Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hurricane Harbinger: A Look At The Gray Man of Pawleys Island

As we step into Hurricane season, let's take a moment to revisit an old tale, one with which you may be familiar.

On South Carolina's Pawleys Island, legend has long told of the Gray Man who appears as a harbinger of these deadly storms. He has been reported since 1822 when a devastating hurricane wrecked Charleston.

1893 found the Gray Man presenting himself to the Lachicotte family. Undestanding the import, the family fled the island and were spared being counted among the 1500 people killed by the Sea Islands Hurricane.

In October 1954, Bill Collins and his new bride were honeymooning on Pawleys Island when, at an ungodly hour, they heard a knock on their door. Answering the knock, Bill was confronted by a man in a gray suit and hat. His face wasn't clearly seen beneath its broad brim. The stranger told him the Red Cross was warning locals to evacuate the area, a storm was coming. Before he could really reply, the man in the gray suit left without another word. Wisely, Bill Collins and his wife left the island just in time to miss a category 4 hurricane named Hazel, which killed 95 people.

It's not clear who this ghostly messenger is. Some think he was an innkeeper on the island long ago before a hurricane took his life. Others think he was a young man on a journey from Georgetown, SC to visit is fiancee on the island. To save time, he turned his horse down what he thought would be a shortcut through a marsh. Sadly, the horse and rider were both caught in quicksand. Later, the distraught fiancee was wandering heartsick along the beach when a man in gray approached her. To the woman's shock, it was her lover. He warned her to leave immediately because a terrible storm was headed toward the island. She heeded his warning and was spared her life as a result. Among the many shattered remains of homes that littered the island, a sole dwelling stood unfazed: the fiancee's home.