In the mid 1800’s, while living at The Hermitage in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina during the colonel period, Alice Flagg fell in love with a lumberman and became engaged. Her mother and brother, a prominent doctor, believed the young man to be beneath their social and economic status and had forbidden the engagement.
Alice secretly accepted the engagement ring from her true love and wore it on a ribbon around her neck. When her mother (or brother, depending on which version told) discovered the ring, an argument ensued. As a result, Alice was sent away to a school in Charleston, South Carolina.
Being distraught over losing her true love, Alice became gravely ill. Her brother traveled four days to Charleston and four days back to Murrells Inlet by horse and carriage. Upon returning home to The Hermitage, Alice fell into a coma and died.
Her family buried Alice at All Saints Church in Pawley’s Island in her favorite dress and her ring was removed (again, according to the storyteller, the ring was ripped from her neck by her brother prior to going to Charleston). A simple gravestone placed over her burial site was marked “ALICE.”
According to legend, Alice Flagg’s ghost still haunts her home in The Hermitage searching for her one true love. At her gravesite, it is said that she continues to search for her lost ring. If you place your ring on her grave and then walk backwards around her grave thirteen times (the number of times also varies according to the storyteller), your ring is said to disappear.
The ghost of Alice Flagg is one of the most popular ghost stories on the South Carolina coast closely followed by The Gray Man, also of Pawley’s Island. The stories do vary with each teller of the legends. My family and I decided to find out about Alice Flagg for ourselves.
One year, during the Halloween season, my husband I took the kids and a couple of their friends out ghost hunting and Alice Flagg’s grave were one of the places we visited. We put a ring on the grave and walked around the grave marker thirteen times backwards (staying on the path already there made by the years and years of past walkers). Quite disappointedly, nothing happened.
Woody Chavis, a local Georgetown resident, said: “My mother once told me a story about walking around the grave and Alice would turn your ring because she is looking for the one her daddy denied her.
Debi Ridlehoover, of Spartanburg, offered this story: “How many times at night did we drive over there? How many people can you put in one VW? How many times did the guys sneak out and scare the religion out of us while we were walking backwards under those creepy moss covered trees and shadows in that dark graveyard? Well, there are too many stories to tell! But, oh, how I can laugh about it NOW!”
“It was not her father. It was her brother who tossed away her ring after she became secretly engaged while at school in Charleston. She had to come home due to illness and the ring was discovered which she had hidden and was wearing around her neck,” Melissa Jane Wyndham of Columbia.
Sara Thacker: “My mom used to work in Pawley’s Island and she took me and my older brother there after she shared the story with us. I was about five or six years old. My older brother frightened me before we got to the grave. He thoroughly had me convinced that Alice would appear once we walked around the grave so many times. By the time we got to the grave, I was begging him not to walk around it. He yelled, ‘look there is the ring!’ I kept my eyes closed while trying to peek through my fingers.”
Rene' Bowers Atkinson of Columbia shared her experience. “Well, there were nine of us from Columbia staying in Garden City for a week (1971). We went to Alice's grave one night (midnight) and I wanted to stay in the car but someone said that’s the first person ghost go after. So, I got out of the car. After several people put their rings on the grave and walked backwards, this man comes up with a shotgun pointing it at us and tells us all to sit on the ground. He had a couple of little boys with him and told one of them to call the sheriff (thank God!). The police came and took all of our names and said we had to be in court that coming Monday (we were all leaving to go back home the next day). We had to go home and tell our parents what happened. Luckily, one of the guys who was with us had a father who was a judge and we didn't have to return on Monday, but we did each have to pay $25.”
Debbie Spears O'Rear: “Cliff and I went there to walk the grave (it was 13 times backwards). We had barely started when this bright light came out of nowhere and this deep voice said, ‘What are you two doing trespassing on private property? You know I can shoot you!’ He scared the crap out of poor Cliff but halfway through I knew my Dad, Sgt. Lester Spears, had once again followed me on my date! I was so mad I didn’t speak to him for a week. Of course, I was grounded for a month.”
Whatever the story, the legend lives on more than 100 years later and every year, especially around Halloween, Alice Flagg has visitors. Everyone is trying to help her find her missing engagement ring; evident by the bare and grassless path around her gravestone (All Saints Church now locks its gates at night so no one can come in anymore. Anyone caught sneaking in is fined for trespassing).