Celebrating the Spirit(s) of Halloween: Ghosts & Georgetown
By Kimberly Duncan for PawleysPlantation.com
Georgetown County is reputed to be one of the nation’s most haunted locales. For decades and more, residents and wide-eyed visitors have borne witness to inexplicable sights and sounds. Those familiar with the area’s shadowy streets, moonlit marshes, slow-moving rivers and lonely plantation homes have come to embrace escapades of the otherworldly. It is true that not one of the Lowcountry’s many spirits is malicious; all are somber souls given to acts of benevolence.
Alice of The Hermitage is among the best known ghosts of the Lowcountry.
When South Carolina’s rice empire was at its zenith, The Hermitage in Murrells Inlet was one of the Lowcountry’s most beautiful plantations. It overlooked an expanse of salt marsh that still stretches to ocean. Alice Flagg was the daughter of the family who owned the property in the 1700s.
The story gets fuzzy here. Primary facts are that Alice was sent to finishing school in Charleston and Alice fell in love. Some say her brother, a respected doctor, traveled often and brought a friend home on one of his visits – a friend successful in the mercantile business. Another story says she met a turpentine dealer or a riverboat captain on her trips to and from school. In either case, two people fell headlong in love. And in either case, Alice chose a man “beneath her station.” They determined to wed without the family's consent as soon as her age would allow.
Whether before or after that occasion is a detail that’s unclear, but at some point she accepted an engagement ring from this man she loved. Some say she wore the ring openly and that’s why she was sent away at all. But in any case, she ultimately chose to secret the ring on a ribbon around her neck. And, although she went to fancy balls and met many eligible bachelors, she remained true to her fiancé.
When Alice fell ill with malaria, her brother was summoned and arrived quickly to take her by carriage home from Charleston to the Inlet. Her fever climbed, and she mumbled gibberish.
Again, there are so many versions of this story truth cannot be told. One legend says her father found the ring on its ribbon when Alice died. Another says her brother found the ring and, infuriated, tossed it into marsh. Common elements that remain: Alice had a ring and Alice lost it.
Although more than two centuries have passed, the ghost of Alice Flagg has often been spotted in a lovely white gown – her burial gown – in and around Murrells Inlet. Old timers call her “the White Lady.” Many other sightings give her apparition substance. In and around the marsh, in old homes and area graveyards, she is forever searching for her lost ring.
“Alice’s Grave,” a plain marble slab engraved with that name and located in All Saints Cemetery on River Road in Pawleys Island, has long been assumed Alice’s Grave. People visit the site and leave flowers and small trinkets to calm Alice’s heart-sick soul. It’s said, any woman who walks 13 times backward around the grave will feel a tug on her ring.
Perhaps the most surprising takeaway of this particular tale is that NO ONE is buried under the simple stone at All Saints Church marked "Alice."
So what’s the rest of the story?
The Alice of legend rests in an unmarked grave in Murrells Inlet’s Belin United Methodist Church Cemetery. The notorious marker at All Saints was placed for a subsequent member of the family, a young single woman who eventually married and is actually buried with her husband's family in the graveyard that winds in and around the ruins of Prince Frederick Parish Church (Gunn Church) near Plantersville.
That’s a different story for another day.
Read a chapter on Alice Flagg in Heaven Is a Beautiful Place by noted historian, storyteller and environmentalist, Genevieve C. Peterkin. It is the most accurate and substantial view of Alice’s legend. Published by the University of SC Press, it is available online.