As Halloween grows near and the days become shorter, our imagination comes alive with everything that goes bump in the night. Simple tasks like checking your mailbox after dark or closing your blinds before bed might make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. This sensation happens to everyone, just as every town has its own ghost stories to tell.
But not every town can be known as one of, if not, the most haunted town in the United States. According to most top ten lists, Savannah takes the number one spot more times than not.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend a ghost tour while visiting Savannah, regardless of the time of year or if you believe in ghosts or not. The tours are a great way to learn more about Savannah’s history through the lives of those that have walked the same downtown squares over centuries. The cooler temperature in the evenings is just an added bonus, especially if the tour is on foot.
If ghost tours aren’t your cup of tea, I’d highly recommend adding the Bonaventure Cemetery to your itinerary. Walk beneath the towering live oaks that hold swaths of Spanish Moss gently swaying with the breeze. Listen to your footsteps echo against the Lowcountry symphony of eerie quiet and cicada song. Admire the beautifully grand works of art that mark the gravesites of the influencers of history.
During my first visit to Bonaventure Cemetery, I actively searched for one of the more famous grave markers, that of Little Gracie Watson. What I didn’t plan on, was finding myself standing in front of her sculpted likeness on the same date she tragically passed in 1889. Her spirit has been seen playing in Johnson Square, the site of the now-demolished Pulaski Hotel that had once been managed by Gracie’s parents.
The Lowcountry as a whole is brimming with history, and it’s no wonder we’ve run into a happy—or not so happy—haunt or two. Only an hour’s drive North East from Savannah, Beaufort is known to have various intriguing ghost stories, one telling the tale of a spirit that predates the town itself by a couple hundred years.
Grenauche, or Gauche, sailed with a French expedition party in 1562 led by Jean Ribault. After creating a French Huguenot colony in Florida, Ribault led his party north and landed at Port Royal, a town just beside Beaufort and of which Ribault named. Grenauche, the court jester for the party, died during this leg of the journey. Some say he died on the grounds of what was to be The Castle, a three-story mansion built by Dr. Joseph Johnson that had quickly been converted into a Union hospital and morgue during the Civil War. Others say the spirit of Grenauche wandered the marsh for hundreds of years until he came across the elegant estate, immediately moving in as it reminded him so much of home.
Knocking and faint jingling from the bells on his costume have been heard within The Castle’s walls, furniture has been known to move around, and handprints appear on the windows. Children throughout the years have been more inclined to see Grenauche. The lively spirit was said to have appeared at a tea party Dr. Johnson’s daughter, Lilly, was having with her doll. When Lilly was older, Grenauche tapped out messages that were eventually translated from 16th-century French and proved that Grenauche was quite the character.
Luckily for me as a resident of Hilton Head Island, ghost stories here are hard to come by—unless you’d like to know more about the ghost who I’m convinced haunts my condo.
The ghost of Caroline Fripp, otherwise known as the Lady in Blue, is one of the more popular ghost stories on the island of those that I could uncover. Legend says that during a terrible hurricane, Caroline found her father dead, or near death—some stories differ—after suffering from a heart attack while doing his best to man the Leamington Lighthouse. After covering his eyes with pennies, she took on the work of keeping the lighthouse lit to help ships find their way through the terrible storm. For weeks afterward, Caroline could be seen pacing back and forth from the cottage to the lighthouse, reliving the awful tragedy. Some say that you can see the ghost of Caroline still in her blue dress, pacing back and forth on stormy nights. Some have seen a blue light shining from the top of the now-abandoned lighthouse.
Hilton Head Island was no exception to the historic conflicts that effected the rest of the Lowcountry, collecting its own storied past. Residents from years past, especially those of the island’s founding families, can’t seem to let go of their beloved island.