In the woods of Leamington, when the island was once an untamable frontier, once sat a lighthouse. This lighthouse, so the story goes, was watched by a man named Adam Fripp.
History doesn’t record who he was or how he came to be stationed at this beacon on the edge of the world, but the stories tell that he lived in a small cottage by the towering lighthouse with his daughter.
History doesn’t record her name as Caroline, but the stories do. Rather, they record her name as Caroline but recall her in more hushed tones by the name she now goes by: The Blue Lady.
The hurricane of 1898 was said to be one of the worst the island had ever seen. Massive storms swells buried the sand dunes and washed the roots of the pines under gallons of sea water. As the leviathan surged forward, Adam Fripp knew that no matter what manner of death awaited him in the inky depths that approached, his job was to keep the light burning.
With driving rain pelting his face, he waded through water chest-deep, swirling with undertows ready to deliver him to the depths and delivering on its waves an entire forest full of nightmare creatures wrenched from their homes and biting mad.
But still, his job was to keep the light burning.
He braved the currents and the creatures to the oil house, then dragged the precious fuel out of the depths and up the dizzying heights of the lighthouse, winds lashing him as he went. He climbed, bent forward by duty, adrenaline-charged senses immune to the tingling numbness creeping up his arm and the fingers of tight pain clutching his chest.
He looked down, and through the sheets of rain could see the storm surge now claiming the base of the lighthouse, painting the whole of the earth in churning black. And still he climbed.
As he reached the top, nerves aflame across his weakening sinew, he only then became aware that something was happening in the dead center of his chest. His breath, billowing in and out of his ribs like the wind itself, soon shallowed and wheezed.
He laid down the oil, shut the door to the lantern room, and steadied himself. From in here, protected by timber and glass, he was protected. He could wait out the storm, elevated from the certain death below, with enough oil to keep the lantern burning and the poor ships now navigating this hell safe. Focusing all of himself on this knowledge, his breathing steadied. A strange calm settled over him. For the briefest of moments, he entertained the notion that he might survive the night.
Just then, a thought. He was safe because of his position high in the tower. But Caroline?
Before he could act, before he could even think of what could be done to save his daughter, a furious wind burst through the window beside him, instantly filling the room with savage gusts and flying shards of broken glass. The sound of the pane giving way hit the room like a cannonball, and the last sensation Adam Fripp felt was the gust blowing into his chest, seeming to blow through him, before those icy fingers clutched tight around his heart. And then the darkness claimed him too.
When rescuers arrived days later, they found the light extinguished. Placed on his back, pennies on his eyes, they found the body of Adam Fripp. And at his feet, hunched down in a corner in the tattered remains of a blue dress, they found the final remains of Caroline Fripp. All around her, they found emptied jugs of oil, carried up the tower throughout the night to keep the fire burning.
From what they could tell, she must have known somehow that something had gone terribly wrong with her daddy. Fighting back her terror, she had braved the same inland ocean full of eyes that glowed with menace and waves that curved like beckoning fingers into the depths to make her way to the lighthouse. The wind tearing at the folds of her blue dress, threatening to launch her into the night, she had made the climb to the top.
She had arrived to find her father, dead from the strain of keeping to his duty. She had placed pennies in his eyes, currency for an afterlife she only vaguely understood. She had given him a respectable service. Then she spent the night traversing the sinister waters, the deadly climb, and the howling storm, up and down the tower replenishing the oil to keep the fire lit.
She had carried on her father’s duty. And then, at some time in the night, she had died.
If only that were the end of this story...
During construction of another famous lighthouse, in a much sunnier, much less untamable era in the island’s history, the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage was moved into a new resort aiming to transform the island into a tourist destination. As the foundation was set and the first framework was erected for the Harbour Town Lighthouse, workers would often notice an odd light coming from the old cottage. Some merely dismissed it as a strange blue blur on the edges of their vision, but some swore they had seen a sad looking young woman, dressed in blue, anxiously pacing the porch.
In time, as more and more people came to the island, the blue lady was seen around the site of the old Leamington lighthouse, breathlessly making her way through the woods during storms. The legend of the Blue Lady grew, with sightings rising whenever hurricane clouds rolled through the skies.
She’s been spotted in Leamington. She’s been spotted at her old cottage, still searching desperately for her father. When the cottage became CQ’s, employees would notice that the newly installed pay phone would ring endlessly, only to issue a dial tone when answered. Possibly Caroline calling for help.
Whoever she was, and whether any of the stories are true, the legend of the Blue Lady still waits for those brave souls who dare walk the woods of Hilton Head Island at night.