Culture // 5 min Read

A Haunted Bluff

Written by Jay Walea

Oct 28, 2020

Illustrated by Amanda Davis.

October 1995

The night was cold and wet.

The moon was full and had an eerie glow from the clouds hovering before it. Richard Levant, still a mountain of a man to this day and one of my best friends and mentors, had joined me on a coon hunt. We made our last “turnout” of the evening at 3:00 a.m. to no avail. All the night creatures were trying to stay warm and dry; the only fools left in the rain were Richard and me. We had to be at the Lodge to get hunters ready by 4:30 a.m., so Richard left me to feed and put Queen, his black Plott hound, in the kennel. Back in those days, it was not unusual to be out so late. At the time, I was not married and would often coon hunt all night with Richard before heading to our office, cleaning myself up, and going straight to the Lodge to pick up hunters.

But back to the story. On this October night, the rain fell. The full moon would show itself briefly from behind the ghostly, low-hanging clouds, setting a haunting scene across the dark landscape. I paid no attention to the moon, focusing on the fact that I had to be back at the Lodge in less than an hour. I fed Queen, got her in the kennel, took a much-needed bath, and rushed over to the Lodge where, upon arrival, I could see Richard’s truck. The rain was falling hard now, and I was ready to go inside for some coffee. In the broken moonlight, I looked toward our fish shed and saw Richard standing there with Queen. I knew straight away I was in trouble for not latching the kennel gate, and when I called out to Richard, I received no response. Knowing I was in for a good tongue lashing, I went inside for my morning coffee.

To my surprise, I walked into the Lodge and was greeted by Richard. Bewildered, I proceeded to tell him that I had just seen him by the fish shed with Queen. His response was that he had not left the Lodge since arriving earlier. Still puzzled, I told him that I was sure there was a tall man with a wide-brimmed hat and a long coat standing in the door of the fish shed, with Queen at his side. We immediately went outside into the rain and could not find a soul—man or dog. This was chalked up as just another weird happening at the Bluff.

October 2013

I was older and wiser by this time in my life.

Once the baby and now the old man, I was now director of the Conservancy at Palmetto Bluff. Each year in October, several of my friends and I would do a weeklong campout at the Bluff—hunting and preparing what we harvested. My buddy Dave and I were sharing a two-room tent, and on this particular night, we had gone to bed early, anxious for the great hunting tomorrow would provide. It was a full moon night, and around 4:30 a.m., I heard Dave leave the tent. I could hear him carrying on a conversation with someone outside, which was odd because we were the only ones there. I figured Dave was talking in his sleep, and after about 10 minutes, I yelled at him to go back to bed. The following morning, Dave began to tell me of the nice fellow he had been talking to outside the tent. He mentioned that he was a tall man and, even though they were standing close to one another, he could never see the man’s face. He then described the man as wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a long coat, with a friendly black dog at his side. That morning, I remembered my vision from
18 years earlier—when I had seen the same figure.

October 2015

A major thunderstorm hit Palmetto Bluff.

Along with the full moon and extreme tides, most of the original main road leading out to highway 46 had become flooded and impassable. On this rainy day, an Inn employee was heading home when she took the old road and almost flipped her car into a flooded ditch. She was scared to death and in somewhat of a panic when out of nowhere the door opened, and a tall man with a wide-brimmed hat, a long coat, and a black dog reached in and pulled her to safety. She reached back into the car for her purse, and when she turned around to thank her new hero, he and the dog were nowhere in sight.

October 2016

While preparing our annual Conservancy calendar, we came up with the idea of telling ghost stories as a spooky lecture to fit the season.

I was asked if I had any stories from my time spent at the Bluff, so I began to recall my encounters with the man wearing the wide-brimmed hat and long coat and accompanied by a black dog. I divulged the conversation between the man and my buddy Dave during our camping trip—how he asked what we were hunting and if we had any luck before he turned to walk up the moonlit road and out of sight. I also mentioned how Dave talked about how friendly the dog seemed, yet every time he would reach down to pet him, the dog would move to the other side of the man. Once Dr. Mary Socci, archaeologist for the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, found out where we were camping, she gasped and said, “That’s Abram Grant!”

Abram Grant was enslaved on a plantation near Ridgeland, South Carolina, at the beginning of the Civil War. Once the Union troops took Hilton Head, Abram and his family fled to the island and to freedom. Soon after his arrival on Hilton Head, he enlisted in the Union Army and fought for the remainder of the war. After the Civil War, Abram came to Palmetto Bluff as a free man and rented land to farm at Oak Island (the very spot where Dave and I had camped). Abram was able to save enough money to eventually buy his own 40 acres on Oak Island where we believe he still resides today.

Legends, ghost stories, or tall tales, these are true accounts of events that happened. But what stands out the most about these encounters with Abram is he still seems to be, in one form or another, here at the Bluff looking after the land and its inhabitants.