The Daily Gamecock

Southern oddities: The Land's End Light

The Daily Gamecock staff sets out to investigate an alleged ghost light that haunts Beaufort, SC, as well as the ruins of a nearby chapel. Read more on:

Forts, waterfronts and plantations are among the Palmetto State's most enticing and iconic tourist hot spots. But for those looking to venture off the beaten path, the state has much to offer in terms of the odd, surreal and even supernatural.

The Land’s End Light in Beaufort, South Carolina is one such point of curiosity among thrill seekers.

According to Eat Stay Play Beaufort, the light appears to cars parked beneath the "Hanging Tree” on Land’s End Road. Those hoping to see the light traditionally park their car beside the tree, turn off the car and wait in darkness for the phenomenon to materialize. 

What begins as an apparent single headlight somewhere in the distance grows in size and dims in brightness as it approaches. Once it passes, it’s said to leave passengers with a static charge.

There are many origin stories. Some local legends say slaves were hung from the limbs of the tree. Others say a Confederate soldier was beheaded beneath its branches. Some rumors speculate the light is the spirit of children who died in a car accident on the road in the ‘70s. 

The light is a point of contention for skeptics, who say it’s no more than swamp gas or an optical illusion. So, curious, skeptical and the tiniest bit afraid, we decided to investigate the light for ourselves.

With a car full of The Daily Gamecock staffers anxious to see what the phenomenon was really about and a picture from a local blog as our guide, we made our way down the marsh-side road in search of the “Hanging Tree” of legend. Draped in Spanish moss and cast in a moony silver glow, the road was eerie on its own merit, potential ghosts aside.

With our high beams on, we picked the tree out from the roadside foliage and, per instruction, killed the engine and waited in silence for the dome lights to go out.

“Sitting in the darkness, waiting for this light, I was almost peeing my pants,” said Stephanie Justice, social media editor and arts writer.

In preface, we have to say the following: The Daily Gamecock as an institution takes no hard stance on the existence or non-existence of ghosts, ghost orbs, ghost children, et. al. We can only report what we saw, and what we saw was a clear round light in the distance after waiting about a minute.

At first, we assured each other that what we were seeing were the headlights of an oncoming car about to pass us on the road. After all, you can see a remarkably long way into the distance on the straight stretch before the “Hanging Tree.” 

But as we watched, the light appeared to alternately dim and brighten as it hovered in the distance. 

“My whole body felt cold,” Justice said. “I went cold with fear.”

As the light drew closer, it remained a single orb as opposed to two distinct headlights. A car approached from behind the spot where we parked, and once the car passed, the light evaporated into blackness.

“I don’t think it was a car. It had to be something else,” Clara Bergeson, opinion editor, said. “The way it flickered after the car came by, that’s not normal.”

According to some locals, viewers should turn the car on before the light gets to them for fear of an ominous encounter with an angry spirit. While some staffers remain skeptical, in that moment, we collectively decided to start the car and drive away.

“I still think there was a car coming and it turned because the road is so straight, so you could not tell if that was not a car,” Shreyas Saboo, The Daily Gamecock photo co-editor, said.

Some staffers point to a distant car or swamp gas as the entity. Some believe it was a ghost. Some aren’t quite sure what they saw. Regardless, we can say with some confidence that something super funky is afoot in Beaufort.