The White Lady of the Hermitage, near Myrtle Beach
[A selection from Lowcountry Ghosts, also in Tales from Brookgreen]
“What can you tell us about the ghost of Alice Flagg?” a curious visitor to Brookgreen Gardens, the popular tourist attraction in Murrells Inlet, near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, asked Genevieve Wilcox Chandler, Brookgreen Gardens Hostess, one steamy afternoon in the 1950s. Miss Genevieve rarely told this story in my hearing. Perhaps she considered it her brother’s story, as he still lived in Alice’s home. But when asked, she certainly complied.
After telling the romantic story of the tragic life and death of Alice Flagg, resident ghost at Miss Genevieve’s family home, The Hermitage, at Murrells Inlet in the South Carolina Lowcountry, Miss Genevieve and Cousin Corrie Dusenbury, the other Hostess, recounted experiences of their own with Alice . . .
Miss Genevieve explained:
At the Hermitage, where my brother Clarke still lives, our ghost, the White Lady, comes and goes as she pleases, not at anyone’s beck and call. Perhaps she is still looking for her lost ring. Some have seen her walking near the shell-covered bank that was her temporary resting place or along the shore by the Hermitage. Miss Dusenbury has seen her there.
Cousin Corrie’s Encounter
At Miss Genevieve’s bidding, Cousin Corrie took up the story:
One evening at dusk my younger sister Dell and I walked over to the Hermitage to visit the Wilcox family. We were sitting on the front porch, enjoying the sea breeze and waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox, Mrs. Chandler and her husband Tom, and Mrs. Chandler’s brothers Charlie and Dick, to finish eating supper. Suddenly the two Wilcox dogs that had been sleeping at our feet jumped up, growled, and scooted inside! We looked out and saw a glowing patch of light in the yard toward the water. At that point, we followed the dogs inside! When we all returned to investigate, the light was gone. Perhaps it had just been the lamp shining through the dining room window, but we asked ourselves, “What about the dogs?”
Wilcox Family Encounters
Miss Genevieve continued:
Most often, the White Lady appears in Alice’s upstairs bedroom, which my parents always used as a guestroom. My brother Dick has seen her there a number of times, and even walked right through her once. A little cousin staying in Alice’s bedroom one time described a beautiful Lady in White who had comforted him when he was crying. My mother’s sister occasionally saw her there in the dressing table mirror and finally told us that if we kept putting her in that bedroom to sleep, she would stop visiting us! She was tired of being startled by the apparition.
My mother started to sleep in Alice’s bedroom one night herself. She was tired from working in the flower garden all day, and my father had wanted to read in bed so my mother moved across the hall to the guest room for a good night’s sleep. As she lay there in the dark, planning what she wanted to do with the flowerbeds the next day, she was surprised to see the securely latched door swing open. Then she saw a luminous white cloud the size and shape of a person glide into the room, and out again. She doesn’t sleep in there anymore, either!
But in spite of being startled, we have always enjoyed our ghost. She is quite one of the family.
Cousin Corrie spoke up with a smile, “Yes, you do enjoy her! Your mother, Mrs. Wilcox, told me a story many years ago about your fun with the White Lady.”
Cousin Corrie Tells Mrs. Wilcox’s Story
Before we had electricity at the Inlet (Mrs. Wilcox told me), we all lit our homes with kerosene lamps. One night, shortly after Mrs. Chandler and her husband Tom were married, they were relaxing in the downstairs sitting room of the Hermitage. It was lit by a kerosene lamp. Mrs. Wilcox needed the light somewhere else briefly, so Mrs. Chandler, here, picked up the lamp and carried it off to her mother, leaving her husband sitting peacefully in the dark. Pretty soon a cry arose from the darkened sitting room, “Bring back the lamp!”
When Mrs. Wilcox and Mrs. Chandler hurried back with the lamp, they found Mr. Chandler sitting stiffly with eyes as big as saucers. He said that “someone” had been in the room with him but “she” had floated out into the hall and up the stairs.
Excited and a little alarmed, they decided to investigate. Mrs. Wilcox told Mr. Chandler to take the lamp and go first. She would follow him, and Mrs. Chandler would bring up the rear. (Mrs. Wilcox told me that her main objective was to get safely between the two of them!) So they went out of the sitting room and into the hall in that order, with Mr. Chandler in the lead holding the lamp way up over his head.
As they entered the hall they passed Mrs. Wilcox’s sewing basket sitting on the Victrola. It contained a pair of soft pajamas waiting to be mended. In a spirit of mischief, Mrs. Chandler, here, grabbed up the pajamas, wadded them up into a ball, and threw them up into the air over the stairs. She was so quick that all anyone saw was this white thing unfolding and coming down the stairs at them! Mrs. Wilcox said that she gave one screech so loud that it scared the neighbors, and then they all laughed until they nearly “gave up the ghost” themselves.
Copyright 2004 Lynn Michelsohn
To learn more of Alice’s story . . .
Read Lynn Michelsohn’s short collection, Lowcountry Ghosts,
or her longer collection, Tales from Brookgreen.