Haunted Savannah

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.

Name:
Location: Savannah, Georgia, United States

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.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

ConnectSavannah.com

There is a great interview by Linda Sickler in regards to the book for Connect Savannah, a local weekly publication. You'll have to cut-and-paste, since I'm HTML impaired, but it is worth the effort. She did a great job.

http://www.connectsavannah.com/

Click on 'Culture', then 'Books', and you'll see the link immediately.

A Bathroom Encounter

I'm sorry I haven't updated this in a while... I've been slammed with book signings, the tour has been short-staffed, and I have had a death in the family. It's been a hectic week. to say the least.

Regarding the title of this piece, I recently had an encounter with something in the men's room in the Marshall House. No, this wasn't an encounter with something supernatural; it was much, much worse. If you have a weak constitution, this is your cue to stop reading. I walked in to use the facilities and found a rather inebriated man standing in front of the mirror. After chatting about history for several moments, the fellow told me that he was on a date with a very attractive and well-off young lady. When I suggested that he might want to return to his date, he told me:

"Well, I would, but I've got a wicked case of gas." He then demonstrated that he wasn't kidding by cutting loose with something I haven't heard heretofore outside of a zoo.

Modesty prevents me from recording what he actually said next. The gist of it is, "If she stays with me through this, I'll marry her." His statement contained a specific sexual act, which if she were performing on him like he suggested when his internal rumblings returned, she might be killed. I had no response to his declaration of affection, nor his test of their relatively new love.

Not all scary stories from the pub tour contain ghosts...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Mention in the Savannah Morning News

Bill Dawers Web posted Saturday, June 11, 2005
New book devoted to our oldest residents – ghosts

"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."

Bill Dawers

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.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Roger Ebert's Q & A

From Roger Ebert's website:

Q.
I greatly enjoy your reviews and the thoughtful observations they contain. However, I get a little worried about the strength of your argument in your review of "Unleashed," when you make the case for women being able to stir a man's humanity by using Ann Coulter as your example. That is the same person who claimed women should bear arms but not be able to vote.

C. Perla, Miami

A. Wouldn't you sleep more soundly at night knowing Ann Coulter was in the Army and not in a voting booth?

Sherman's Troops and the Cask of Wine

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!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

An Extra Story (A Side of 'Shrimp')

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.

Monday, June 06, 2005

June 6th

Let's also take a moment to remember those brave souls at Normandy on June 6th, 1944. This date changed the world.

Favorite Tour Memories

I was painfully shy as a child, so it is very odd that I have a job in which I dress in a costume which makes me stand out, and I speak to large groups of people on a regular basis. Perhaps this shyness at a young age is the reason that I have always loved observing people interacting-- as a kid I would much rather to have listened to a conversation than had one myself. Even though my job is to tell stories, I still manage to get a good bit of people-watching in while I'm touring.

Coming into constant contact with people is part of being a tour guide... and after four years, if I didn't have some stories, I really wasn't paying attention, was I?

One of my all-time favorite memories was the guy who proposed to his girlfriend while on the pub tour. He had arranged it with me beforehand, so I made sure they were alone, standing in front of a roaring fireplace at the 17Hundred90 Restaurant, which is an incredibly romantic place. He dropped to one knee, and she said, "You're joking." He shook his head, and she began to cry tears of joy. She was crying so hard that she could barely say yes. I led a toast to the new couple, and the entire restaurant and bar burst out into applause.

Another funny story was on a hot August night. If you've never been to Savannah in August, there's only one word to describe it: unbearable. And remember, my Confederate outfit is real wool! As I'm walking my sweltering group from one pub to the next, a car pulls up beside me, and inside were three little old ladies. I expected the obligatory picture, as the elderly ladies were peering at me and clearly discussing something about me. Finally the window rolled down, and one sweet lady inside the car said, "You're looking awful hot in those pants..." Needless to say, the pub tour erupted with laughter.

More of these stories to come...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Welcome to both haunted Savannah... and 'Haunted Savannah'

Savannah is truly a unique city. When I originally moved here nearly 13 years ago, I never expected my life to take the direction it did... but I have never been happier. My current status of tour owner and (recently) published author has led me to believe that I live in a truly magical place. I'm 32, and I love the work that I do and the place that I live.

My first book, Haunted Savannah, just had a premiere party that turned into quite an event. Thanks to the hard work of my publisher, Bonaventture Books, as well as some pavement-pounding by both myself and my partner-in-crime, Margaret, the party was an overwhelming success. Even with inclement weather the turn-out was around 150, many of whom bought multiple copies. I wound up signing books for most of the evening, and was so swamped with personalizing signatures that I didn't even get a chance to sample the food (amazingly, provided free of charge by Gene Beeco at Moon River Brewing Company). But I am definitely not complaining-- people showing that much interest was outstanding.

The party kicked off at 5:30 p.m. in the downstairs of Moon River, which was also provided gratis. The food smelled excellent, but since I was so busy talking with everyone I never even got near it, and it never occurred to me to ask someone to fix me up a plate. What was being thrust at me, however, was alcohol. After two beers and a shot of... something... I decided to switch to sweet tea just to maintain the power of stringing intelligible sentences together (no pub tour cracks, please). Liquor + empty stomach + speaking in front of a large crowd late in the evening = VERY bad idea! The ice in the tea melted under the lights and it resembled a beer anyway.

My publisher, Cristina, kept a steady flow of people moving in an organized fashion in front of the signing table. Other than a few snafus (uh, the guy who brought his OWN unpublished book and asked me a million technical questions about how to get it into the market springs to mind), the entire evening went off perfectly. I had several people approach me about getting their own story in a follow-up volume (this was an oft-asked question in the evening, along with "How long did this take you?").

I gave a short speech near the end, basically thanking everyone who helped me write the book by providing their time and personal stories. I led a round of applause for them, and it turned into a round of clapping for the book, and for me as well. It was at that moment I realized, I am a published author. My book is released after nearly four years. That is one of those feelings that I will savor for a long, long time.

I then revealed the surprise event: everyone at the party could join us on the pub tour if they so chose, free of charge. Many people opted for this, and I got some real positive feedback about Karl's tour later. But the real story of the evening was... are you ready? We actually had two out-of-the-ordinary things happen during the evening, oddities of a supernatural nature.

The first occurred at the party. As the event was winding down, leaving just a few friends and relatives in the downstairs, Cristina had an experience. She walked back into the basement of Moon River to check the stair access, and had a brush with some sort of presence back there. She was shaking, pale, and covered in goosebumps. I am about as paranormally-sensitive as an anvil, but even I could feel a presence down there.

The other occurred on the pub tour. The tourgoers saw a woman in a white dress and long black hair walking in the midst of Colonial Cemetery. She was witnessed by three people on the tour. Then she vanished from sight, leaving an amazed group standing open-mouthed at the fence. Of course, no one even thought of taking a photo.

I'll post pictures of the book-launch bash at a later time. I'll also be updating this site quite often, with sample stories, anecdotes, or interesting bits of trivia. For more info about my tours, you can visit my website:

http://ghostsavannah.com">ghostsavannah.com


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