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A discussion of tours and ghosts written by the author of best-selling local book 'Haunted Savannah' and noted speaker at Ghostock II. His work has been featured on the Travel Channel, ConnectSavannah, the Savannah Morning News, WSOK Radio, and the New York Daily News.
For reservations for either Ghost Tours or Haunted Pub Crawls in Savannah, please call (912) 604-3007.
I'm a tour owner, tour guide, author and painter. My tour has been featured on the Travel Channel, the Savannah Morning News, ConnectSavannah, WSOK (Savannah) radio and the New York Daily News.
|Bill Dawers||Web posted |
"One cannot walk down Savannah's streets at twilight without feeling evidence of her supernatural side. The old beautiful homes practically emanate the aura of lost loves, lives cut short, and other misfortunes."
Thus begins James Caskey's "Haunted Savannah," the latest entry in the growing list of books about the city.
I suspect many of you know Caskey, at least by sight. He's a tour guide and founder of Cobblestone Tours, and many nights he's dressed in Civil War Era garb while leading a group of visitors on his Savannah Haunted History Tour. Such tours have become a big hit with tourists who otherwise find little to do downtown at night.
His new book, published by the locally based Bonaventure Books, is the official guide to the tour, and it's chock full of history, legends, stories, and personalities. The 200-plus page book is broken up into literally scores of readable small chapters.
I suspect many local readers will find themselves reading the book as I did - by flipping through and randomly reading stories about places that interest us.
Some of the places are familiar - The Olde Pink House, 17Hundred90, the Kehoe House. Other stories are less familiar, like the one about the Willink House on St. Julian, where mysterious goings-on might be linked to a clandestine school for blacks in the decade before Emancipation.
Or the story of Irish immigrant Alice Riley, who was the first person to be executed in Georgia. She was hanged for murder in January of 1735.
In addition to the stories about ghosts and other hauntings, the book is sprinkled with tales about the strange and notorious.
Last weekend, "Haunted Savannah" was fittingly launched with a big party in the basement at Moon River Brewing Co.
Originally the old City Hotel, the ancient building allegedly has hauntings of its own, and the close confines and dense brickwork of the basement appropriately evoked Savannah's mysterious past. And present.
Caskey will be signing his book from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at B. Matthews Bakery & Eatery at Habersham and Bay. On June 24th, he'll be signing at Beans on Bay Coffee Shop on Upper Factor's Walk at 126 West Bay Street.
"Haunted Savannah" is available at bookstores and gift shops throughout downtown.
Sherman’s troops were raiding the plantations from Atlanta all the way to Savannah, and they developed a strategy called 'foraging'. The Southern families affected by foraging called it by a different name: stealing. What the marauding Union army couldn’t steal, they burned. The Southern families would often try to hide valuables in the family burial plot or vault, hoping the Union troops would be squeamish about violating their dead. Of course, after a while the first place the Bluecoats would look was the graves of the plantation.
The Union soldiers raided a plantation right outside of Savannah, and popped open a burial vault. There they found a cask of wine right inside the door. Overjoyed at this discovery, the soldiers used their rifle butts to knock it open and began to drink. What they didn’t realize was that a member of that family, a young girl, had died while in finishing school in Baltimore. Her remains were shipped by train back to her home, and the practice of the time was to immerse the deceased in a preservative—red wine, in this case. The family had no desire to open the cask when it arrived, because the young lady in question had been in transit for several weeks, so they simply put the cask of wine right inside the door of the vault. It remained there for 6 years until it was disturbed.
The Union soldiers learned the difference between a cask and a casket. The troops also learned that sometimes Savannah wines are full-bodied. The wine wasn't merlot, it was Margot!
I thought I'd add a story that was unfortunately finished to late to be included in my book 'Haunted Savannah'. It should go without saying (here comes the legalese, sorry) that this is copyrighted by me, and may not be reproduced in any form without my express written consent. This will be appearing in some form in a later edition, or possibly a second volume, if it is warranted.
The Shrimp Factory was built in 1823, and was originally a cotton warehouse. In 1793, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, and it changed everything in Savannah. Cotton was the major cash crop of the area in the 1800's, and before it could be shipped, it had to be graded for quality and stored. Most of the buildings on River Street were warehouses at one time.
One of the finer restaurants on River Street, the structure is a mainstay since 1977. Famous for their shrimp (the shrimp & crab au gratin is a favorite of this author), the dining establishment is also one of the few to serve Chatham Artillery Punch, a particularly lethal local brew. The staff has had a number of strange experiences on the upper floors over the years. The current owner, Cheryl, has had numerous unexplainable occurrences herself, and states that there are two distinct presences in the Shrimp Factory.
She began working here in 1978, when the Shrimp Factory was owned by her mother, and as soon as she began working here she began to notice some odd happenings: she would hear a murmur of voices above her in the storage room. She described it as a large group of people talking quietly. When she would ask her mother what was going on upstairs, her mother Janie would shrug and say that the upstairs was empty. Cheryl has even run up the stairs to have a look but found nothing but an empty room. Even diners below have heard the strange voices or footsteps up above, and inquired about what they assume is another dining area. But when asked, the staff just explains very simply: the upstairs is haunted.
For so many years the ownership wondered if an electrical problem was the cause of the fan lights flickering, or problems with the fans themselves, which often were stopping and starting without anyone touching the switches. About ten years ago, the frustrated management replaced all of the electrical wiring and new switches and dimmers were installed. The electrical problems persisted after the wiring was replaced, however, leading Cheryl to believe that the problem lies not in the electrical wiring, but instead in the paranormal goings-on at the Shrimp Factory.
The upper floor is today the liquor cabinet and storage room, essentially where the extra bottles of liquor are kept to restock the downstairs bar. Not only has a presence been felt in the room, but the staff has heard low moans and clanking chains. The disembodied moaning has been heard on numerous occasions, but seems more prevalent typically during the winter months. Lest one start to believe that the moaning could be the wind blowing through the old rafters, let it be noted that it has been heard on days and nights of absolute calm. A psychic visiting the area felt the impression of a slave who died in the area, supposedly in the winter, nestled between two bales of cotton to try to stay warm in the unheated room. Perhaps the psychic impression of his tragic death has been bound to the location, playing out his last moments for all time.
A former employee reported going into the upstairs to get a bottle of champagne that a customer had ordered, and as soon as he ascended to the second floor he felt a presence and heard chanting in a language he did not recognize. He also saw strange shadowy figures in the storage room. Needless to say, he fled the area without picking up the champagne. Other staff members have reported finding beer kegs leaking badly in the upstairs room, and it has been a common occurrence for the liquor bottles to be rearranged or turn up missing, only to reappear in plain sight at a later time.
The other spirit in the Shrimp Factory is on the stairs leading up to the storage area. Cheryl describes a feeling like someone is on the stairs with you, as if they are right behind you, and a draft of cold air. Seeing as how the upstairs can get pretty warm during the summer months, she says, then the feeling is not that unpleasant. In fact, the spirit haunting the stairs has never menaced anyone or been particularly disruptive.
This is thought to be the spectre of 'Old Joe', a former employee who died in that very spot in 1977. He was the picture of perfect health, and just 55 years old, but he collapsed nonetheless on the way up the stairs. His cause of death was recorded as natural causes. He was reportedly heading up to the storage area to get a bottle of rum, which may explain why members of the staff will sometimes find bottles of that type of liquor pulled out, or if no containers of rum are stored in the area. Old Joe is said to get frustrated and break other bottles of liquor in protest. This is especially a problem in the winter, since that is when the Shrimp Factory generally lets inventory run a little low in the off-season.
Usually these broken containers were the expensive brandy, whiskey or champagne. The management eventually had to reach a truce with him, by specifying that one rum bottle must always be left in inventory so he would leave the other bottles alone. Old Joe seems happy with the arrangement, and his bottle-breaking days are largely behind him.
So what is the story behind the story at the Shrimp Factory? Is the chill on the stairs Old Joe, a spirit of the former employee? Or is the presence an old slave, as sensed by the psychic? It is possible these two entities co-exist peacefully within the current structure which houses the Shrimp Factory. A building like this one has seen much tragedy in Savannah; two of these instances have perhaps spawned a psychic vibration, the effects of which are still being felt today.