I don’t believe in the designated hitter rule in baseball. I don’t believe in mustard sauce on barbecue. I don’t believe in motivational posters with kittens hanging from a chin-up bar. But I believe in ghosts. Completely.
Since I was kid, I’ve been, well, sort of obsessed with them. In the sixth grade, I read Nancy Roberts’ book on South Carolina ghosts so many times, I split the spine on the school library’s copy. A high school girlfriend lived in the antebellum, old funeral home, and one night I heard somebody who wasn’t there walk up the long stairway. I even subjected my two daughters to the undead when I took them to Alice of Hermitage’s grave at dusk, had them walk backwards around the headstone, and scared the pants off them. Humbly said, I know some South Carolina ghosts. But I’d never heard about the one at the Pelican Inn on Pawleys Island.
’Til Death Do (Not) Us Part // The Pelican Inn on Pawleys Island dates back to the 1850s; after the Civil War, it was a boarding house whose owner Mrs. Mazyck ran a tight ship. She continues to keep watch of the treasured inn, ensuring that no one falls asleep on the job.
Before you say, “Oh, yeah, the Gray Man lives there,” check yourself. That’s probably not true. The dates don’t jibe. Colonel Plowden Weston, who built the Pelican Inn in the late 1850s, probably is not the infamous Gray Man. The ghost that inhabits the Pelican Inn is a different kind of spirit. It’s a she. And she has an agenda.
I heard her story from Corinne and Bruce Taylor, the current owners of the Pelican Inn. Corinne and Bruce are from Atlanta, where he’s an attorney and Corinne, a physician. They bought the place in 2010, and after some renovations, opened the inn to summer guests. (Corinne spends June through July living at the Pelican, and Bruce commutes on weekends until Labor Day, when they close the inn for the off-season, opening only for the occasional private event.) Perched between the dunes and the marsh, the Pelican Inn has been a coastal landmark for more than a century and a half, and under the Taylors’ ownership, it has evolved into the kind of place that brings guests back summer after summer for the food and the wide porches and the laid-back Southern comfort.
Corinne and Bruce dug through the history of the Pelican Inn when they bought it. They learned about how Colonel Weston had the building constructed on the mainland, had every piece numbered and labeled, then floated the disassembled house to Pawleys where it was reconstructed board by board behind the highest dune on the island. After Weston died of tuberculosis, his wife (who wanted nothing to do with the house) returned to her native England. Cousins of Weston, the Mazyck family, bought the inn and turned it into a boarding house in the mid-1860s, just after the conclusion of the Civil War.
According to legend, Mrs. Mazyck, a very petite woman, ran the boarding house with a diminutive iron fist. Legend has it that she oversaw the kitchen, approving the work that went on there, and more often than not, disapproving of the behavior of the workers. She stalked the kitchen in her gingham dresses with the pearl buttons, flashing her dark eyes when she felt like one of the help was lying down on the job. Mrs. Mazyck would not tolerate laziness. She did not grant people breaks to escape the heat of the kitchen and head outside to catch the breeze blowing off the marsh. If you shirked your duties, Mrs. Mazyck was there, and she was not happy.
The boarding house days ultimately came to an end, and the place was sold to a coastal lumber company, which allowed its employees to vacation there. Other proprietors followed the lumber company days, and other chapters were written as ownership changed hands. But one thing never changed. Turns out Mrs. Mazyck never left. She was long, long dead. And still in charge.
It usually started out subtly. For instance, there might be a guy taking a smoke break, catching his breath after a few hours in the kitchen, and suddenly he’d feel a pair of small hands on his back, nudging him ever so slightly toward the kitchen. When he turned around to look for the child shoving at his backside, all he would see was empty air. Or there might be the maid who decided to take five and plop down in a chair upstairs and read some comic books. Suddenly, someone was poking her in the side. Funny thing. No one else was in the room.
Corinne and Bruce began to hear Mrs. Mazyck stories almost immediately after purchasing the inn. Like the time their handyman was alone in the big place, trying to complete some renovations for the new owners. He’d settled in the kitchen to do some rewiring. Maybe he’d settled too long, because he watched a stray cookie sheet slide by itself across the counter and fly through the air in his direction. He dropped his tools and refused to set foot in the inn again. Then there was the plasterer who lived at the inn for a month during renovations. Once, when he was alone in the house, he came into a bathroom to find that a hamper he’d wedged securely between the wall and the toilet was sitting in the middle of the room. He called the real estate agency and confirmed that no one else had been in the house the entire day. The plasterer spent the afternoon recuperating at a local bar, telling his ghost story to anyone who would listen and buy him a beer.
Corinne has actually met Mrs. Mazyck. “I was alone in the inn one morning when we first owned it, having a cup of coffee in the kitchen,” she says. “I remember putting the cup down on the counter, then I wandered off to do something, and when I came back, I couldn’t find my coffee. Didn’t really think anything about it. Poured myself another one and went back to work. Later that day, I found the cup. It was on the top of this huge refrigerator. I had to use a step stool to get it down. No one else had been in the inn all day. I couldn’t possibly reach the top of that fridge without a stool. I guess Mrs. Mazyck didn’t want me taking a coffee break.”
Bruce hasn’t encountered the Pelican Inn’s rather benign ghost. But along with his wife, he’s become a bit protective of her.
He says that folks from the cable show Ghost Hunters bugged them for years for the chance to bring their paranormal paraphernalia to the Pelican Inn and track the tiny Mazyck. “We told them no thanks. In fact, Corinne told them that we have a rule here. We protect the privacy of all our guests . . . living and dead.”
But Bruce isn’t worried about having a face-to-ghost meeting with Mrs. Mazyck. “I work my butt off when I’m down here,” he says, laughing. “That’s why she doesn’t bother me.”
Corinne, who often finds herself alone at the Pelican Inn, reached a healthy agreement with the task-mistress apparition. Actually, Corinne says, “I fussed at Mrs. Mazyck a little bit. I said ‘I love your home,’ then I promised her I’d take good care of it. She’s just minding her property. I can appreciate that.”
Here’s what I suggest: next summer, give Bruce and Corinne a call. Book a few nights at the Pelican Inn. Ask them if you can help out in the kitchen. You know, wash dishes or wipe down the counters. Ask them if you can have a few minutes to yourself. When the kitchen clears, just sit down. Toss your rag in the sink. Pour yourself some iced tea and take a load off. See how long it takes for you to feel that tiny pair of hands softly at your back, pushing you gently in the direction of the kitchen.
Then, tell Mrs. Mazyck, the ghost of the Pelican Inn, that you’re sorry. That you’ll get right back to work.
For information about the Pelican Inn on Pawleys Island, contact Corinne and Bruce on the inn’s website: pawleyspelican.com.