As one may discern from title of this post, I sit writing this “dispatch” to paranormal enthusiasts from one small corner of the greater Mysterious Universe, located on a secluded island off the southernmost coast of South Carolina.
Accessible only via a half-hour ferry ride departing from nearby Hilton Head, Daufuski Island is a small, largely undeveloped locale covered in sandy roads that see little more than golf carts and foot traffic of the friendly island residents. Fortunately for the occasional researcher of the unexplained who may have drifted to it’s dark shores, it also has a history of unique hauntings that lend an extra bit of shade to the swampy scene.
Daufuski is steeped in the traditions of the Gullah who reside here, a people renowned for having preserved their African heritage to a greater degree than any other African-American community in the country, both through their unique language, as well as their ancient traditions. Hence, it is not unusual to hear stories from the locals about voodoo and other colorful folklore here. But in addition to the worldly residents one will meet on Daufuski, there are also occasional ghosts that one may catch lurking about from the corner of their eye.
In his book Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina, author Terrence Zepke relates the story of Arthur “Papy” Burns, the former lighthouse keeper on the island who, after his tenure there in an official capacity between 1913 and 1926, elected to buy the former beacon and reside there after it was decommissioned. Burns stayed until 1966, at which time health problems caused him to have to leave the island; he died shortly thereafter. Many here on the island, however, say Burn’s spirit remained behind, and can still be seen near the site of the old lighthouse.
There is a road nearby, “Pappie’s Landing,” that commemorates Burns’ tenure here on the island, and traveling along this route toward the Southwest portion of the island will bring you to the “last outpost,” so to speak, from which you can look across the river and see Tybee Island and Georgia’s coastal waterways. You’ll also find Marshside Mamma’s, an earthy establishment that serves some of the finest, freshest seafood anywhere in the South East. While visiting there with owner Beth Shipman, many of the locals joining us for dinner and music had their own stories to share, and all agreed that while traversing the island, you can’t escape the odd feeling that there are “others” here with you. Having arrived at dawn that morning, I can certainly to attest to there being a mild creepiness as you travel along through the tall ferns and palm trees, spanish moss dangling over the sandy roadways. One might say there are a few more shadows here on Daufuski than most places… but with their deep history and haunting appeal, they are certainly the kind that would have adventurers and seekers of the stranger aspects this world has to offer coming back.