heard anything remotely like it since. Were these two incidents related to the Blue Lady? Having experienced them, I certainly think so!
Have visited Hilton Head 3 times, looking forward to going again, but have never heard anyone mention any ghost stories while there. Will inquire next time.