The Blue Lady of Palmetto Dunes
A Hilton Head Ghost Story
For fifty years, Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has been a destination for fond memories and happy times. But did you know that it’s also the home of a ghost story rooted in tragedy? The Blue Lady of Palmetto Dunes is one of the famous haunted stories of Hilton Head Island, and this true tale of misfortune took place in what is now Palmetto Dunes.
Take one look at the skeletal tower of the lighthouse that sits in the Leamington Area of Palmetto Dunes (on what is now the Arthur Hills Golf Course), and you can easily imagine how treacherous it must have been to climb to its lamp during the wind and rain of stormy weather. This is where our story begins.
In the late 1800s, Caroline Fripp lived with her father Adam Fripp, a lighthouse keeper. They tended to a lighthouse (the very one that now sits near the 5th hole of the Arthur Hills Golf Course), and Adam was as devoted to his charge of keeping ships safe during storms as he was to his doting daughter.
In 1898, a powerful hurricane battered the coast of South Carolina. It was one of the deadliest storms to hit the region and reportedly was the cause of 1,000 deaths in the area. Adam struggled through the whipping wind and pounding rain to keep the lighthouse flame lit, worried for the safety of a ship offshore. The stress was too much and Adam suffered a heart attack—falling from the perilous ladder of the lighthouse tower.
Caroline rushed from the safety of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage to her father’s aid, helping him to his bed and pleading for him to let her go for help. With his last breath, Adam insisted she stay at the lighthouse to keep the lamp lit for the safety of others.
Caroline obeyed her father’s dying wishes and spent the evening going between the cottage and the lighthouse, climbing to the top of the tower to tend to the flame. The events of that fateful night never left Caroline, who could be seen pacing between the two structures with grief for days, maybe even weeks after the storm, mourning her father and refusing to take off the blue dress she had been wearing the night he died.
It’s unclear how long Caroline lived after the storm passed. Some stories say that she died at a young age a mere three weeks later; others suggest that she lived a long life, carrying out her father’s wishes—tending the lighthouse and keeping ships safe in storms. The story goes that when she did die, she was buried in that very same blue dress.
As lighthouses became automated, the Leamington Lighthouse fell into disuse and ill repair. In 1960, materials from the lighthouse keeper’s cottage were used in the construction of Harbour Town and CQ’s restaurant, and this disruption may have been the cause for the ghost sightings that have been reported thereafter.
One story of the first reported sighting is that two young lovers drove out by the Leamington lighthouse one rainy night. While parked, they looked out the window to see a woman’s figure, bathed in ghostly blue light and wearing a Victorian-era dress. The young man gasped, “A blue lady!”
To this day, whenever the skies darken and stormy weather arrives, there are reports of the figure of a woman in a blue dress, pacing outside the lighthouse—the Blue Lady of Palmetto Dunes.