Lowcountry Tales of Terror

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Good evening, and welcome to a trio of terrifying tales of the Lowcountry that will set your hair on end and make you think twice about stepping outside on a dark night. I am your host, William Baynard, one-time plantation owner and now, since my death in 1849, permanent resident of Hilton Head Island.

Climb aboard my coach, if you dare, and prepare to witness the haunted history of the Lowcountry from someone who’s seen it all firsthand.

In the light of day,  we live (or in my case, lived) in an unmatched paradise of sand and sea. But once the sun sets, bringing it with it the silvery fog-streaked night, the Lowcountry’s true locals come out. If you’ve ever heard a ghostly whisper while walking the dunes at night, or beheld a faint light bobbing along the marshes, then you’ve met one of our many spirits.

We begin our journey through the supernatural at one of my favorite spots in the area for rest and relaxation: Bloody Point. Here, where countless ancient spirits roam the earth, we meet a
lighthouse keeper, and one of the most hair-raising job interviews ever.

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Keepers of the past

Joe Yocius fell in love the first time he saw the old lighthouse.

Nestled within the pine forests of Daufuskie Island, the Bloody Point lighthouse swelled with history. Its beacon no longer guided ships across Daufuskie’s snakelike waterways as they passed through to Savannah, but it still stood proud as a reminder of the island’s rich past.

Yocius had come down from Pittsburgh with the wound still smarting where the Lowcountry bug had first bit him. He’d become enraptured with the salt air, bought the old lighthouse, started calling himself Lowcountry Joe and put the north forever at his rudder.

But before he could truly claim to be the keeper of the lighthouse, he knew he’d need to earn it. He’d need to do right by its current tenants. The locals had told him they saw things, heard things coming from inside, and Joe never doubted them for a second. The spirits of the lighthouse were restless.

That’s why his first night at his new home he arrived without his bride, Mary, and brought none of his possessions save a bottle of good whiskey.

With the moonlight streaming in through the windows, Joe plopped himself down on the pine floors, twisted open the bottle, and toasted the old keepers.

“Here’s to the past,” he said with a raise of his glass.

And the words were barely out of his mouth when the temperature in the room dropped. The sticky sweat Joe had built up from the summer’s heat seemed to freeze on the back of his neck. He was just noticing the chill when the voices began seeping up from the pine floors, the log walls, from the very foundations of the lighthouse itself.

They asked who he was, what he was doing here. They came from all around him, and while Joe couldn’t quite discern their source, he could tell they were benevolent. Almost curious.

“I’m here to be the keeper of this lighthouse. Just like you,” he said aloud, wondering in the back of his mind what his wife would make of such talk.

The voices told him one does not simply claim to be the keeper of this house. Not without appreciating those that came before him, their history.

Joe took a deep sip. He paused, swirling the whiskey around his tongue.

“That’s why I’m here,” he grinned.

There was a moment of silence. Then the first of the lighthouse’s keepers began his story, of coming down from Ohio to oversee construction of the rear range light. Like Joe, he’d fallen in love with the area and stayed on as keeper for seven years. A father and son who’d both served as keepers told Joe of how the lighthouse had become part of their family during their mortal lives. The last true keeper of the lighthouse, who saw its flame extinguished in 1922, and his assistant, whose mortal remains now rest in peace on Daufuskie, urged Joe to continue their legacy.

As the night waned, the ghosts of the Bloody Point Lighthouse taught Joe what it meant to be called the house’s keeper, and he listened with reverence, humbled by history.

The morning came to find Joe asleep on the heart of pine floors, the last few glasses of whiskey still sloshing around in the bottle. The spirits of the lighthouse had returned to their daytime haunts, but they had left the new keeper with a very important lesson.

All we are, they had whispered as he’d fallen asleep, is keepers of the past.

When Joe awoke, he knew he’d earned his new position.

First to fright

At Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, there are few who are feared more than the drill instructor. But rest assured, there is more to fear.

As one of the privelged who wear the “Smokey Bear” campaign cover and make it their solemn duty to mold recruits into Marines, Staff Sgt. David Fiocco feared nothing.

He’d heard all the stories.

These recruits came to him, undisciplined lazy civilian teenagers filling their heads with ridiculous tales of haunted squad bays and shadows that flickered into your peripheral vision then disappeared. It was his job, his calling, to break these kids of their fantasies, replace the fear of spooks and ghosts with motivation. By God, when he was done with them they’d be giving the ghosts nightmares.

But still, David recognized that Parris Island held its own phantasms. He’d seen the crumbling remains of ancient tombstones, sticking out of the palmetto shrubs along the Starlight rifle range like rotting teeth. According to barracks scuttlebut, they marked a mass grave where a plantation’s slaves had been carelessly interred.

But beyond that, he’d heard some real whoppers from the recruits. One kid from the old 3rd Battalion barracks had sworn he’d seen a ghostly figure of a recruit wearing the old grey sweats doing pushups in the middle of the squad bay, then vanish. Even his own sister and fellow Marine, Sarah, had an encounter while working late at the public affairs office.

She’d been at her desk late one night when she was startled by a ringing phone. The caller ID listed the incoming number as bucket issue, where recruits are first given their gear upon arriving. The call hissed and crackled with static, then went dead. When Sarah tried the extension back, it was disconnected. (Marines being what they were, her staff sergeant got the same call the next day and handed her the phone, saying “Fiocco, it’s for you.”)

David pushed all these thoughts out of his head as he walked out of his battalion’s HQ, feeling the crisp air conditioning surrender to the oppressively humid night air. Here and there, orange sodium-vapor lights held up the darkness as he walked beside the infamous Weapons and Field Training Battalion squad bay.

If there was a reason he was trying not to think about Parris Island’s many ghosts, it was that squad bay. Even Marines that, like him, didn’t buy into any of the stories steered clear of that place at night. As he crossed the parking lot to his car, he hazarded one glance through the windows and noticed a recruit patrolling the ladder well. He felt sorry for that kid, having to walk around that place after dark, where nearly everyone had a story of hearing phantom footsteps or jumping out of their skin when a shower turned itself on.

There was even the occasional story of an entire ghostly platoon marching past the squad bay windows at night, their eternal footfalls dictated by a cadence hollered from beyond the grave.

David’s eyes followed the shadow of that sentry up the stairwell, and then he continued on to his car.

He had just swung the driver’s side door open when a sickly cold chill jolted his spine.

It was his car.

His car was the only one in the parking light. No other DIs were there to keep a hardened eye on their recruits. In fact, the squad bay, which is only used while recruits are on range week, was vacant that week.

Immediately his attention snapped back to that ladder well, and the dark shadow he’d watched climbing up. It was gone.

Then through another window, he watched the hatch to the squad bay snap open unaided as if forced by a hurricane wind. Nobody that David could see stood in the doorway.

And as every hair on his high-and-tight haircut stood on end, the phantam recruit of the Weapons and Field Battalion Squad Bay slowly slowly let the hatch close, continuing its nightly patrol as it had done since the day it died.

David still feared nothing. But that’s not to say he didn’t get that car started up faster than a master gunnery sergeant jumping on a lance corporal with an untucked cargo pocket.

And from then on, his recruits were free to tell whatever ghost stories they wanted.

Ian poulter-geist

On Friday’s second round of the 2011 Heritage, pro golfer Ian Poulter shot a 66, including birdies on four of the top nine. He retired to his rented house sure that he was on top of his game. But Poulter was not alone in that house.

The following are actual Tweets from Ian Poulter’s Twitter account during that night:

“Check this out, we have a ghost in our house this week & I’m not joking we have had some very strange goings on every night.”

“We have a dead bolted door in the house & every morning that door is unlocked & slightly open. It’s happened 7 times already.”

“No joke for real, very bizarre the door is pretty solid with a dead bolt & number of times it’s been unlocked & open. Calling home owner now.”

“@Graeme_McDowell I might join you mate we have a ghost in our house and it’s given a strange feel in this house”

“@PGA_JohnDaly hi mate can you come scare our ghost away please.”

“I should ask @golfchannel or CBS if I can borrow a camera & set it up on that door for the night. My camera won’t video for that long”

Whether this was a genuine haunting or a publicity stunt by a pro golfer looking to attract a few Twitter followers is uncertain, but one indisputable fact holds up this ghost story: Poulter shot his worst round of the week the next day; a 75.

The next day he Tweeted:

“I hope our Ghost didn’t like me too much & decide he wants a trip to Korea. I could do with my bedroom door staying shut this week.”