Ghost Stories

The Ghost Pirate of Morris Island

One Union survivor of the Battle for Morris Island had an interesting story to tell that was unrelated to the Battle. According to Nancy Roberts in Ghosts of the Carolinas, Francis M. Moore was stationed on Folly during the Civil War. He wrote that, prior to an ensuing battle for Charleston, an Army soldier named Yokum was ordered to move any Negroes living on Morris Island to Port Royal. When speaking with an old black woman, Yokum learned of six treasure chests which had been buried on the island by pirates. She told him the chests had been buried between two old oak trees in her yard. She said that the pirate leader ruthlessly stabbed one of his men and let the body fall on top of the chests before covering them.

Yokum asked if the chests were still there and she answered “yes”. She said no one would go near the trees because the dead pirate was guarding the treasure.

Around midnight that night, Yokum and Lt. Hatcher left camp with shovels to visit the old oak trees. Though it was a windless night, as the men began to dig the tops of the trees started to sway as if in a hurricane. Lightning flashed, but no thunder followed. They continued to dig. Lightning flashed again and lingered. The men realized they were not alone. In the strange prolonged lightning they saw the clear figure of the pirate. They dropped their shovels and ran.

The next day the attack on Morris Island began and they were never able to return to the treasure site. It wasn’t until 50 years later that Yokum retold his story at a veterans’ reunion where it was recorded by Mr. Moore.

The Mystery of Headless Bodies

In May of 1987, fourteen bodies were found while excavating a construction site at the west end of Folly Beach. Construction was halted for 30 days while the South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) investigated the remains.

All of the bodies except one had been buried with shoulders directed to the west. Twelve of the bodies were missing skulls and other major body parts. Some of the burials had coffins, others had only ponchos. With the bodies

were found Union Army Eagle buttons, one “5” insignia from a cap and Enfield Rifle .57 caliber Mini Balls. The SCIAA finally decided the men were from the Union Army’s 55thMassachusetts Volunteer Regiment. Because the bodies had no injuries, the possibility of death in battle was eliminated. That left only the possibility of death by illness, head injury or beheading.

There are several (unproven) opinions as to why the remains were minus skulls. One theory is that bounty hunters sought the skulls of buried Union soldiers when the Federal government offered rewards for retrieval of bodies. But the odd thing was that while the skulls were missing, the rest of the bones were undisturbed and the bodies were either reburied or originally buried without heads. And it’s not likely bounty hunters would be so respectful when “collecting” their prizes. Another opinion was that the skulls were removed by local islanders for voodoo rituals. Other equally scary opinions were offered, but this is one Folly Beach mystery which will never be solved.

Time and Tide on Folly Beach, Gretchen Stringer-Robinson
Ghosts of the Carolinas, Nancy Roberts