St Helena's Island located in the Port Royal Sound of South Carolina is thought to be one of the oldest settlements in the United States. Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón discovered the area around 1520 in his quest to colonize the islands along the coast. An adjacent island named Port Royal (now Beaufort) was once the capital of the Spanish colony in Florida. In an area so rich in history, there are ghosts behind every Spanish moss draped tree.
Due to its climate, plantations that grew rice, spices, cotton and indigo lined the inlets and tributaries. Under the dominion of France, Spain and England alternately throughout its history it developed a varied culture, including the Gullah element.
On the southwestern tip of the island known as Land’s End. If you park under the branches of a tree known as the “Hanging Tree”, wait until dark and turn off your headlights. Eventually a single light is seen coming towards you. Some have described it as discharging static as it speeds by. Others driving back to Port Royal Island describe being overtaken by it. Much of the eyewitness accounts agree on two things, no one is sure what the source is however it is real and its appearance is regular and reliable.
This is an explanation given in 1968 about what has also been referred to as the Frogmore Light:
The Land's End Light ghost is reputedly an eternal resident of St. Helena's Island. Supposedly the spirit of a Confederate soldier, the ghost is said to appear nightly, marching stolidly down the road swinging a lantern. Even though many a person reportedly has tried to "trap" the ghost, it casually escapes them, disappearing from one spot of the road, to appear moments later in another, apparently unconcerned, marching along. (The Times and Democrat (January 1968).
In some retelling he is looking for his missing head and he belongs instead to the Union army. The problem with this version is that stories about this light predate the Civil War. So he just the last in line of a series of souls that find an irresistible lure to haunt this road?
During the 1970s, sheriffs patrolling the area described a hundred or more automobiles lining the road at night. At least two people died in car accidents in their attempts to chase the light down.
Some say it’s swamp gas, others debate that it’s not bright enough and moves with a purpose absent from something caused by nature.
Not far from the hanging tree is the ruins of the St Helena Chapel of Ease. It was built in 1740 for the planters in the area so they could attend Sunday services.
Tabby made from a mixture of lime, sand and oyster shells was used to construct it. The source of the shells came from Indians who left behind large piles of it throughout the years where they occupied this stretch of land. Due to the use of this material it was named as the White Church since it appeared to glow.
In 1812, due to increase in the surrounding population it became a parish church. The years slipped by until the shadow of the invading Union Army fell upon it. On November 4, 1861 a messenger came to Captain William Oliver Perry Fripp with news that Union soldiers had invaded Beaufort. The Fripp family had lived for many years in the area and contributed towards the upkeep of the chapel through the years.
In 1852, Edgar and Eliza Fripp had constructed a mausoleum, and eventually they both came to occupy it. The planters left the island in the fall of 1861 fleeing from the Union forces. The soldiers broke open the final resting place of Edgar and Eliza looking for treasure and found only the dead. They damaged the vault doors, and eventually it was decided to brick up the opening. Workmen assigned to the job described arriving the following day to find the bricks removed and stacked besides the mausoleum. The caretaker's attempt to seal the opening always ended with the same results. Eventually the small crypt remained empty and echoing. The workers refused to return and finish the job.
The occupying Northern forces used it after the end of the Civil War.
In 1886, the structure was damaged by a forest fire.
Some who visit the ruins describe hearing whispered prayers or singing. Others hear names shouted from the burial grounds or from the surrounding woods. Another story involves a lady in white walking among the tombstones carrying a child in her arms.
Others complain of feeling cold spots even on hot days, and even nausea.
Who or what is the source of the haunting; seems there are various candidates who have failed to notice the passage of time.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer