The following account took place in the late summer of 1982. This is a long story but I felt background information on the history of the location helps create a clearer picture. I wrote down details of these events the day after they occurred which has helped, over the years, to keep the incidents fresh in my mind.
This story concerns, in particular, two events that happened that summer night on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where I lived at the time. In 1982, Hilton Head, which is now a huge resort island, was largely developed but still retained several undisturbed tracts of wilderness. One of these (where my account took place) was a close to one thousand acre wooded area that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to Highway 278 (the highway that serves as the main artery of the island). Back then it was only one lane each way. Today it is several lanes in each direction.
This undeveloped area, then as now, has a cast iron "skeleton" supported lighthouse (photos can be found online by typing 'Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse' into a search engine). It is referred to variously as The Hilton Head Rear Range Light, the Leamington Lighthouse (the name of the one time plantation the light was constructed on), or to my friends and I, simply as "the old lighthouse".
Hilton Head is noted for its famous red and white stripped lighthouse in Harbour Town a few miles away. That lighthouse was constructed for decorative purposes in 1969. The Rear Range light was constructed in 1880 and originally its beacon was matched up with a front range light (no longer standing) on the beach. When the two lights were lined up, one over the other, ship captains knew it was time to begin their turn into the Savannah Shipping Canal.
The light was deactivated in 1932. The rear range lighthouse is far from the ocean. After the light was decommissioned the area surrounding it became Camp McDougal, a Marine training facility. Thousands of men trained there between 1938 and 1942. After that the area was used for hunting.
By the time I lived on the island (between 1977 and 1983) it was quiet forest and the largest of the remaining undeveloped chunks of land left. There were, of course, "No Trespassing" signs about but for a young teenage guy these meant very little. The one time Leamington Plantation has now become part of Palmetto Dunes Resort and the light now stands guard over the Arthur Hills Golf Course. Six acres immediately around the light are protected from development and in 1983 the old structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Then, as now, I have always felt a deep connection with the light. I have a painting of it in my living room. Besides the lighthouse there were a few remaining structures --a building that housed the generator for the camp, with the words 'Power Plant' on a plaque above its front doors; the oil shed that housed the oil for the lighthouse lamps; the foundations of the two keeper's houses, which were moved to Harbour Town and renovated; a massive concrete cistern and another foundation where the camps hospital had stood.
The light and the surrounding woods became one of the major hangouts for me and my circle of friends. Endless hours were spent hanging out in the old lamp room, climbing around the outside of the lighthouse on its skeleton frame (not smart I know) and running around the forest. Having a special place like this to go to provided for fresh adventures each time.
Local folklore surrounding the lighthouse claimed that a light keeper named Adam Fripp suffered a heart attack during a hurricane while climbing the spiral staircase of the light to keep the lamps lit. Legend states that his daughter Caroline found Adam dead at the base of the staircase and was forced to tend the light herself. She reportedly dragged her father back to the house and pulled him up step by step as the storm surge pushed the water higher and higher. Exhausted and half crazy, she was supposedly found a few days later only to die soon thereafter.
From that point on her ghostly figure has supposedly been seen on moonless nights walking up the spiral staircase weeping. Well, that's the legend and every lighthouse needs one. She is referred to as either The Blue Lady or The Lady in Blue. The "blue" aspect stemmed from her always wearing a blue flower, dress etc. One problem with this story is that there is no record of a keeper named Fripp ever tending the rear or front range lights.
After talking about it for some time, my friend Billy and I decided we were going to have a real adventure and spend the night at the lighthouse and see if we could see The Blue Lady ourselves. On a rainy Saturday, just before dusk, Billy's mom dropped us off at the old hidden and dilapidated road which led to the light. This road was no longer accessible to vehicles--a large trench cut it off from Highway 278 (as an aside, my mom certainly wouldn't have "okayed" me camping out in such an isolated area at only 15 so I just said I was spending the night at Billy's).
This wonderful old road was our entrance into a time machine of the mind. It wound its way first past the aforementiond "Power Plant" building, then a short distance away the foundations of the keepers houses, then a huge foundation, where I believe, the hospital once stood. Finally rounding a curve in the road the pine and live oak trees would part and the hulking rear range light sprang into full view. Constructed of iron, the slender tube that contains the staircase is supported by a steel "skeletal" framework. In the late 1980s the light was restored but when I used to visit it, rust bled heavily down its sides, giving way only sporadically to the few flecks of the remaining white paint.
Billy and I set up our small two person tent off a small path covered with low hanging Spanish moss covered branches, about twenty yards from the lighthouse and just in front of the already mentioned larger foundation. We had supplies for the night--food, water, flashlights, kerosene lamp, a radio and a couple baseball bats and a pellet gun. After all, we were both fifteen at the time and we were, for all intents and purposes, in the middle of nowhere. After we set up we ventured on to the lighthouse to see the night come.
Neither Billy or I had ever been to the lighthouse after dark and to see it that way was strange. The massive live oak tree directly in front of the light and the brooding presence of the rusting structure in the growing evening shadows was quite eerie. It was also exhilarating. After climbing to the top we returned to our tent as the rain was becoming somewhat heavy. Not only was it raining but it was a moonless night (Billy and I chose it because of the Blue Lady legend), and the whole area was as black as pitch. Anyone who has ever lived in a rural area knows how incredibly dark it can be when there are no lights at all nearby. The thick humidity somehow makes if feel even darker.
In daylight my buddies and I would regularly joke about The Lady in Blue but Billy and I now afforded her legend a bit of respect. To get our minds off being a bit afraid we blasted the radio, ate and told jokes. This worked brilliantly for a couple of hours. However, the first of the two paranormal occurrences was about to transpire.
Billy was laying back on his sleeping bag flipping through a magazine and the rain had lightened up a bit. I thought I would take a peek outside. Unzipping the front of the tent, I peered out. What I saw completely caught me off guard. I could see clearly over the small path we were on, over the old foundation and well into the woods on the other side. It was the light that really took me by surprise and particularly where it was coming from. There was a milky, low lying "fog" which weaved its way around all the trees I could see but didn't actually touch them. It came within six inches or so and then curled around them. Looking directly down I saw the fog or mist did the same thing with our tent. Above it there was nothing. The light illuminating the woods seemed to come from the strange fog itself. Unlike any fog or mist I have encountered before or since. This stuff looked like a thick liquid and moved and undulated very, very oddly.
Billy was by my side now looking at the weird "living" mist as well. We both mentioned how we couldn't see through it--it completely hid the earth underneath. The light was a bluish/white and was surprisingly bright.
Before writing this account I went online to research different types of fog. I was really surprised at how many different types there are but none of them was anything like this. It's important for me to add that the lighthouse was located on slightly higher ground than much of the island (not more than 30 feet or so above sea level) and there were no marshes nearby. So it wasn't some kind of luminescent marsh gas. I lived in the island for six years, my family and I had visited it since 1973 and I have visited it several times since then and I have never seen anything remotely like it.
It struck me that with all the thousands of people who were trained at Camp McDougal, this might have been some remaining "group energy" that, like an apparition, has imbued the atmosphere with a palpable energy, and appears once in awhile when people like Billy and I are caught up in the "apparitional drama".
For the remainder of the night Billy and I were uneasy and (I can't explain why) we didn't look out of the tent again. We had difficulty occupying our time, much less sleeping. It wasn't as though we were particularly frightened by the weird fog, just completely baffled by it. We also noticed an odd, regular pattern of rain that fell on our tent--one, pause, two, three, four, pause, five. I still remember the pattern as it seemed to continue endlessly and being in a thick forest in a supposedly haunted area on a rainy night with a weird fog surrounding us did nothing to dispel the thought, that someone or something was pouring water on the tent in a purposeful manner. It was a bit maddening.
The final (stop already someone screams) paranormal occurrence happened around 5:00 AM. I was finally on the brink of an uneasy sleep when the most bizarre and horrifying scream I've ever heard cut ferociously through the woods. It sounded like a mixture of an infant, a wild pig (there had been wild boars on the island but they were gone by this time) and a possessed man. It lasted for five seconds or so and when it stopped there was absolutely NO sound. The rain had stopped, there was no early morning birdsong, absolutely nothing. I know that sounds dramatic but it is exactly as it happened. Billy and I exchanged glances, stuffed our backpacks, disassembled our tent and as quickly as possible made our way back up the abandoned road. The mist, by the way, was completely gone, which, at least to me, really suggests it wasn't a "normal" phenomenon.
I lived on the island for six years (as I already mentioned) and never again heard anything even close to this scream. It still echoes in my mind thirty four years later. Maybe it was the ghost of a one time light keeper. At least one was buried on the property. Maybe it was the echo of a drill sergeant screaming at some green recruits from the Camp McDougal days. The emotions of the men shipping in and out on a weekly basis and then off to war could theoretically have left an intense impression on the location. I have even considered it being the war whoop of a Confederate soldier. There had been some skirmishes on the island in the Civil War and the "Rebel Yell" was said to be unmistakable.
Whatever it was, The Blue Lady, old light keeper, Rebel soldier, drill sargeant or something else entirely, it wasn't a living person. It was simply too weirdly loud, as if it was somehow amplified. Billy and I both agreed it was the most blood curdling and creepy sound we have ever heard. That still stands for me today. I can't speak for Billy and I haven't talked to him since the late 1980s.
It would be great to read thoughts about these events from the great YGS community. Particularly the glowing, milky mist and the scream. The Leamington Lighthouse is woven into my very being. My wife and I were able to obtain special permission to enter and climb up the lighthouse in 1993. It's not open to the public so it was quite an honor. It was like visiting an old friend. Creepy encounters or not, it remains a very special place to me.