By Mary M. Greene
When I was in high school, I babysat a VERY smart little boy who lived in one of the oldest homes in Beaufort. Let’s call the little boy “Charlie.” Charlie and his parents moved into the house when he was about three years old. Charlie was an extremely bright and articulate little boy, and at the time was an only child. He was tall for his age and had big brown eyes and sandy blond curly hair.
Almost immediately after moving in, Charlie began to talk about “the man.” It wasn’t like “the man” was an imaginary friend, or if he got in trouble he would blame things on the man; every now and then he would just talk about “the man.” Usually reports of the man by Charlie were just “sightings,” not necessarily telling us what “the man” was doing. There were some delft tiles around the fireplace in Charlie’s room, and I always convinced myself that he was so smart he was imagining stories about what that man would be doing. (On the tile, the man had two buckets held together by a yoke.) But the man in Charlie’s description was always dressed in 18th century attire. We just always laughed about “the man.” It never creeped me out even when I babysat Charlie overnight or house sat for them when they were away.
As he got a little older, apparently “the man” became quite attached to Charlie, because when Charlie would go to visit his grandparents out of town for a while, strange things would happen. One night, the neighbors called Charlie’s parents and said, “You must have had a dinner party tonight and left the candles burning in the dining room.” Except they had NOT had a dinner party and had not been in the dining room at all that evening. In fact, they had to walk by the dining room to go upstairs and knew the candles were not lit when they went to bed. Charlie’s Mother said when they went back downstairs the flames on the candles were about 6 inches tall.
Another time that Charlie was gone visiting his grandparents, his parents were upstairs getting dressed to go out, and heard a loud noise downstairs. When they came to investigate, one of the candelabras in the dining room had been snapped in half, and the other one was still in the upright position on the table.
His parents would also come down the stairs some mornings and find pictures that had previously been hanging on the wall, sitting on the floor, leaned against the wall along the stairs. Not cracked or face down as if they had fallen off the wall, but leaned as if someone had taken them off the picture hook and sat them on the floor. The pictures were on hooks, not just nails, so they would have had to have been lifted up and off to be removed from the hook, rather than the nail just coming out of the wall and them sliding down. As a grown up, Charlie says he remembers a man with a black beard coming out of the fireplace to tuck him in at night, and to tell him not to be afraid of him.
When I was babysitting Charlie, I had never read the story in Tales of Beaufort about the house and the gardener who would dig holes in odd places in the yard. Mrs. Morris, the woman Charlie’s parents bought the house from, asked him why he dug holes in places other than where she asked him to dig. The yard man described the “funny men” who came and talked to him while he was working in the yard, and he described them wearing early 18th century clothes.
One day the gardener was very excited and told Mrs. Morris the “funny men” were going to come to him tonight and tell him where the gold was buried, and that he would come to work the next day and dig it up. He didn’t come to work the next day, or for the week after. Mrs. Morris finally got in the car and drove out to his house, and the man had been stricken with a stroke the night the “funny men” were supposed to visit him. He could never speak again, or come dig in the yard, and died soon after. The gold, if its location was in fact revealed, remains buried in the yard.
When we sold my parent’s home in 1997, I found my dad’s old copy of Tales of Beaufort and it sent a chill up my spine. I couldn’t help but wonder if “the man” was one of the same “funny men” that used to talk to the yard man so many years before. It has been well documented that Blackbeard, the most feared of the pirates, was in the Beaufort, South Carolina area at Fripp Island as well as in the John Cross Tavern on Bay Street. Perhaps since he was so associated with Beaufort, North Carolina, and the outer banks area, he wanted to throw people off by burying some of his treasure in Beaufort, South Carolina. It was said that he would take a party of 6 or 7 of his crew members ashore to bury the treasure, and when he returned alone, the rest of the crew would ask him where the others were, to which he would reply “Guarding the Treasure.” Apparently, they were guarding the treasure after having their throats cut and being buried with it, so that they could not reveal the treasure’s location.
So does a certain house on The Point hold both the ghost of a pirate and the buried treasure he was left behind to guard? I don’t know, but I do know one thing – I wouldn’t spend the night in that house by myself again!
Mary M. Greene has been described by Marlene Osteen, widow of Chef Louis Osteen, as “a seductive and skilled Southern storyteller.” She’s the author of The Cheese Biscuit Queen Tells All, a food memoir recalling the stories and recipes of beloved family and friends. Her next Book – The Cheese Biscuit Queen: I don’t believe I’d have told THAT! is due out in the Fall of 2024. She hopes those stories do not embarrass her Mother TOO much. In her “other life,” she’s a government relations consultant who’s enjoyed a 45-year career in lobbying and politics, which also produces some pretty great stories. She divides her time between her hometown of Beaufort, and Columbia.