The legend of the Pawleys Island Gray Man also involves a tragic love story, as a soldier returns home to marry his sweetheart, circa 1820. A wealthy young planter was on his way to the island to propose marriage to his beloved.but he never made it. In his haste, he was galloping through the surf when his horse stumbled, throwing him to the ground. Tragically, his neck was broken, and he drowned in the surf. Two nights later, a blurred, gray ghost in his likeness appeared to his beloved as she walked on the beach. The figure disappeared as she drew closer, trying to reach him. That night, she dreamed of a horrible storm at sea, and in the morning, she told her family about the dream. They left Pawleys Island for the mainland that day, narrowly escaping a deadly hurricane.
The Gray Man was seen again before the infamous Storm of 1893 struck the coast, wiping out the settlement at Magnolia Beach just north of Pawleys Island. Since that time, the Gray Man has appeared before every major hurricane, including the disastrous Hugo in 1989. Those he shows himself to are mysteriously spared the storm’s destructive power. The Gray Man has even been the subject of an episode of the popular television program, "Unsolved Mysteries."
Through the years, the Gray Man has appeared to both visitors and locals alike and their experiences have been related over coffee time and again. And yes, his appearance has always preceded a storm. These accounts are all documented, each story only adding to the already robust legend. Most stories involve walking on the beach with friends after dinner at a local tavern. The nights are unusually calm with the surf gently lapping at their feet.but up ahead, something is seen that is not only unusual but difficult to explain.material, loosely blowing in the breeze, that begins to take shape.a silhouette in the general shape of a head and shoulders … no features really, but what it would look like if you draped a very light cloth or blanket over a mannequin. From the sand to the bottom of the cloth however, there’s nothing. The cloth is floating free, three or four feet in the air. Goose pimples abound!
Now, suddenly, just where you would expect an arm to be on the figure, the cloth moves outward; motioning to the spectator. Or so it would seem. When the cloth deliberately points a second time, it’s clear that the motion means, "Leave.GO!" Although the motion is always subtle, it’s very deliberate leaving no confusion as to what is meant. Anyone would immediately pick up and GO. Wouldn’t you? Whether anyone has ever heard of the Gray Man or not, it isn’t long before the meaning of their encounter is explained to them in one way or another!
In most cases, the explanation comes in the form of a violent storm the next day or even a hurricane. For those who understood the warning and left the coast entirely, the "apparition" may have saved their lives. Many say that has been the case. But if it is only a case of telling the story to a local the next day, the response is always and quite simply, "Oh, it was only the Gray Man! Be careful, it’s going to storm!" And storm it does. A downpour, thunderstorm or even a hurricane! In the future, if you’re lucky enough to have seen the Gray Man, heed his warning and taken shelter inland!