Considered to be South Carolina's most famous -- and helpful -- ghost, the first recorded incident of the Gray Man occurred on Pawley's Island in 1822. On that occasion, the vague, misty shape of a man in gray was seen by a young woman who was vacationing on the beaches of the North Inlet. As the figure moved over the dunes and towards her, the woman became hysterical, convinced that she was seeing the ghost of her lover who had drowned nearby. Her father, fearful for her health, took the entire family to Charleston the next day -- a fortunate choice, it turned out, as later that afternoon, a hurricane struck the inlet. Over the next two days, the storm killed almost all who had remained on Pawley's Island. Having heeded the Gray Man's silent warning, however, this family was spared.
The next sighting of the Gray Man occurred in 1893, before a tidal wave struck the island. And, over the next century, the Gray Man has continued to appear. On each occasion, his arrival precedes tremendous storms that cause destruction on the island. Somehow, however, it is those who see the Gray Man who are spared from harm. According to the legend, any person who sees him, and heeds his warnings, has returned to find his or her home entirely undamaged, and untouched by the storm.
Nobody knows who the Gray Man is, though there are many theories about his past. Some believe that he was the jilted and penniless lover of a young Charleston heiress, believed to have been lost at sea. Others maintain that the Gray Man is one of the founding fathers of Pawley's Island, who so loved his small community that he never actually left. But despite this disagreement, believers do concur that the Gray Man is a kind ghost who watches over those who live on the Island, warning them of danger, and somehow protecting them from harm in his eerie, silent way.