The Gray Man of Pawley's Island, South Carolina

Howling winds, torrents of rain, lightening streaking across the sky and the night black as the deepest hole that will consume even the most devout.  This is what the Gray Man warns is coming when he meets you on the dunes of the beach.  He no longer needs to issue the warning verbally as his mere presence is enough.  Who is the Gray Man and why does he warn of impending storms?

Unfortunately, the identity of the Gray Man is lost in folklore.  It has been said he was the founding father of Pawley Island, Mr.Perceval Pawley who settled the island and named it.  It was his love of his island and home that keeps him earthbound. 

Others believe it is the lover of a Charleston Belle that was sent away to France because their relationship was not acceptable to their parents.  Rumor has it that the two were cousins and that the man was a scoundrel of sorts.  The lover vowed to return and make her his wife.  Time passed and it was reported that he had died in a duel.  Grief stricken the woman mourned.  Another man who had recently been widowed drew the woman out of her grief later.  They married making the island their summer home from May through October each year.  In 1778 the husband joined the Army to fight in the American Revolution.  During his absence, a hurricane hit the island sinking a brigatine off the islands shore.  All were believed to have perished.  However, a lone figure was seen struggling along the shore.  A manservant helped the surviving man to his Mistress' door advising that the Master was gone to war but his Mistress would look after him.  When she opened the door and saw her lover there she fainted.  The man realizing that his love had married another fled.  He died alone on the mainland of a deadly fever.  The Belle resumed her life but she was frequently troubled by the presence of a gray figure that watched her from the dunes. He appeared to her prior to a hurricane, advised her to leave immediately.  When she returned her house had been the only one spared the devastation wrought by the hurricane.

Another candidate as the Gray Man is Plowden Charles Jeannerette Weston who loved his home and the island faithfully.  He died of tuberculosis but is said to appear to residents to warn them of impending storms.  No one can identify the Gray Man as he does not have a face and is not clearly seen.  Even someone coming face to face with him cannot make out his facial details, as they are a blur - almost like a silhouette.  Whoever the Gray Man is or was he continues to warn residents of hurricanes.  It is recorded that he appeared prior to major hurricanes in 1822, 1893, 1916, 1922, 1940, and 1954.  Prior to Hurricane Hugo in 1989, an elderly couple reported walking the dunes when they encountered the Gray Man.  Not a word was spoken but familiar with the legend, they fled.  Their home was the only one not demolished by the hurricane.  Their kitchen door had opened in the storm, but their towels on the railings of the porch were still hanging undisturbed.

How is this possible?  Coincidence?  Divine intervention?

The spirits who remain behind do so for various reasons.  Some because they don't want to believe they are dead, some who died tragically, and those who love someone or something so great they feel a need to be the guard for eternity.  Sometimes there is no explanation only faith.  We have faith that someone will watch over us and keep us safe.  For example, in 2003 a forest fire devastated California.  In one area the fire fighters were struggling.  A lone house survived.  Why?  Was it because the fire fighters were successful or was it the lone fax that was sent by the homeowners asking that God protect their home and the fire fighters in their battle?  Was it their faith?  The Gray Man is now an entity that when seen, people have faith that he is warning them.  They don't hesitate, they respond.  Frequently, their home is the only one left standing.

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