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Read more from Curious SC – the weird, the wondrous and the beautiful stories that can come from only the Palmetto State.
It’s time to get in the Halloween spirit with the scary holiday a little more than a week away. It’s time to turn off the lights and swap scary ghost stories and legends right before bedtime.
South Carolina has its fair share of terrifying ghosts, legends and haunted sites thanks to both locals’ vivid imaginations and the centuries of wars that have ravaged the land.
So get your flashlights out and hide under the covers as you find out what keeps South Carolina up at night.
Here are seven of the scariest things in the state:
1. Lizard Man
Even if you’re not South Carolina born and raised, you’ve probably heard a version or two of the elusive “Lizard Man” legend. But the creature’s proper title is “The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp.”
The swamp creature is as mysterious as his history, but there have been a number of reports over the years of South Carolina residents “seeing” the scaly monster.
It might not be a coincidence, then, that the classic 1982 horror film ‘Swamp Thing’ was filmed in Charleston.
The creature’s become so famous he now has his own weekend festival in Bishopville, where he was first seen in 1988.
2. Boo Hags
Think vampires are scary? Then you have never heard of the Gullah Geechee’s version: Boo Hags.
Boo Hags are similar to vampires in that they can’t go out in sunlight and they rely on taking a piece of a human to live.
But there are a few key differences from the vampires we know from Twilight, True Blood and Vampire Diaries.
Boo Hags are red, skinless creatures that survive by sneaking into your room at night and “riding” you to take the breath, life, and eventually skin, from your body.
You won’t be able to get rid of these creatures with garlic or a cross, though.
According to folklore, the only way you can protect yourself from these gruesome hags is by using the color indigo blue. You’ll often see Lowcountry doors painted this color to help ward off these parasitic demons.
3. Alice Flagg of Hermitage
The gravesite of Alice Flagg — a young girl from Georgetown who has one of the most heartbreaking stories you’ll ever hear — draws many visitors each year.
The legend goes that Alice came from an upper-class family and, therefore couldn’t just marry your average Joe. Yet an average Joe is exactly who she fell in love with, much to her brother’s dismay.
Alice and her betrothed kept their engagement hidden. She went as far as wearing her engagement ring on a blue ribbon tied around her neck.
Of course, Alice’s secret was eventually found out and she was sent away to a boarding school in Charleston, where she eventually became gravely ill. Many believe it was malaria.
The final straw for poor Alice’s heart was when her brother noticed the engagement ring she wore around her neck and ripped it off the poor girl’s neck, causing her to go into a hyper delirious state and die.
Today, people visit Alice’s grave, which doesn’t even list her last name, a last dark gift from her hateful brother. They often leave gifts of their own as well as flowers for the poor girl who could never be with her one true love.
4. Lavinia Fisher, one of the first female serial killers
Most people are familiar with the most infamous serial killers — Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer come to mind.
Most such killers are men and they didn’t haunt America in the 1800s the way Lavinia Fisher and her husband John did.
Lavinia and John kept a Charleston inn known as a safe haven for weary travelers. It was called the Six Mile House — because it was six miles north of Charleston — and it was anything but safe.
Officials noticed something strange — people checked in, but never checked out.
There are multiple rumors and stories about how Lavinia and her husband killed unsuspecting, rich travelers.
Some say that Lavinia would use her pretty blue eyes, porcelain skin and dark hair to ease wealthy visitors into a sense of calm.
She’d then poison their tea, rendering them unconscious.
Then, one of three things happened:
- She’d pull a special lever, making the victim’s bed fall into a pit (some say the pit was filled with spikes). If the spikes didn’t do the deadly trick, John or Lavinia were said to use an axe or knife to finish the job.
- She’d watch while John simply stabbed the poor victim
- Or, she’d stab the victim herself
No one knows with certainty the exact method, how many victim there were, or if Lavinia was actually guilty of any of this.
But once the couple was caught, they were found guilty of highway robbery and mass murder, and a judge sentenced them to hang.
However, news articles from the period actually shows that Lavinia could have been innocent. She showed no signs of hysteria during her hanging, said Grahame Longe, chief curator at the Charleston Museum.
According to those same articles, Lavinia appeared calm and noncombative in court, and she and her husband were actually found guilty only of highway robbery, he said.
It makes one wonder if Lavinia was truly guilty or just guilty by association with her husband.
But a bit of Lavinia is still with us — possibly because she’s upset she was hanged for a crime she didn’t commit.
Today, people say you can see her ghost in an old cell at the Old Charleston Jail.
5. The Gray Man
Here’s one spirit you actually might want to see if you live in South Carolina.
The Gray Man is known to locals as a sign that a hurricane is going to come and come soon. If you see him, you’d better leave fast.
But some say it’s actually good fortune if this spooky man appears to you because it means your home will more than likely be spared the wrath of any hurricane or tropical storm.
6. Headless Sentry
You’ve probably heard of the Headless Horsemen, thanks to Washington Irving or Disney’s multiple takes on the scary legend, but do you know South Carolina’s version?
According to historians and legends, the headless sentry came to be thanks to the cunning of the Swamp Fox, Revolutionary War hero Gen. Francis Marion. His efforts helped Georgetown win battle after battle against the British.
Marion had spies throughout Georgetown and one fateful night, one of them, a young wealthy girl, whose father was a British loyalist, told Marion her home held patriot prisoners of war guarded by only one sentry.
Marion’s men quickly beheaded the young guard, freeing both prisoners and an eerie S.C. legend.
Some say that same sentry has haunted South Carolina since he lost his young life and head.
7. The Hauntings of Beaufort and St. Helena’s Island
There’s more than one ghost hiding in the houses, trees and graveyards in Beaufort and on St. Helena’s Island.
Beaufort does have some of the most beautiful homes you’ll see in the area, but there are a couple you should be wary when passing by.
The Castle was home to the infamous Gauche the Jester.
Who is this strange, small ghost and where did he come from?
Well, legends say that the explorer and French Huguenot Jean Ribault brought with him Gauche the Jester —described as a dwarf — when he explored what’s now known as Port Royal and Parris Island in 1562. No one knows for sure how the jester died, but many claim to have seen the ghost of small man since.
Today, Elizabeth Locke and John Staelin own the haunted castle. Last year even threw a spectacular haunted house event for Halloween.
Lands End Light
The Lands End Light is among the scariest Lowcountry legends You can decide for yourself by driving down Lands End Road on St. Helena’s Island.
The legend goes that if you sit under that large oak tree, where it’s rumored either a pirate or slave was hung, you will see an orb of light head toward you.
You might think it’s simply another pair of car headlights, but the truth is much creepier.
Many claim the orb you see is the ghost of a vengeful spirit.
According to legend., if you let the orb catch up to you, you’ll disappear on Lands End Road, too.