Conway Ghost Walk: Spirits of the Lowcountry
Conway Downtown Alive hosts the Conway Ghost Walk for three nights at the end of October in downtown Conway, SC from 7:00pm – 8:30pm. The walk takes between 60 and 90 minutes – walks leaving every 15 minutes – and is approximately a 1 mile tour around the streets of downtown Conway. Seasoned storytellers tell stories and fables that are sad, spooky, and humorous. The walk sells out each year and costs $15 a person.
This year, the 2014 Ghost Walk, I found myself at the Conway Visitor’s Center 30 minutes before my scheduled walk (they ask that you arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time) and was pleased to learn that Encore Florals and Find Gifts was open for perusing for Ghost Walk participants. I spent a few moments there before meeting a group of friends to start our walk. Unfortunately Kelly was out of town for this year’s walk, but I look forward to telling her the stories she missed!
The walk began with an introduction to storytelling, and how it is an important way to share our history and stories of humanity, as well as an opportunity to spin some fun tales. We were asked to share the stories and keep the spirit alive, as well as visit Conway’s local shops during the holiday season. And before we began our tour, we were instructed to greet any ghosts we saw that night with Southern hospitality and the appropriate, “Boo y’all!”
________________________________2014 Ghost Tales and Fables______________________________
The 2014 route took us along the Conway Riverwalk where we heard tales of the Waccamaw River. A tale about a bridge keeper along the Waccamaw who had a tendency to drink on the job and how he became furious when he saw his third wife with another man at the local bar. When that drunken bridge-keep went back to his post on a foggy night he left the swing bridge open. A Model T car approached the bridge and honked its horn for the bridge-keeper to turn the bridge so they could cross; however the bridge remained open and the car with a man and woman fell to their watery grave. The bridge-keep laughed as the car sank, even though it was the wrong man and woman inside. They say that today you can still hear a maniacal laugh along the riverbank. This storyteller ended his story with a loud, maniacal laugh of his own that made everyone in the group jump. He was one of my favorite story-tellers.
The next story featured the Waccamaw River and the ferry boats that used to carry coffins from one side to the other because no one wanted to be buried in the marshy landscape of what is now Myrtle Beach. Apparently the coffins didn’t always make it all the way across the river with its tricky current. And today there still lie remnants of coffins on the bottom of the Waccamaw’s blackwater river. I have to admit that the river was completely still this night and the moonlight cast an eerie and uncomfortable glow over the black water. (For those of you unfamiliar with this river, the water is actually black. I’ve been told it is because of the cypress trees and their roots staining the water a tea color but whatever it is, it lends itself to a spooky atmosphere even in the daylight when you can’t see into it!).
The next story was a fable about Mrs. Devil playing a trick on her husband, Mr. Devil, by attempting to break up a newly-wedded couple in order for Mrs. Devil to get a new pair of shoes. This one ended with the storyteller showing off a pair of shiny red heels and the audience chuckling.
A costumed guide then took us to the water tower where we heard a sad tale of pastor’s daughter who loved to dance but her father believed it was a sin. The boy who told the story jumped up on the base of the water tower and leaned on it with ease, then jumped down and paced in front of the crowd, full of energy and boyish charm throughout the story. He was the one who was in love with the pastor’s daughter until she fell to her death from the third story of the Pastor’s home when he was away. The third story was a ballroom which she hadn’t entered until the night of her death. They say you can still hear dancing from the third story on the first weekend in May. The storyteller ended in emotional tears and the group was silent for a moment before we all clapped for his performance.
We learned about the Gray Ghost of Murrells Inlet and who he might really be. That perhaps his wife still roams Conwayborough (one of Conway’s original names) looking for her estate’s treasure which she ordered buried when the Yankee troops of the Civil War were rumored to invade the area. Some say you can still see her dressed in a gray robe, pacing along the Riverwalk at night.
The last story was told by a thirteen-year old girl. I remember her from last year, and she has an amazing delivery! She was dressed from the era of 1950 and she spoke of a little boy who used to annoy her in school. A boy who rode his skateboard through the halls of the school and who kept his head down in the corner of the classroom every day. Until one day when a bus hit him and his skateboard. He miraculously survived the bus strike, enough to find his seat in the corner of the schoolroom and put his head down. At the end of the day, you could hear the faint sound of a drip-drip-drip, where the young man’s blood was dripping onto the floor. The stain from the blood reappears every morning, even though it is cleaned with bleach each day. And some say you can still hear the faint drip-drip-drip in that classroom today.
The walk ended at the Ocean Fish Market where a guide told us silly ghost jokes that made us groan. Our guide ran through them quickly to save the audience from painful, forced laughter, however I love the quirky nature of this ending. The guide thanked us for supporting downtown Conway and informed us that many of the storytellers make up their own stories each year!
______________________________2013 Ghost Tales and Fables______________________________
In the Halloween spirit, Kelly and I signed up for the Conway Ghost Walk, which is held for three nights at the end of October in downtown Conway, SC. The walk features professional story-tellers who are stationed throughout the streets of Conway to tell tales, spooky and humorous, of the area. This year’s walking tour was approximately one hour and one mile. We met at the Conway Visitor’s Center and the tour left promptly at 7:45pm. We were guided behind the Visitor’s Center by a gentleman carrying a lantern and dressed in early 19th Century costume. He instructed us not to talk, text, or call anyone during the story-telling. And if we were to encounter a friendly spirit, we should greet them with a “Boo y’all!” He introduced us to a woman also carrying a lantern and dressed in 19th Century attire, and she led us down the streets of Conway to our first story-teller in an alley-way. Throughout the night different guides met us and led us to the next storyteller, all by lantern light.
We heard tales about a woman who fell in love with a man who became governor of South Carolina and in her failing health he signed papers for her to sail out of Georgetown to meet him in New York City. After she left by boat she was never seen again. However some believe her boat was taken by pirates off of the outer banks and made to walk the plank – some say she still walks the stone steps at Brookgreen Gardens leading to the rice fields, waiting for her boat to come.
A story about a man who died but came back to sit in his rocking chair to keep his widow company until he danced to the music of a fiddler player and his bones fell into a heap – you can sometimes still hear the music near his house.
We heard about a man who would shoot anyone who came onto his property and he would rummage through their things and take whatever he wanted. When he was tried in the court of law he stood on the Horry County courthouse steps and declared no grass would ever grow on his grave – he is said to still walk his property looking for trespassers and no grass has grown on his grave.
Another tale was told about how when the paper company was growing in Georgetown there was nothing to do so the town invited a well-known mistress to the area to create the world famous brothel known as Sunset Lodge. During World War II when soldiers were in Europe and said they were from Georgetown, SC they were applauded for being from the hometown of Sunset Lodge. It is said that before it burned down, you could still hear the mistress rapping on doors to make sure everyone was doing okay.
The next story was about a 12 year old girl (which was told by a young girl stating she had just turned 12 years old) whose family only told the tale she told us when family member’s turned 12. A tale about an old house that had been abandoned, and when two girls searched the house they found one room was swept clean and a rocking horse rocked in the corner. The letters in the hope chest told a tale of a child who had died while his father was at war. And the mother, the soldier’s wife, had died shortly after. This was a tale where the girls’ name was oddly similar to the girl telling our tale.
We were told about a house in Conway where a a woman was heard laughing as the roof caved in, crashing the chandelier to the floor, yet the chandelier did not have a scratch on it as it lay in the rubble – it is said that as children walk down the streets of Conway near her house they can hear her laughter in the wind.
The storytellers were beautifully dressed in 19th century costume and they told their stories as if they had been telling them for years. It was fun to be led through the dark street of Conway by the light of lanterns and to sit on hay bales as the sounds of the stories filled the air. It was a crisp, cool night in the 40’s and Kelly brought a thermos full of delicious hot cocoa. Some of the storytellers asked us to shout out and greet the friendly spirits surrounding us that night with a warm and spirited “Boo y’all!” before we listened to their tale. The tour led us down two alleys, into an old warehouse, in front of the steps of the Horry County courthouse beneath an old, beautiful oak tree, into an old parking lot, and ended in front of a fish shack where a woman proceeded to tell us a number of ghost jokes like, “What room doesn’t a ghost have in his house? A living room!” “What does a ghost call his mother? Mummy!” The walk was a delightful way to spend a fall evening leading up to Halloween. We were slightly disappointed that we didn’t visit the alleged “hanging tree” or the graveyard and that the stories didn’t center around Conway haunts (or haints as they are called in the South), but we do acknowledge that the theme this year was “Spirits of the Lowcountry” and we can’t wait to tour the streets again next year to hear about more ghosts and spirits in our area!
Cost: $15 a person