It was the summer of 1968, and my extended family had gathered at my Uncle's home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to spend a couple of weeks on the beach. We did this every summer, but this year was different because we waited until after Labor Day, so everything wasn't as crowded. Also, a lot of places were closed. My Uncle had planned many adventures for us kids. Counting all my cousins, we had a baker's dozen, or thirteen, ranging in age from 4-years-old to 16. He had even arranged for a scavenger hunt that took us throughout the neighborhood and into downtown Myrtle Beach. Our vacation was almost over, and some of my older cousins were longing for something more exciting to do. I think my Uncle sensed this because he gathered 3 of my cousins and me together one night after everyone had gone to bed and took us outside to the patio where my Dad was waiting by a glowing fire. He bid us have a seat and proceeded to tell us the story of Alice Flagg.
Dr. Allard Flagg was a wealthy physician that moved his family, including his younger sister, Alice Flagg, into the Hermitage in 1849. Alice was a beautiful young woman and soon found herself in love with a lumberman. They became engaged, but they had to keep their engagement secret because he was considered beneath her social status. Thus, she wore his ring on a ribbon tied around her neck beneath her dress. It wasn't long before Dr. Flagg discovered the romance and forbade Alice from ever seeing her beau again. To further dissuade the affair, he shipped her off to a boarding school. She caught malaria and was sent back to him. Dr. Flagg discovered the ring on the ribbon around her neck and ripped it away from her. Legend has it he threw it in the swampy marshland. Alice died a few days later. People have seen Alice's ghost walking through the Hermitage and the nearby church and cemetery grounds. People who've seen her ghost say she will approach you and ask if you've seen her ring before fading into the fog. My cousin, Annie, leaned back on her elbows and said, "That's a sad story, but if you're trying to scare us, you'll have to do better. If you're trying to make us sad, you did a great job. My Uncle smiled, and said, "well, if you clowns are up to it, go get in the back of the truck. There's more to the story, but we have to go see her first."
In unison, we ran to my Uncle's truck and loaded up. My Uncle and Dad walked over and stopped where we were sitting in the truck bed. My Uncle said, "There are some rules. When we get there, partner up in pairs. Where one of you goes, the other goes. Stick together. I don't want to spend all night looking for one of you if you get lost. Understand?" We replied in unison, "yes sir." With that, we were on our way to Pawley's Island, South Carolina, in the middle of the night. For those that have never made the trip, back in 1968, the only way to get there was to take an old two-lane road along the coastline due south from Myrtle Beach for about 25 miles.
There were no little towns along the way. No traffic. No lights. Nothing. Just beautiful stars and the sounds and smells of the Atlantic Ocean. We arrived at the All Saints Cemetary and parked. My Uncle ushered us out of the truck and reminded us this was a cemetery, and Alice was a real person. He told us to remember this and to be respectful. He said, "Any shenanigans, and we get back in the truck and go home." We walked through the cemetery to Alice's grave. It was a simple gravesite for someone who had belonged to a very wealthy family. Her grave was covered with a solid piece of marble and was engraved with her first name, Alice. There were other markings on the marble, but time had all but erased them. We stood there staring at the grave under a bright September Carolina moon when my cousin, Renee, said, "Is this it? Is this all why we came here?" She sounded the disappointment we were all feeling. My Uncle smiled and said, not quite.
"Who's first?" he replied. I said, "I'll go. But what for?" He was still smiling when he placed both hands on my shoulders and said, "There's a legend we can call Alice from her grave. Do you want to give it a try?" Now everyone was quiet and staring at my Uncle and me. He continued without waiting for me to say yes or no. "Go over and stand at the foot of her grave. When I tell you to, walk backward, counterclockwise around her grave six times and stop. Then lay down on the ground and place your left ear on top of the letter 'A' of her name. If it works, you should hear her trying to scratch her way out of the ground." The rest of you hold hands and whisper, "Come to us, Alice." By now, we were all focused. I began my backward walk. Although it was September, the Carolina humidity was high. It was hot and sticky, and there were mosquitos everywhere. I made the first loop around Alice's grave and nearly fell when I tripped over my own feet. My shoelace had came untied. I stopped and retied it. I continued my backward journey...5 loops, four loops, 3...2...1. I stood there for a second to make sure I had my count right, and that's when I first noticed my cousins chanting, "Come to us, Alice." I knelt and scooted my feet out, so I was prone on the ground, and I placed my left ear directly over the letter "A" of her name and waited. At first, I heard nothing. Then I heard a faint scratching sound. I strained and realized it was the sounds of my ear rubbing on the marble slab. I was about to tell my Uncle I didn't hear anything when I heard the first loud scratch. There was no mistaking this sound. I froze. It sounded as if someone were right on the other side of the marble, and they were frantically trying to dig their way out of the ground. I was terrified, and it must have shown in my eyes because my Dad and my Uncle came over to me and stood me up. My Dad asked me, "Are you okay?" I stood there saying nothing. Then I blurted out, "I heard it. I heard her or something trying to dig out."
Everyone, including my Uncle, was quiet. Even the ocean breeze had stopped blowing, and for a brief moment, the moon had disappeared behind some clouds. Finally, my Uncle said, "Well then! Success. Let's all take a peek inside the church where she attended services. Then we will head over to the Hermitage and see if we can spot the old gal. Make sure ya'll keep your eyes open along the way. It's been said she will sometimes appear on the grounds as if she's looking for her ring." There was no need to remind us to stay together. After my experience, it was all we could do to keep from tripping over each other. We walked up to the church and explored the grounds before going inside. We didn't see anything that would give us an alarm, and soon we were all back to normal, cutting jokes and whining about how much longer before we could go home. We finally made it over to the Hermitage and went inside. The community had converted the building into a local museum, and the doors were never locked. Admittance was free, but small donations were always accepted at the door by placing money in a lockbox. My Dad walked over to the safe, and I saw him put several dollars inside. To me, it was just a bunch of old paintings and furniture. Not the ideal place for teenagers to have fun on a Friday night. However, I noticed we had all split up into groups of two and wandered around looking at different things. There's a giant staircase, but it was roped off with a sign with no admittance written on it. The stairs are where I first saw Alice or what I believed to be Alice.
Annie and I were standing at the foot of the staircase looking at a bust of Dr. Flagg when I felt the temperature drop suddenly. I told Annie the air conditioning felt good, but I can't believe they left it turned on in the middle of the night. Annie didn't reply, so I looked over at her first and saw she had a look of terror on her face. I followed her stare, and there on the staircase about halfway up, was a woman. She was wearing a white sleeping gown. Her hair was jet black. Her skin was as white as the gown she was wearing. She was holding her right arm bent across her body as if she was grasping a necklace around her neck. She stood there looking back at both of us. I summoned enough courage to shout, "Alice?". When I said her name, Annie turned to run, and Alice faded into the stairs as if she had never been there. I turned back to Annie, who had almost made it to the lobby before I caught up to her. She was terrified. I grabbed her arm to stop her when both my Uncle and my Dad showed up. Annie was sobbing, but together we explained what we saw. My Dad and Uncle exchanged looks, then my Uncle said, "Okay, enough of this for one night. I'll get the others, and we will go home. This situation has gotten too real." My Uncle disappeared while my Dad and I stayed with Annie to calm her down. A few minutes later, my Uncle returned and said he couldn't find Renee or Terry, and maybe they had already gone outside to explore.
We walked outside to the pavilion to see if we could see them. My Dad told me to take Annie back to the truck and stay there. He and my Uncle would find the other two and join us as soon as they found them. Meanwhile, Renee and Terry were upstairs inside the Hermitage. They had ignored the roped warning sign and had gone upstairs when no one was watching. Once upstairs, they did what any nosey teenager would do. They explored every unlocked room they could find. They were just about to leave when they came to a long hallway marked with one sign marked private. At the end of the hallway, two doors faced each other with a window in between. They had tip-toed very quietly down the hallway and had opened one of the doors. That room was empty. When they opened the other door, it was like they had stepped back in time. It didn't take them long to figure out this was Alice's room. There were paintings of her everywhere. There were also books and papers. A large red velvet settee was positioned beneath a large double window that opened onto the courtyard. From this position, you could see everyone and anything that came onto the grounds. Terry and Renee were still looking out the window when they first saw Alice's apparition. She was dressed all in white and appeared floating across the yard from the cemetery to the Hermitage. She stopped a couple of times and looked directly at the window where Terry and Renee were watching. Renee believed she could see them, and it frightened her a little. Before they had time to stand up and exit her room, Alice was inside her room. She floated from the door to her vanity, then over to her bed, where she appeared to sit for only a moment. Renee grabbed Terry's hand and motioned him to move toward the door. When they moved, Alice disappeared from the bed and reappeared on the settee, and the lock to the door locked in a thunderous way.
Alice was staring at them now. In a ghostly voice, she said, "Why are you in my room? Have you found my ring?" Terry's grip on Renee's hand tightened. Suddenly, Alice stood up and floated past them and through the door. Terry tried opening the door, but it would not open. Renee ran to the window and opened it. They were too high up to escape through the window. A few minutes passed, and they saw Alice floating across the yard back towards the cemetery. Then they saw my Dad and Uncle walking through the yard, calling out their names. The door unlocked. They made their escape and ran downstairs and outside to the truck. I beeped the horn on that old Ford several times, and before long, my Dad and Uncle came around the corner and headed towards us. When we were all together, Renee told us what they had seen and experienced, and Annie shared what we had seen with everyone. My Uncle and Dad stood there in silence. Finally, my Dad said, "Okay, ya'll have had your fun and now it's time to go home. There's no such thing as ghosts." Dad just got the words out of his mouth, when Alice's apparition appeared again. This time she came across the courtyard headed straight for the truck and us. Everyone saw her. Just before made it to the rear of the truck, she disappeared, then reappeared again, in front of the truck and continued back inside the Hermitage House. The front door slammed shut.
When we arrived home, my Dad and Uncle told us to be very quiet going inside and not to wake the younger kids. They told us not to say anything to our other parents until we were all together so we could share our adventure at the same time. We all went to bed. It was close to three in the morning. The sleeping arrangements put all of the boys in one room and all of the girls in another. The girls had a large bed and several cots to sleep on. The boys were in my Uncle's study, so we had a couch and pallets to sleep on. I crawled into my pallet facing the only window and stared outside at the moon. Before long, I was drifting off to sleep. I awakened a few minutes later to a noise. It was the sound of a rocking chair squeaking back and forth. There was a rocking chair in the room with us. The chair was directly behind me. I was petrified...frozen with fear. Who was in the chair, rocking, watching me? The only way I would ever know would be to turn over and look. Every time I moved, even a little, the squeaking stopped. I could feel the sweat running down my face. My cousins were all sound asleep. Was I imagining this? All it would take is for me to roll over and look. The rocking continued again only this time it was louder and it seemed closer. I tried imaging what I would see if I turned over suddenly and looked. What or who was rocking the chair? Why were they torturing me? Was it Alice? Now on top of everything else, I had to pee. I mustered the courage and decided if it were a ghost or a monster, I was going to make a lot of noise before it got me.
I held my breath and rolled over. There less than four feet from me was a white rocking chair. No one was sitting in. I noticed it was against a wall and couldn't rock, so it must have been my imagination all along. I kind of laughed to myself and stood up and went to the bathroom. When I returned to the bedroom a few minutes later, I saw a red ribbon laying on the seat of the rocking chair. When I picked it up, there was a beautiful ring attached to the ribbon. I turned and looked at the window and saw someone walking away from the house. When I peered outside, it was Alice.