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Ghosts: Spirit of Pawleys runs deep at one family’s house

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Anne Heles has never seen the ghost of her grandmother, Freda Jacobs, at her family’s beach house on Pawleys Island. But she wants to believe she is there.

Others have reported seeing a figure walking at night through the house at 213 Atlantic Ave. The place is named Fre Ma Nap, for her grandmother, Freda, mother, Mary, and grandfather, Napoleon Jacobs, who bought the house and double lot in 1930 for $350.

“My sister and I don’t understand how in the 1930’s, during the Depression, they could afford this,” Heles said last week during a visit to Pawleys Island. She thanks her grandparents every time she crosses the causeway, ending the drive from her home in Beaufort.

Napoleon, known as Nappy, and Freda, both from big German families, met in Charleston, married and moved to Georgetown. They settled in Kingstree and ran a grocery with his brother. They spent summers at the beach during the days when limited transportation made Pawleys Island an isolated paradise. They hired Murrell York from the Pawleys mainland as a “creek boy” and his sister, Emma, as a cook during the summers. Others from Kingstree followed the Jacobses, making their summers even more idyllic with good friends around.

Heart attacks claimed Heles’ grandfather in 1939 and her grandmother in 1947. They left Fre Ma Nap to their only child, Mary, and her husband, James W. Turbeville. Ghostly encounters began the following year when the Turbevilles were at the beach with their two small children, Anne and Mary Jo.

“My sister pulled an electric bottle warmer over on her head, and the hot water scalded her,” Heles said. “Mother thought she was going to be scarred for life, and that night she saw Freda standing at the foot of her bed. Mother said she knew Mary Jo was going to be OK.”

Freda didn’t appear again for 25 years.

Heles and a group of her fellow teachers were making one of their semi-annual trips to Pawleys Island, doubling up in the beds and sleeping on couches. Over the years, the house had been expanded in such a way that the path to the bathroom went through one of the bedrooms, and this was Connie Gecy’s room.

“I heard a noise and felt something wake me up,” said Gecy, of Simpsonville. “I punched Carol, my roommate, and said there’s somebody in the room. She insisted it was just Ruth going to the bathroom. When Ruth answered from across the hall, I sat straight up.”

Gecy said she saw a hazy figure in her room.

“I could see through her to the dresser,” she said, “but I was not afraid.

“I screamed for Anne and she ran in, asking what it looked like. It was an older woman with her hair in a figure-eight bun in back. Anne said, ‘That was Freda.’ I guess she figured there was a crazy woman in her room.”

Heles says that her friend Gecy is more receptive to ghostly encounters than the average person. Gecy said she has seen the ghost of her baby sister walking up the steps of their house in Fountain Inn and her grandfather stepping over a low fence in his back yard on the way to start the morning fire in his shop stove.

“It feels kind of special to see things like that,” she said during a telephone interview.

Heles says that another of her friends was visiting Fre Ma Nap and saw Freda. One renter left a message about a ghostly figure sitting at the foot of their bed.

“I wrote them,” Heles said, “asking if there was a storm or a strong wind. This house sways, but she said it was perfectly clear and she was the only one awake, reading in bed.”

Heles says that Pawleys Island is in her soul. “My sister and I are doing everything we can to hold on to this house. My children and grandchildren love it,” she said. She and her sister rent it during the summer in order to pay the property taxes and use the house in spring and fall themselves.

It remains much like it was originally, even though the original kitchen has been converted to a bedroom, and a dining area and kitchen added in back. A big table was built in the dining room that can never leave — it’s too big for the doors. Her father’s sign that said “Fre Ma Nap, J.W. Turbeville” has been relocated from the front exterior to the dining room and replaced with one that says “Fre Ma Nap, Turbeville girls” for the two sisters. The house was on the Habitat for Humanity tour of homes a few years ago, and there is a big scrapbook in the dining room detailing the family’s history at Pawleys Island.

Heles said the house survived hurricanes Hazel and Hugo with minimal damage. Pictures show Fre Ma Nap standing alone on Atlantic Avenue. She thanks her ghost for that.

“I just feel like she’s kind of like the Gray Man,” Heles said. “She protects the house.”

Heles said she would like to see her grandmother’s spirit.

“I’m not sure I believe in ghosts,” she said, “but I want to.”

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