The Oldest Ghost in America?

Pinky is a cute little guy who sometimes plays with children in The Castle at Beaufort, SC. The children may have named him for his pink jester’s outfit. Only the children can see him, as he plays pranks and makes himself scarce when adults are around. His real name is Guernauche, and he’s a French Huguenot dwarf who’s been floating around since the town was settled and then he met with some unfortunate death in 1562. Of course, he’s a ghost, so who’s to say what his real story is!

Guernauche is the most well known and the oldest ghost of Beaufort, and possibly the oldest ghost in America, according to Harper’s Bazaar in 1940. The 1859 home called The Castle is thought to please him because of its resemblance to homes in his native country. How do we know about him? “Well, we just know. Of course we know he’s there,” storytellers will insist.

“Because every family who’s ever lived there has had children tell of seeing him,” says Donnie Beer, a storyteller once a year when she’s off duty from her post as Beaufort City councilwoman.

While the ghosts of Beaufort could possibly be seen, heard or felt any time by those in tune with the supernatural, they are most likely to make their annual appearances during the last two weekends in October when they are eagerly anticipated to entertain guests of the Ghost Tours. For your own look at the rest of the story…and many more…visit Beaufort for a proper celebration of Halloween.

You might learn about the well known bride of Blackbeard, a lovely blonde who could possibly be seen walking the beach along Fripp Island at night. She was reportedly abducted by the nasty pirate, but she was in love with a handsome gentleman in Charleston. When she learned that Blackbeard’s men were sent to kill her true lover, as evidenced by their return showing her young man’s hand as a trophy, she walked into the ocean to drown her tears. This bride’s story is sometimes told by noted storyteller Millie Boyce, looking over the marsh toward Fripp Island and hoping the evidence of the severed hand doesn’t appear to frighten the audience. Some storytellers relate that the young couple still walks the beach together because their love could not be drowned. Of course, they are ghosts, so interpretation may be applied liberally.

Watch for another restless spirit which sometimes is thought to walk back and forth on the upstairs veranda of a house called Little Casino. She was a freed slave who had purchased the house after the Civil War. When the hurricane of 1893 brought flood waters up to the second floor, she was unable to leave.

Union soldiers frequent several homes, and a Confederate soldier crawls out of the marsh to walk away without having feet. Or rather the ghosts of such soldiers might be seen. These occurrences don’t seem surprising to Beaufortonians, who remind visitors that the town was occupied by the Union Army early in the Civil War.

Beaufort’s ghosts are believed to frequent primarily the Old Point neighborhood along with a few other locations where the oldest of the old can be found, thus lending credence to the founding of their stories.

If you see a ghost, old or young, would you please send us a picture? We would really like to know more about this.

Beaufort history is reviewed in our new book published by Tourist Town — Hilton Head: A Guide to the South Carolina Lowcountry. It’s available at the Cuthbert House Inn in Beaufort and Rose Hill Mansion in Bluffton, both of which might have ghosts of their own too.

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