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The Forgotten Ghosts of the Hammock Coast

  By  Kathryn Hedgepath

The Hammock Coast is the laid-back stretch of the Grand Strand, south of Myrtle Beach, from Murrells Inlet to Georgetown.  With its marshy landscape, moss-dripping oaks, and centuries-old architecture, it provides the perfect backdrop for many a spooky tale. And it doesn’t disappoint.  The region is the home of two of our area’s most famous legends, The Gray Man of Pawleys Island and Alice, Spirit of The Hermitage, in Murrells Inlet. While their stories are often told, there are a number of other ghosts in these parts who are not so well known.  These are a few of their stories.

The Gentle Lady Of Prospect Hill

Prospect Hill is now part of what has been known as Arcadia Plantation since 1906, just north of Hobcaw Barony which occasionally offers tours of Arcadia. Check their website for tour dates.  Hobcaw Barony is located on Highway 17 South, on the left before you cross the river into Georgetown.

If you see her, good news is on the horizon.  In life, she was Mary Allston, widow of Thomas Allston who succumbed to tuberculosis before their home could be completed. Rarely do you find an 18th century Georgetown plantation house that remains intact since the time it was built without suffering some kind of damage or neglect during or after the Civil War years, but at Prospect Hill, now known collectively with other nearby plantations as Arcadia, you do. 

Mary finished the house and designed the formal gardens on her own while managing the day to day operations of the plantation before she remarried.  Her second husband, Benjamin Huger, and she hosted President James Monroe there in 1819, while he was on his tour of the South.  An African American gentleman who had been interviewed in the 1930s said that he recalled his grandmother, who had been at Prospect Hill at that time, told him that in the preceding months of the president’s visit, a portico and ballroom were added to the house.

After her second husband’s death, Mary was diagnosed with a terminal illness that slowly drained her of her strength, but she was determined to work even harder to manage her home and the surrounding property.  She was admired by everyone she knew for her kindness and compassion. As the end approached, she became housebound and the upstairs portico became her favorite place to be.  From there she could see most of Prospect Hill and the Waccamaw River that flowed past it.  Sometimes at night, when the pain was too much for her to sleep, she paced along that upper porch in the moonlight.  The African workers on the plantation would often see her there.

And then, once, shortly after she died, they saw her again.  As she had no heir, the fate of those workers was unknown.  They feared that the next owner of Prospect Hill would not be as favorable as she had been.  But two days after her moonlit ghost appeared to them, a kindly neighbor bought the property and the relatively good treatment of the workers continued. 

The legend of her apparition spread quickly.  And when it was seen again on occasion, witnesses knew that good news would follow.

The Bride And Groom Of Hagley

On the site of what was once Hagley Plantation is a residential community that takes its name. There is a small, public boat ramp at the end of Hagley Drive off of Kings River Road in Pawleys Island. Click here to check the daily weather and water conditions at the ramp.

The ghosts of an attractive couple, dressed in wedding attire dating back to the end of the Civil War, have sometimes been seen, by multiple generations of witnesses, walking near the water of what was once Hagley Plantation. They died on their wedding day that began as a glorious occasion but ended in unexpected tragedy. 

After the ceremony, as they were making their way to the outdoor reception, a horseman suddenly arrived.  When the bride saw him, she screamed, ran to him and they embraced.  The groom quickly followed and greeted the visitor with enthusiastic comradery.

The three had grown up together and had been the best of friends.  When they were older, both young men fell in love with the girl, but she didn’t know which one to marry.  Her family’s influence led her to choose the horseman as her husband as he was better positioned in life.  Sometime thereafter he went to sea but didn't return and was presumed lost forever.

Years later, she agreed to marry their mutual friend only to have her husband arrive moments too late.  Under the circumstances, both men felt that she should be with the other, but neither wanted to live without her. 

The horseman abruptly left for the shore and drowned himself at sea.  The groom jumped into the river from the nearby dock and, when the bride ran after him, she accidently fell in and both were drowned despite the efforts of the wedding guests to save them.  Now their spirits stroll the grounds of what was Hagley as if they had lived happily ever after.  

The Ghost Of Litchfield

Litchfield Plantation is now an exclusive gated community on Kings River Road. From that road, you can see its beautiful, current day, wrought iron gate and glimpse a peek of the house at the opposite end of the avenue of live oaks.

The story of the Litchfield Ghost is that Dr. Tucker, who inherited his beloved plantation, was so committed to the wellbeing of those in his community, he became a physician in order to serve them and denied his services to no one.  That led to many a late-night house call on horseback.  When he returned to the large wooden gates of his home, he would use the silver tip of his riding crop to ring a bell on the gate post that did not have a clapper.  An old gate keeper would then let him in…usually. 

What Dr. Tucker didn’t know was that the old man had taken a young wife at a nearby plantation and would sometimes leave to spend the night with her, unwittingly leaving Dr. Tucker locked out at which time he would continue to ring the bell until someone else heard it and let him in.  Sometimes, no one heard him and he just gave up, tied his horse to the gate post, found a low place along the wall to climb over and walked up to the house. 

Once there, not to disturb anyone, he would enter through the kitchen in the back and take a very small staircase that the servants used that terminated outside of the door to his bedroom on the second floor.  According to the legend, not only has the ghost of Dr. Tucker been seen at night or on drizzly, overcast afternoons at the gate, on the servants’ stairs and in his bedroom; the bell is sometimes heard as well. 

A subsequent owner of Litchfield Plantation had the bell removed.  He said that he didn’t mind that the good doctor returned for a visit, but he just didn’t want to be awakened by that bell when he did.

Hear more about the Ghost of Litchfield, The Gray Man and Alice on the Myrtle Beach Area Ghosts, Pirates and Historic Families Trolley Tour.  It is offered Thursdays from 10 AM to noon and departs from The Market Common.  For discount tickets and information, click here.


Kathryn Hedgepath

Myrtle Beach native, Kathryn Hedgepath, loves to share her hometown’s history with visitors and newcomers to the Grand Strand.  She is the creator and narrator of the Myrtle Beach History Trolley and Step-On Tours, and the author of the book, Myrtle Beach Movies, that tells the stories behind the motion pictures that were made or premiered in Myrtle Beach.  She has traveled in 40 countries on 6 continents and uses her experience to convey our local history through a world lens. Kathryn returned home from NYC in 2002 to marry her beloved husband, Jenks, after a career in television and publishing (and even worked in Space Shuttle Operations at NASA Headquarters in DC for a semester before starting grad school at Georgetown University).  Her first career job was as Personal Assistant to television icon and wildlife expert, Jim Fowler, of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom fame. Her dad, Myrtle Beach’s first veterinarian, arranged the job interview when Jim Fowler came to Myrtle Beach for a speaking appearance at a veterinary conference in 1991.