Usually I’m up early at the beach. I walk along the shore at Pawleys Island, South Carolina where we rent a house each summer. Or follow Myrtle Avenue near the creek where I can see both the marsh and the remaining homes in what’s known as the Pawleys Historic District. But this morning was different. A fog settled in unexpectedly — a low, gray sort of fog that blanketed the homes facing the beach and turned the sun into a fuzzy cream ball veiled by clouds.
Few people were out. Just the usual ones who love to greet the sun each morning from their low-slung beach chairs. Or those hoping to catch whatever will bite and hold long enough to be flung ashore.
It was the eeriness that got me. I rushed back to our house to grab my camera, and by that time, most of the fog had lifted.
But even that brief encounter brought back memories of an old Pawleys legend — the Legend of The Gray Man.
For more than a hundred years now, residents and visitors vow that they’ve seen the Gray Man. He appears right before a big storm warning residents of impending danger. According to legend, a young woman first encountered the Gray Man as she strolled along the windswept beach at Pawleys Island after the funeral of her fiance. And she had reason to be so despondent. Her childhood sweetheart had returned to the island after a long absence at sea, but eager to see the one he loved, he took a shortcut across the marsh. With his manservant behind him, the young man and his horse sank quickly into the mire, suffering tragic deaths. After his funeral, the woman walked the beach sorrowfully pondering the sad state of affairs. But one foggy day, a man resembling her fiance appeared on the beach and warned her: Leave the island at once. You are in danger. Then the man disappeared. She ran to tell her parents who believed their usually sensible daughter, and they packed up that night to leave the next morning. On the day of the departure a forceful hurricane pounded Pawleys Island, leaving destruction in its wake. But the woman and her family were spared.
And so it is that on foggy days, I watch for the Gray Man. It just may be that he’ll warn us all of another storm brewing at Pawleys. On just such a day as this.
For more information and other accounts of the Gray Man, check out these sources: