The plat-eye is another Gullah monster, a kind of ghost or haint that can pass through gates without opening them. Plat-eyes operate much as bogeymen; serving as a warning to children against wandering and getting lost in the woods. They are shape-shifters, but not very accomplished ones: you can spot them from their mistakes. In human form, for example, they often have only one eye. An article in the Augusta Chronicle describes them thusly:
Long before interstate highways and jet travel, back roads of the Deep South were dangerous for solitary travelers.
Besides Indians, wild animals and cold-blooded highwaymen, other terrors lurked among the remote hills and swamps – fanciful terrors that belong more in the realm of folklore than history.
One of the most dreaded creatures was the “plat-eye,” a much-feared spirit that supposedly haunted and tormented its victims unmercifully before driving them either to insane asylums or early graves. To meet up with this loathsome creature meant doom for the unlucky traveler. That’s why in the old days folks tried their best to avoid certain hollows, woods and swamps when going cross-country.
The website The Moonlit Road elaborates:
Like many other Southern folktales, the “plat-eye” stories were brought over by African-Americans who had been sold into slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are especially prevalent in the coastal Gullah communities of Georgia and South Carolina. In these tales, the plat-eye is typically an evil spirit who has not been properly buried, and now stands guard over buried treasure deep in a forest or swamp.
Plat-eye stories became especially prevalent after the Civil War, when rumors thrived that plantation owners had buried their Confederate money to keep it away from the Union army. In some of these stories, a slave was beheaded and buried with the treasure. His restless spirit would then become the guardian of the loot.
The Moonlit Road has also made available a plat-eye story for you to read (and hear). In this tale, the plat-eye takes the form of a ghostly dog, not too different from the grims and barghests of England.