'The Gray Man' of Pawleys Island Said to Warn Residents in Advance of Florence

A photo of The Gray Man reportedly taken by a couple on vacation in July of 2018.

A photo of The Gray Man reportedly taken by a couple on vacation in July of 2018.

Some residents of South Carolina’s Pawleys Island have reported seeing the legendary figure of the Gray Man in advance of the incoming tropical storm Florence.

Legend has it that the Gray Man is the revenant spirit of a young man from Charleston who came to visit his fiance in 1822. Unfortunately, the man and his horse fell victim to a quagmire of pluff mud in the marshes before Pawleys Island and died; although other versions of the tale have him die in a storm. Soon after his death, the wandering spirit managed to appear to his grieving lover and warned her to leave the island immediately. The young woman fled town with her family just ahead of a devastating hurricane; the woman, her family, and their coastal plantation all survived the storm. The young man’s ghost—sporting a long coat and old-fashioned gray clothing—has haunted the shores of the island ever since.

Since that time, residents report that the Gray Man will appear as a warning in advance of dangerous incoming storms—anyone wise enough to heed the omen of his appearance will escape the weather with their lives and possessions intact.

College student and Pawley Island resident Rian Fontaine tweeted on September 9th that she was told of a sighting of the ghostly figure the day before.

“It’s a story I heard growing up,” Fontaine told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I think everyone in the low country has heard the story, especially when hurricanes or tropical storms begin to form around our area. It’s always something you hear people bring up. He’s a friendly entity. Not that it’s a good thing to see him, but when someone does claim to see him, it gives us locals an idea of what we’re dealing with.”

Fellow South Carolina resident Ciara Jade Dove Lee tweeted a message similar to that of Fontaine.

The last recorded sighting of the Gray Man prior to 2018 occurred just before Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

“We were taking a walk late in the afternoon which we usually do,” Jim Moore said in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries which originally aired in 1990. “You see so many people walking on the beach at this time of the day. That particular afternoon we only saw the one, and he was coming directly toward us. When I got within speaking distance, I raised my hand to say ‘hi’ or ‘beautiful evening’ or whatever, and he disappeared.”

He and his wife Clara claimed to have encountered the Gray Man just two days prior to Hurricane Hugo's landfall. Despite Hugo decimating their neighborhood, the Moore family's house escaped relatively unscathed—a feat they attributed to the Gray Man.

Florence is expected to strike Pawleys Island by Friday evening.

ghost, hauntedTobias Wayland