Tybee’s Dune Man

Tybee Island Ghosts..

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… Up and down the eastern seaboard there are stories about strange ‘entities’ that inhabit the shorelines. From the rocky coasts of Maine to the sandy beaches of South Florida, tales are numerous and varied, and those from Georgia’s barrier islands are no exception.

The Golden Isles, which have stood for centuries against the Atlantic, are nothing more than a series of dunes that have been accumulating one on top of another since ancient times. Anchored by floating mats of sea rack and other debris that gather along the shore, dunes are formed as the ocean’s winds pick up sand and drop it inland from the beach. Year after year, the sand piles high into ridges that eventually collect enough mass to sustain small trees, island shrubs and other vegetation,… tall sea oats, native grasses and weeds.

These newer formations rising along the beaches are not only the first line of defense against the powerful forces of wind and water, they support a unique ecosystem that thrives beneath the shelter of the small trees and underbrush.

At certain points along Tybee’s main shoreline, dunes are so large that they appear as rows of small hillocks running horizontally along the beach with a shallow depression between them. In recent years, the City of Tybee installed wooden cross-overs so that beach goers wouldn’t have to navigate the gulfs.

Micheal Elliott’s book, Running with the Dolphins (1995) specifically references one of these depressed areas as the ‘Valley of the Sea Chicken’  in his chapter about ‘Tenth Street.’  Apparently, locals used to joke that some small creature roamed the dunes at night – most likely, one of their own playing tricks on campfire gatherings or couples petting on the beach.

These days there are restrictions against building fires on the beach, and strict protections for the dunes, but you still hear stories,… and they’re not about the sea chicken.

Tybee has also placed wooden swings on the beach near the end of each of the crossovers. They are seldom vacant, even at night as residents and visitors relax at the edge of the ‘valley’ beside the mesmerizing sounds of the surf, to enjoy the ocean breezes and other ‘extracurricular’ activities.

Facing directly East, with one’s back to the dunes, the sight is particularly captivating, especially on nights when the moon is full and its rising affords a panoramic view of sailing clouds and glistening waves stretching out as far as the eye can see in three directions.

One frequent visitor to the beach used to spend long hours on the swing at the end of Twelfth Street after midnight.  He swears that on several moonlit occasions, out of the corner of his eye, he saw figures running between the surf and the dunes, sometimes farther down the beach, sometimes closer.  He calls them shadow people and says what makes them surreal is the speed at which they streak back and forth.

He admits that eyes can play tricks, but he’s not alone in his descriptions.

Others have seen these figures, especially in the winter when the island is quiet and the beach, deserted. More than one beach stroller has testified they also get the distinct impression they are being followed by someone or something that retreats to the dunes.

One particularly interesting story comes from three young Atlanta friends who were recently spending the weekend on Tybee during off-season. They’d walked to a local restaurant on South End for dinner, and later, after discovering that the moonlight was as bright as day, decided to take a late-night walk back to their rental by way of the beach.

They passed a number of dune crossovers as they made their way down, and eventually two of the friends, a couple, decided to rest in one of the swings. As the third stood facing them engaged in conversation, he noticed what he thought was a bush moving in the dunes about twenty yards away. At first he shrugged it off, but when suddenly it moved again, he mentioned it, and quietly pointed it out.

His two companions turned to see, but there was no movement.  As the conversation continued, however, the young man kept his eye on the spot.  Sure enough, nearly ten minutes later, the bush moved again. This time, he was able to quickly nudge his friends, who also noticed, but as they were poised to investigate, not only did it move, it slowly rose – an expanding, crouching shadow, and began to slide sideways.

The movement stopped their advance, as did a chilly change of temperature. The young man described the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.  Immediately, his curiosity drained away.  He and his friends could think of nothing but getting off the beach as quickly as possible. Thankfully, they were just yards away from the Eleventh Street crossover…

A similar story appears as a  reader’s submission on a site known as GHOSTS AND GHOULSThis one takes place on a night when there was a lot of heat lightning on the beach, but it also describes what appeared to be a dark, transparent figure in the dunes,  ‘a luminous shadow, shaped like a man.’

(More to come)

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Real Spooks © 2012 – Cynthia Farr Kinkel

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