Brookgreen Gardens’ Bloodstain Barn and Atalaya Castle’s Gold-Watcher – mystery tales at Huntington Beach Park

Art lovers, sculpture aficionados and nature enthusiasts watch out! As you stroll Brookgreen Gardens’ peaceful trails showered by a rainbow of extravagant floral arrangements, as you admire one of the most magnificent outdoor sculptures collection in the country, it’s hard to imagine the pain and suffering soaked in these grounds.

“Bloodstains of the dead…Tread them down; walk them out; cover them up. All in vain!”

Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens

Yes, is slavery blood and all the misery that came along with it. During the Civil War this land was part of the Brookgreen Plantation.
Most of the time the owners were out traveling, leaving the business operations to Fraser the overseer. And Fraser “never failed to draw blood”.

“When someone is in the bull pen they have to take a ride on the pony…The overseer gave my mama forty lashes with the strap…A pool of mama’s blood was on the barn floor.”

Once freedom came to Waccamaw River the people tried hunting Fraser down for payback. He was never found. Yet the blood stains in the barn were still there, a painful reminder of their ordeal.
“We didn’t want to pass through the barn…We tried to get rid of them. Tried to wash them off. Wash! Scrub! Stains came back. We walked back and forth…Stomp! Stomp! Stains came back.

Brookgreen Gardens Yellow Sea

Brookgreen Gardens Yellow Sea

We wondered for Christ’s sake why the bloodstains didn’t leave…years passed and still the blood remained”

More than 50 years later, in 1930, Archer Huntington came in, bought the plantation and transformed it into Brookgreen Gardens. “He saw the bloodstains and he tore down the barn. Yep. That was the first thing Huntington did when he bought the plantation…Until he did that, the bloodstains stayed right there.”

Joe, the gold-watcher at Atalaya

Here’s another story that sheds light into Mr. and Mrs. Huntington character and the incredible Atalaya Castle. As a young boy “Archer’s energy seemed unlimited, and his quick mind grasped everything he saw and read…He intended to spend his live giving his father fortune away.”

People in the area were enthuziastic about the jobs prospects from the start of the outdoor museum (Brookgreen Gardens) and a future house (Atalaya). It was Depression time after all. “When they earned a few dollars, they looked at them and counted them, and figure out how far they would go. They didn’t go very far.”

Joe was one of them. He got a job as loading and removing sand but he failed miserably…wrecking the truck on the first day right in front of Mr. Huntington. He was fired on the spot.

Atalaya Castle Huntington Beach

Atalaya Castle Huntington Beach

Joe persisted and few weeks later got a second chance. He split logs, stacked the wood and kept the fire burning at the more than 30 fireplaces inside Atalaya. There were rumors the Huntington hoarded large quantities of money at Atalaya, but Joe saw none of it, for a while at least…

Few weeks later Anna Huntington needed a “scrawny horse” to carve the statue of Don Quixote. Joe found a “nag with bones showing through its rough coat and a head hung nearly to its knees”. Mrs. Huntington was delighted and she pledged to nurse the horse back to health. Joe volunteered for the task. Things looked much rosier with his employers.

Indeed, at Christmas night his trustworthiness was put to the test. Archer Huntington asked Joe to help him move a heavy oak table into the master bathroom. “As the glowing fire reflected on the table, the table itself seemed about to burst into flame. For there, on the table, were stacks of gold, real gold, coins…varying in size from a watermelon seed to a silver dollar”

“Joe, I want you to remain here in the bathroom and keep an eye on it. I will come for it in the morning”. And so he did. To this day, Joe doesn’t know where the gold came from or where it went. He only knows that Huntington trusted him with his fortune that night. “A job that started out so badly ended with each man respecting, and even liking, each other.”

Come to Brookgreen Gardens and Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park for a once in a lifetime inspirational vacation!

Disclaimer: All the quotes in this post are from Nancy Rhine’s riveting book “Tales of the South Carolina Lowcountry”, an engaging collection of folklore, ghost haunts, and real stories from remote Lowcountry lanes old-timers.


9 Responses

  1. […] about the mysterious Brookgreen Gardens beginnings and the folklore surrounding its remarkable founders as illustrated in Nancy Rhine’s fascinating book […]

  2. […] for more Lowcountry folklore? Learn about the Brookgreen Plantation’s bloodstains of the death and the Atalaya Castle’s gold-watcher. Even better go visit them in person they’re right around Georgetown (at Huntington Beach […]

  3. […] for more Lowcountry folklore? Visit Huntington Beach State Park to learn about Brookgreen Plantation’s bloodstains of the dead and Atalaya Castle’s […]

  4. I recently visited the Huntington State Beach Park in April, 2010 and the day was bright and beautiful.

    After staying on the beach, I walke over to Atalaya for the $1.00 tour and along the way started taking photos with my digital camera.

    I approached a green double-door and was still taking photos. Later, I discovered on one of my photos only (of all the photos taken in that area), a purplish light which appeared to be coming from out of the ground in a shadow of a tree.

    I enlarged the photo on my camera and it appears as if there is a very thin figure in the middle of this light, embracing his/herself.

    Very strange – I felt a bit eerie (sp?) after the viewing, as I remembered asking myself questions as I was walking and taking photos – I wonder if slaves lived here and if any atrocities occured?

    Any feedback would be curious.

    Thank you for sharing the above-referenced story.

    • Yolanda,
      Brookgreen and Huntington Beach State Park were built on an old plantation owned by William Alston. ( Also, in more modern times and after the Huntingtons were at Atalaya, the castle was used as a “fort” during World War II.

      As a plantation, there are quite a few stories of how slaves were treated both good and bad, but I’ve mostly heard bad. I do know that Atalaya was built by local handymen and local laborers around the time of the Great Depression in order to “stimulate” the local economy and give locals trades to use for themselves.

      My husband and I are photographers in the area and would love to see your picture if you don’t mind sharing. I’ve had some weird experiences at Atalaya and also going through Brookgreen Gardens. I love history and I’m intrigued by ghosts and ghost stories.

      I wish I had come across this before, but while at Atalaya today for the Holiday Celebration, I noticed things and became rather curious and started doing more research (again, lol). Thank you for sharing and I hope this finds you well and you enjoyed your time at the beach.


  5. I’m sure slaves lived there. And like any other place in the Lowcountry, Atalaya too should have a few ghost stories.

    In fact, Huntington Beach State Park offers a guided Atalaya Ghost Tour on Friday nights (8:30 to 9:30). Maybe you just witnessed one of them!

    I suggest you contact the park and see if you can talk with one of the guides who does the tour

    Phone: (843) 237-4440

    Let us know what you find out. This is fascinating!

    Thanks for your great story


  6. Super awesome article. Honestly..

  7. […] years old cypress tree trunk lines the path of the Lowcountry Trail. A silent witness to so many stories, mysteries and human struggles… Enormous cypress tree trunk dug out at Brookgreen […]

  8. […] and the slave overseer’s house and kitchen ruins on the Lowcountry Trail. Beware, there several ghosts haunting the plantation and the nearby […]

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