Free and romantic Hilton Head attractions: mysterous Leamington Lighthouse, a ghost legend and military treasure

Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, the Leamington Lighthouse, is a legendary historic site on Hilton Head Island.

1881 Lighthouse belived to be haunted by light keeper's daughter ghost

1881 Lighthouse belived to be haunted by light keeper's daughter ghost


Originally known as the Hilton Head Range Light Station, the unusual skeleton and cypress wood structure was built to guide ships into Port Royal Sound.

It is the only historic lighthouse on Hilton Head Island and one of few surviving lighthouses in South Carolina

Historic Highlights (courtesy of Friends of the Lighthouse)

• In 1863 Union troops built the island first light, but only 6 years later the original tower was destroyed by a storm.

• In 1881 a pair of range lights was erected to guide vessels into Port Royal Sound. The front light stood 35 feet high right above the keeper’s house while the rear light was served by the 95 feet high skeleton-like tower. The cypress wood lantern and watch room were reached by climbing 112 steps.

• In 1884, a mobile front range light was constructed to track the shifting channel.

Lighthouse cistern ruin

Lighthouse cistern ruin


• In 1932 the lights were decommissioned and during World War II the surrounding area became Camp McDougal, a training facility for Marines men, dogs and horses.

• In the 1960s, the keeper’s dwellings were moved to Harbour Town at Sea Pines Plantation Resort.

Currently, one dwelling serves as a Bakery and Cafe, while the other is home to the Sea Pines Real Estate Company.

• In the mid 1980s the lighthouse was incorporated into the new Arthur Hills Golf Course at Palmetto Dunes Resort.

• Today the only remains are the old brick oil house and the cistern.

The Lady in Blue Ghost Story… (from “Ghosts of the Carolina Coasts”, by Terrance Zepke, 1999)

In 1898 a powerful hurricane washed over the island. Keeper Adam Fripp rushed to protect the lights.

Drenched in heavy rain, Fripp made his way to the tower and up the spiral staircase. A powerful gust of wind shattered one of the glass panes in the lantern room.

The strain of the ascent coupled with the shock of the exploding glass was more than Fripp’s heart could handle.

What was once Camp McDougal WWII, a Marines training site

What was once Camp McDougal WWII, a Marines training site

His daughter Caroline noticed her father’s prolonged absence and went in search of him.

She discovered him inside the tower who, with a last breath, implored her to “keep the light burning no matter how dangerous the storm.”

Several days passed before anyone made it to the island. Caroline had managed to tend the light throughout the storm, but her sorrow and exhaustion proved too much, as she died shortly thereafter.

People say that on dark rainy nights a girl in a blue dress may be seen on the beach or near the skeleton tower signaling with her arms to “Go back… Go back”.

Avid for more ghost stories and romantic sites? Drive to Sea Pines Plantation to wander around the haunted Stoney-Baynard Ruins and 4,000 years old mystery-filled Indian Shell Ring.

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3 Responses

  1. […] yummy cookies and lunch at the Bakery Cafe next to the Center. This is a historic building: an 1880 Leamington House Lightkeeper Cottage brought to Palmetto Dunes during WII to monitor German submarines […]

  2. […] Tower) located on the gold course inside Palmetto Dunes Resort. On stormy rainy days, some say the anguished ghost of a blue-dress wearing girl, may be seen near the beach warning sea darers to take […]

  3. […] Skeleton Tower, located inside the Palmetto Dunes resort, is Hilton Head’s first lighthouse. It consisted of 2 lights, the 95 foot tower and one on top a […]

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