PARRIS ISLAND SOUTH CAROLINA
Most ghost stories I take with a grain of salt, but there’s one in particular that I can’t get out of my head. First, because if any place in America SHOULD be haunted, it’s the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina. The second is because it was told to me by my old friend Louis, a man so without fear that he was scary.
Louis was an undersized tail-back that played for Georgia Tech. His father was a General in the Marines and was, for a time, Commanding General of the Recruit Depot, back in the 70’s. When I knew Lewis though, he was an engineer who, like me, worked all over the world.
I’m sure you have your own beliefs on what went on there. It’s legendary and stories of the atrocities of the place started right after it was founded in 1561. It housed freed slaves, abolitionists, pirates and at times, the seediest of the seedy. For me, it was a hell forsaken shit-hole that was home to bugs, chiggers, tics, rattlesnakes and bats. It was either hot and muggy or cold and muggy. There didn’t seem to be an in between. It was the home of motivation platoon, a hell hole for fat bodies, the death march and mile after mile of unforgiving swamp.
For Louis, though it was home. For his father, a certified nut case that fought in every war he could find, fear wasn’t something one ever admitted to, especially 8 year old Lewis and his 6 year old sister Phoebe. They lived in the Commanding General’s Quarters, a huge wood frame house with screened in 2nd floor porches on two sides. As he told me though, the worse things were the mirrors.
Many Marine Recruits tell stories of the abject fear in looking in a mirror when alone on fire watch late at night. I still remember the first time I experienced it. My “bunk mate” Private Rard woke me up. He was petrified.
“Schwartzmeyer, there somebody in the bathroom.”
“What? Rard, they go there at night to take a shit.”
“No!! He was in the mirror, but not in the bathroom!”
In the case of Louis, it was the same. When his father was gone, and he was alone with his sister, he’d hear a the long low pounding sound of a palm slapping wood. That was what a recruit did when he wanted to go to the head. Then he’d hear a whisper… “Siiiiirrrrr, Private Bannon requests permission to make a head call, siiirrrrrr”, echoing through the house. He’d be petrified. As he told me way back when, he and Phoebe spent just about every night when his parents had gone out, curled up in a blanket in the middle of the front lawn.
There are dozens of people who have been through Parris Island that tell similar stories. The soft pounding of the wood, the long cry of the recruit that dies away into the night. It was a cry to be let out. To be free. PI is one of those places where you can be totally alone in a room with 85 other guys, a hunting place even if there were no lost spirits. So many people left there only to face unimaginable horrors. If any place deserves to be haunted, it’s ‘the island’.
If you Google it, you’ll find a plethora of stories about the rifle range, a place that, back in the 70’s had an air of mystery to it. People died there, no doubt, either killing themselves because they didn’t want to go to WW2 or Vietnam, two conscript wars, or killing their mates. Their memories haunt the island. I remember walking under the sign that read, “Through this portal walks the world’s best riflemen,” and feeling smothered.
I confront my theory of Ghosts in all four books of the “Joseph Schneider” series. This series was based on my grandfather, a decorated combat veteran in WW1. Of course, mine is thriller-fiction. I’m sure my Grandfather had his own stories… as did Louis. I have always wondered about PI, hough. The place is creepy.
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