Carolina Beach has always attracted wanderlust souls through a man known simply as the Fort Fisher Hermit. In 1955, Robert E. Harrill settled down into an old World War II bunker in the historic Fort Fisher Recreation Area. Casting aside the trappings of society, he spent his days fishing in the salt marshes and scavenging for supplies. Eventually, he became known as the Fort Fisher Hermit and one of the state’s most iconic figures.
Tourists would travel from all over to visit the Battleship USS North Carolina in Wilmington and continue on to meet Harrill. Visitors would leave money in an old frying pan and a lucky few got a life lesson in return.
Harrill died in 1972 and his remains were interred at the historic Newton Graveyard next to the Federal Point Methodist Cemetery. Typically, a small frying pan can be found on his gravesite or a few coins.
Know Before You Go
You can locate the site by turning onto Dow Road and continuing south past Mike Chappell Park and Ocean Boulevard. If you hit the sharp curve where K Avenue begins you missed it. The sign for the Federal Point Methodist Church Cemetery is on the west side of the road and marks the entrance. It is normally gated, but you can park near the sign and walk around or under the gate. The cemetery is a short walk down the unpaved road.
Most of this area is in the Military Sunny Point Ocean Terminal blast buffer zone and is completely undeveloped. Signs will discourage further exploring and parking in other areas may warrant unwelcome visits from police or military personnel.
Be sure to apply plenty of bug spray as deer flies and mosquitos may swarm you at the right time of year. Quiet observers may see foxes, deer, raccoons, snakes, and other wildlife. A big stick is useful for breaking down large spider webs and scaring off snakes.