Find the 10 most-haunted places on the Hammock Coast
For those seeking a chill and a thrill this Halloween season, Georgetown County, known as South Carolina’s Hammock Coast, offers a variety of spooky locations believed to be haunted by restless spirits.
According to two of the area’s ghost tour guides — Christine Vernon of Murrells Inlet and Elizabeth Huntsinger of Georgetown — the top 10 haunted places on the Hammock Coast are not difficult to find.
“It isn’t always homes that are haunted but the land,” Vernon, a storyteller with Miss Chris’ Inlet Walking Tours, said. “There are Native American burial grounds and slave cemeteries that have been bulldozed over … all forgotten graveyards, and now they are fancy neighborhoods with manicured yards. Little do people know their homes were built on the bones of the past.”
Huntsinger, a storyteller with Ghost of Georgetown Tours, agreed, adding that heartbroken lovers, innocent children, adventurous slaves, wealthy plantation owners and enterprising mariners have remained in Georgetown County long after their natural lives were over.
“Sometimes the conditions are just right, and you never know what you are going to see,” she said. “We are walking in some very old footsteps.”
Whether it is a home, a cemetery or churchyard, a shipwreck, the ruins of an old church, or somewhere under the stars, those who visit these top 10 haunted places on the Hammock Coast may be in for a spine-tingling experience.
Pawleys Island area
- First on the list is the gravesite of Alice Flagg, a teenage girl who seeks her lost engagement ring after dying of yellow fever in 1849. Her gravesite is in the back corner of All Saint’s Churchyard in Pawleys Island, marked with a memorial stone bearing the name Alice next to her brother, Dr. Allard Flagg’ gravestone. People who have visited her grave and walked around the stone a certain amount of times say they feel a tug on their rings. Her spirit is also believed to wander in and near her brother’s home called the Hermitage in Murrells Inlet.
- The second haunted location is Pawleys Island beach, where another Hammock Coast ghost is said to roam. Known as the Grayman, this spirit is believed to be a young man who returned from college in Europe and was thrown from his horse on the way to his fiance’s house in Pawleys Island. The Grayman is said to warn people of impending hurricanes and those who see him and heed his warning to leave the island are rewarded with minimum property damage from the storm.
- Next is Litchfield Plantation, the former home of Dr. Henry Tucker which is now a venue for special occasions. The doctor is said to return to the plantation home riding his horse down the avenue of the oaks. Many say they hear the ringing of a bell with the sound of horses’ hooves approaching. It is said Dr. Tucker would ring a large bell by the avenue gate to announce his presence back from his rounds. Some say they have heard footsteps walking toward the doctor’s bedroom.
Murrells Inlet area
- Sunnyside Plantation in Murrells Inlet is believed to be haunted by a murder victim from the early 1900s. Legend has it that a woman named Ruth witnessed some illegal activities of her father-in-law, Smiley Bighams, who told his son Cleveland to make sure his wife did not tell anyone. Cleveland convinced a visitor at their home that it was haunted and if he sees a ghost to shoot at it. The young, very inebriated young man heard a noise by the marsh. Thinking it was a spirit, he aimed his gun and fired. But it was no ghost, it was Ruth. Both men were arrested for her murder. It is said Ruth may still haunt the reeds behind Sunnyside Plantation, which is now a wedding venue.
- Pirate legends abound in the Murrells Inlet area. One of the best known stories is of Drunken Jack and a location some people believe is haunted near present day Huntington Beach State Park called Drunken Jack’s Island. The story goes that the famous pirate Blackbeard and his men came to Murrells Inlet from the Caribbean with treasure and rum. After a night of drinking, the crew left Jack behind and didn’t come back for him. When they returned to the island a year and a half later, they found Jack’s bleached bones with his boney hands still grasping an empty rum bottle, but there was no treasure or rum to be found.
- The Man-Doyle House, on the corner of Front and Queen streets in Georgetown, as well as the dock at the end of Cannon Street are believed to be haunted by Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr, the vice president under Thomas Jefferson who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. The house, once owned by Mary Man, whose father owned Mansfield Plantation, was the last place Theodosia stayed before being lost at sea after embarking on a schooner from the dock at the end of Cannon Street. Theodosia’s ghost has been seen in both locations. (Interestingly, Theodosia is featured in a song in the hit musical “Hamilton.”)
- Beth Elohim Cemetery and Prince George Winyah Churchyard, both located on Broad Street and on opposite sides of Duke streets in Georgetown, are also said to be haunted. These two graveyards are believed to be haunted by Pauline Moses and Eliza Munnerlyn, best friends who were set to be married on the same day in October of 1885 in different locations. Unfortunately, after sewing their wedding dresses all summer, they both fell ill with malaria and died just before their wedding day. Buried in their wedding dresses, people say their girlish laughter can still be heard on summer nights and orbs have been seen in the live oaks over both graveyards.
- The Harvest Moon wreck near Georgetown Harbor is said to be haunted by a stowaway slave who was hiding on board when the ship was sunk in March of 1865 by a Confederate torpedo. The smokestack of the ship can be seen even at high tide, and some say sounds emanating from the wreck are unearthly sounds of a tortured soul. Many anglers and boaters will not approach the wreck at night.
- Old Gunn Church, located in the Plantersville community of Georgetown, in the western part of the county, is a gothic, spooky-looking structure that is the ruins of Prince Frederick’s Chapel, said to be haunted by the Gunn brothers, who were rebuilding the chapel after the original structure was destroyed by fire in the early-1800s. According to legend, during renovations, the Gunn brothers were working on the roof when they both fell and died. It is said that alcohol, an argument, and a physical confrontation were involved.
- Hopsewee Plantation, located south of Georgetown, is the former home and birthplace of signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Lynch Jr., who was lost at sea. His father, Thomas Lynch Sr., died three years before that, which was the year that the Declaration of Independence was drafted. Because of a stroke, Thomas Lynch Jr. signed the document in his father’s place. Some people who have visited Hopsewee Plantation have reported seeing two men dressed in Colonial-period dress, including tri-cornered hats and breeches. People also say visitors never feel alone when they are in the plantation home.
To learn more about these and other haunted places on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast, sign up for one of these ghostly tours:
- Ghosts of Georgetown Tours (with storyteller Elizabeth Huntsinger) are mostly on Friday nights year-round, by reservation only. Tickets are $20 per adult (ages 13 and up) and $10 for ages 8-12, cash only. Call 843-543-5777 for reservations. Visit the website here.
- Hopsewee Plantation Ghost Tours (with storyteller Elizabeth Huntsinger) are held on Wednesdays through Dec. 14, 2022, at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults aged 18-64, $20 for seniors 65 and up, $15 for youths aged 12-17, and $10 for children 6-11. Children 5 and under are free. For information or to make reservations, visit the website.
- Miss Chris’ Inlet Walking Tours (with storyteller Christine Vernon) are held Wednesday through Saturday at 6 p.m. through November. Tickets are $15 per person, cash only. Kids 8 and under are free. Tours leave from Lazy Gator Gift Shop on Highway 17 Business in Murrells Inlet. Call or text for reservations: 843-655-4470. The Facebook page is titled Inlet Cottage and Walking Tour. Visit the Facebook page here.
Both storytellers have also written books about the ghosts and legends of South Carolina’s Hammock Coast.
- Christine Vernon – “The Old and New Legends of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina” and “The Ghost of Alice- A historical fiction of the life and death of Alice Flagg.” Both books are available at the Lazy Gator Gift Shop in Murrells Inlet, or on Amazon, Apple and Kobo.
- Elizabeth Huntsinger – “Ghosts of Georgetown,” “More Ghosts of Georgetown,” and “Georgetown Mysteries and Legends.” These books are available in bookstores in Georgetown.
By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina’s Hammock Coast