Hunting Island is a beautiful coastal park located about 15 miles east of Beaufort, SC. The park has many attractions, including a 138-year-old lighthouse, and like nearly all lighthouses around the world, the Hunting Island light has a reputation for being haunted.
History of the Hunting Island Lighthouse
Officials erected the original Hunting Island Lighthouse in 1859, but destroyed it during the Civil War to keep the Union Army from using the lighthouse as a point of navigation. Residents built a replacement in 1875, but beach erosion forced them to dismantle the lighthouse in 1893 and move it further inland. This is where the lighthouse stands today, and visitors may still climb to the top and enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding marshlands.
My husband and I visited the lighthouse last Saturday to participate in an evening climb and watch the moon rise from the ocean. Someone (not me for once!) asked if the lighthouse was haunted, and sure enough, it is.
The Boy He Couldn’t Save
There are several legends regarding the lighthouse haunting, but the tour guide and park ranger we met only knew of one: the former lighthouse keeper who tried, and failed, to save a boy from drowning in the ocean. Legend has it the keeper still paces up and down the beach, searching for the child he couldn’t pull from the waves. Whether the story is true or not, the threat of drowning certainly exists. Rip currents are common on Hunting Island Beach, and the churning water has claimed several victims. In July 2013, three family members died after a current pulled them away from shore.
According to another legend, related by a woman in our tour group, the spirit of a former keeper hates being shut out and will sometimes bang on the door when it is locked. Guests and modern-day caretakers have reportedly heard violent pulling and banging sounds as they ascend the winding stairs, but when someone goes to investigate, the sounds stop and the area around the lighthouse is empty. The park ranger we met was skeptical of this story, saying he was from the Beaufort area and never once heard the tale.
The Moaning Daughter
A third legend claims the daughter of a former keeper leapt from the top of the lighthouse after hearing some bad news and now haunts the historic structure. One park visitor camped atop the lighthouse overnight, and heard a girl’s moan on the spiral staircase. He also saw a blue orb zip up from the third-floor landing. The visitor says he heard the story from a Hunting Island park ranger in the 1970s.
Is the Hunting Island lighthouse truly haunted? Or are the stories nothing more than the usual lighthouse legends? My husband and I didn’t see or hear anything unusual while we were there, but it’s easy to see how one could imagine ghosts ascending the winding staircase or roaming the darkened beach.