With Halloween a week away, it’s only fitting that we explore the ghosts of Beaufort before wrapping up our ghost tours with a trip to the mountains. South Carolina’s low country is fertile ground for spirits of the other world to freely tromp, and this section of the state is no exception. In fact, it possibly boasts the oldest known ghost in the United States … a fact backed up by Harper’s Bazaar in 1940. Who knows? Certainly makes this ghost nearly as famous as the Obama Web debacle!
As we settle in to the beautiful town of Beaufort, our first stop takes us to “The Castle”, an impressive waterfront home build in the 1850’s, featuring an Italian Renaissance architectural flair.
The Castle took many years to complete and was at one time occupied by Federal troops who used it as a military hospital. The grounds served as a graveyard while an outbuilding provided a makeshift morgue. When the home was finally complete, gardeners reported supernatural occurrences and the owner, Dr. Johnson, was said to have witnessed a dwarf walking the grounds.
Delving into the story further, it appears that the French explorer, Jean Ribaut, and his Huguenots came to the area in 1562, and brought with them a dwarf named Gauche. Gauche was said to have been a jester, and no one knows exactly how or why he died, but there is speculation he may have been hanged or killed in a brawl. Regardless, many have reported seeing his ghost even today.
Lily Danner, daughter of Dr. Johnson, was reported to have seen the ghost of Gauche many times as a child. Her accounts have him dressed in jester’s clothing, complete with pointed shoes and a bell-clad hat. The ghost is said to have tapped out coded messages in 16th-Century French and always swears and uses words the same way.
Houseguests have reported poltergeist activity. (Almost as bad as the poltergeists that appeared at Clemson’s Death Valley last weekend.) They’ve stated that he moves furniture and opens and closes doors in the night, all to the sound of bells. It is also legend that Gauche leaves his red hand prints on the windows.
Other houseguests, however, reported to have seen a wisp of fog or mist rise out of the tidal creek beside the house just after a chilly breeze would blow past. The wisp of wind would move slowly toward The Castle, take human form, and then disappear into the night. Every family who has ever lived in The Castle has had children tell of seeing him. The ghosts of Beaufort can possibly be seen, heard or felt any time by those in tune with the supernatural.
Watch for another restless spirit who sometimes is thought to walk back and forth on the upstairs veranda of a house called Little Casino. She was a freed slave who had purchased the house after the Civil War. When the hurricane of 1893 brought flood waters up to the second floor, she was unable to leave.
Union soldiers frequent several homes, and a Confederate soldier crawls out of the marsh to walk away without having feet. These occurrences don’t seem surprising to residents, who remind visitors that the town was occupied by the Union Army early in the Civil War.
And then there’s the light of Lands End Road. Claims abound that it can be seen almost any night. Whatever the best time, many residents of Beaufort have reported seeing the light. But what, exactly, is this light?
When first seen down the road, the light looks like the single beam of an automobile headlight. The impression is of a car with one lamp burned out, but as it comes closer, it is clearly bigger, but dimmer, than any headlight. The Light has an oval shape with a hue between yellow and pale orange. It travels at a height of 10 to 12 feet above the road, and may move straight toward a parked car and suddenly disappear. Or it may hover right next to a parked car and remain visible when passengers turn on the interior lights of the vehicle. Some drivers have reported that the light has zoomed past their own speeding vehicles along the highway. At least two drivers have died (including, by some reports, a deputy sheriff) chasing the light in their automobiles.
While many agree there is a light, what comes into dispute is the identity of the ghost. Several theories have emerged and center on the phenomenon known as the Lands End Light.
- The Light may be the lantern of a Confederate soldier who was on patrol along Land’s End Road in November of 1861, on watch for Union soldiers who were expected to invade St. Helena Island. A Yankee soldier (or soldiers) sneaked up behind him and cut off his head with a long knife, tossing the head into the waters Port Royal Sound — the body was left ashore to rot. The poor soul now goes up and down the road in search of his head, carrying his old iron lantern. On the other hand, the Land’s End Light could be a Union soldier beheaded after the Federal forces occupied St. Helena Island in 1861. The Light is also said to be the spirit of an unhappy slave who was sold to an owner far away from the Island. He now haunts the land he was forced to leave, searching for the wife he left behind.
Whatever the reasons behind these and other hauntings, one thing’s for sure … something walks among us…the walking dead, perhaps?
Join us next week as we venture to the mountains for one last foray into the world of the living dead.
J.L. Mann (Bubba) Cromer is an Attorney in Columbia, whose practice focuses on DUI Defense, Criminal Defense & Probate Administration and Estate Planning. Admitted to practice in South Carolina, California & The District of Columbia, “Bubba” has been in practice for 26 years. In addition to his Solo Practice at Cromer Law Offices, LLC, Bubba Served as the only true Independent In the S.C. Legislature from 1990-1998. For the past 16 years, he has Served as the Reading Clerk of the House.Bubba resides in Columbia, S.C and Rosman, N.C. where he built a cabin 4 years ago. Bubba lives with his Hungarian Golden Retriever Casper (pictured).