Sinister Settings: ATALAYA

Atalaya Castle Side Shot

At first glance, the exterior of Atalaya looks like an abandoned fort.

Myrtle Beach has always been a favorite destination for me and my husband, and in June, 2013, we went down for a week for his family’s biannual reunion. I’d just been asked if I’d like to submit a story to an upcoming anthology, the theme of which was Mummies and Canopic Jars. An “Under the Boardwalk” setting seemed like an odd backdrop for a story about ancient Egyptian curses, but I was excited. A visit to a different place always gets my creative wheels turning.

Canopic Jars

A set of Canopic Jars, which the Egyptians used to store the innards someone who had been mummified (presumably so the individual had access to them in the afterlife). These happen to be very plain. There are some that are much more colorful and decorative.

Although we’d been there before—we even have a favorite place we love to stay called the Polynesian Oceanfront Hotel (formerly the Polynesian Beach & Golf Resort)—this time, there were a few new spots to hit.

Myrtle Beach Polynesian Balcony 2013

Me on the balcony in our Polynesian hotel room overlooking Myrtle Beach.

One of them was Huntington Beach State Park, which is also home to Atalaya: the winter home of sculptress Anna Hyatt Huntington. She passed away in 1973 in Redding, Connecticut—just 30 minutes from me—but my larger connection to her is that she created the famous Sybil Ludington statue in Carmel, NY. That’s a town my dad’s family lived and worked in, and later, I worked there, too. I have passed that statue countless times; it’s part of my childhood.

Atalaya is a curious place. At first glance, it looks like an abandoned fort, and it nearly feels like one. The walls are bare and there aren’t any furnishings; windows are open; some are covered by bars Anna had designed herself. To wander through it is to be pursued by the eerie echoes of your own footsteps and voice. Because Anna worked on large-scale sculptures, there are massive spaces for studio work—and stables to keep large animals she used as reference.

While there aren’t any ghost stories connected to the place—although some people claim they’ve heard or felt things—it was easy to imagine Atalaya as a run-down ruin for sale, crammed with Egyptian Revival furniture that was covered in drop cloths and gossamered in spider webs.

The most fantastic photos of this place are here at SC Picture Project (they are copyrighted, so I cannot place them in my own post). They reflect the atmosphere of this place—I can see scenes from my story “Jarring Lucas” taking place right inside these shots. It’s uncanny, so check them out:

Pieces of that Myrtle Beach vacation pepper “Jarring Lucas.” There are ghost crabs, a helicopter touring company, Leza’s dad owns the Polynesian hotel, and Lucas himself grows up in a mobile home park where we spent some time. But Atalaya is central to the story. Find out how Lucas manages to live there in “Jarring Lucas,” now available in The Shadows Behind from Books and Boos Press at


Atalaya Castle Basic Visitor Info


Huntington Beach State Park, Atalaya Rd, Murrells Inlet, SC


Huntington Beach State Park, 16148 Ocean Hwy, Litchfield Beach.


Daily 9 am – 5 pm. (Call to verify)




Park admission fee plus $2/person to tour castle (at time this was published)

“South Carolina’s Castle: The Mysterious and Mesmerizing Atalaya Castle,” by Kerry Egan, Discover South Carolina,

“Atalaya: The Huntington Winter Home,” Huntington Beach State Park,

“Huntingtons’ vision from Atalaya sprouted Brookgreen,” by Steve Palisin, Myrtle Beach Online, September 11, 2014,

“Atalaya Castle Tour & History | Murrells Inlet, SC,” Myrtle Beach and Things Youtube Channel, October 21, 2018



“Egyptian Revival,” Metropolitan Museum of Art,

“Canopic Jars,” Metropolitan Museum of Art,

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at

Posted on June 23, 2019, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, horror short stories, The Shadows Behind and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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