By Brindy McNair
Edited by Jason Soukup
Historic Charleston and Columbia have hundreds of ghost stories known to natives and tourists. The Lizard Man, star of commercials for the S.C. Education Lottery, is said to wander the swamps of Bishopville.
Even the steam tunnels under the University of South Carolina are said to be the home of a spooky character with three eyes.
The Third Eye Man has received less publicity than other South Carolina phantoms, but he has been making appearances around the university for more than 50 years.
Christopher Nichols documented the first Third Eye Man sighting in 1949 while a student at USC. He and a friend claimed to have seen a strange man in silver enter a sewer portal the night of Nov. 12 in front of Longstreet Theatre. Nichols spread the story of the "Sewer Man" in an article for The Gamecock.
In April 1950, a university police officer allegedly encountered the Third Eye Man while patrolling near Longstreet Theatre. It’s rumored the officer discovered the man, this time described as grey and grotesque, huddled over mutilated chicken parts. When the officer shined his flashlight on the man’s face, he noted a distinct third eye in the middle of his forehead. By the time other officers arrived on the scene, the man had disappeared into the system of tunnels below the school.
The university police department, however, says it has no knowledge of any incident occurring in the tunnels or involving the Third Eye Man.
USC spokesman Russ McKinney said he’s not surprised by mysterious stories involving tunnels under the university.
"To my knowledge, there’s nothing down there." McKinney said.
"They used to say the same thing about the State House. They used to say there were escape tunnels down there," McKinney said. "To my knowledge, there’s nothing down there."
Joe Rogers, director of USC’s facilities management, says three tunnel systems run below USC but do not connect. Rogers said he knows students go down the maintenance accesses around campus, but he advises against it.
"We find beer bottles and trash down there from students," he said. "It’s a hot, dirty place."
Rogers has heard stories about a three-eyed man in the tunnels but doesn’t think they’re true.
"To my knowledge, nothing has happened where anybody’s gotten hurt," he said. "There are no haunted spaces."
No one who has explored the tunnels has ever produced any physical evidence of the Third Eye Man.