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.

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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ghosts in the Bible

Studying ghost stories can be a surprising journey. I recently came across a Biblical reference to ghosts. Many times people have religious objections to ghost tales, citing a demonic or Satanic connection. But many of these same people simply have not read the Bible. The Scripture cites case after case of supernatural stories which could be reasonably cited as ghost stories. Here's an interesting excerpt from the Old Testament:

1 Samuel 28 (New International Version)

1 Samuel 28

Saul and the Witch of Endor
1 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, "You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army."

2 David said, "Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do."
Achish replied, "Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life."

3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all the Israelites and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7 Saul then said to his attendants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her."
"There is one in Endor," they said.

8 So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. "Consult a spirit for me," he said, "and bring up for me the one I name."

9 But the woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?"

10 Saul swore to her by the LORD, "As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this."

11 Then the woman asked, "Whom shall I bring up for you?"
"Bring up Samuel," he said.

12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!"

13 The king said to her, "Don't be afraid. What do you see?"
The woman said, "I see a spirit [a] coming up out of the ground."

14 "What does he look like?" he asked.
"An old man wearing a robe is coming up," she said.
Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

15 Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"
"I am in great distress," Saul said. "The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do."

16 Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 19 The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines."

20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel's words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and night.

21 When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, "Look, your maidservant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. 22 Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way."

23 He refused and said, "I will not eat."

I have made no changes to the text, not even for space considerations, just so no one can accuse me of taking this story out of context. The story goes on that what Samuel predicted from the grave came to pass exactly as foretold, and the Philistines were victorious over Israel.

I realize that I may have offended people by posting this, but it is entirely possible to have an open mind about the subject no matter your viewpoint.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ah, Savannah...

Last night I was on tour, and had just finished telling the crowd how weird Savannah could be, and it happened. A car drove past the group with a huge doll of 'Chucky' (from the movie Child's Play) sticking out of its sunroof.

One fella piped up: "Boy, you're not kidding..." My group never really recovered from that. They kept yelling, "Here comes Chucky again!" at random intervals-- even when we were inside buildings.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Tour Photos

How weird is it to discover photos of yourself online?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

'Haunted Savannah' ghost book available online!

Click the link below to buy a personalized copy of Haunted Savannah.

Buy Me Now!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stephen Bader Responds (TAPS at Sorrel-Weed)

You know, sometimes I get carried away. I was so eager to trounce that awful 'Ghost Hunters' show that I trashed everything about it, including Stephen Bader. Bader responded, and was pretty fair in his response to my musings and skepticism.

I reprinted his reply here (in part, for space considerations), but you can click the 'comments' section in the post below if you wish to read his whole letter. Stephen's comments are in blue. At the end of the piece, in red, are the comments of his tenant Chris, who also appeared on the program.

I was upset that the Taps crew did not mention my house by the proper name, the Sorrel Weed House. Why they called it the Bader House, I do not know. Charles Green wrote a letter that is published in a book.....If I recall correctly it is "Children of Pride". His letter discusses Mrs. Sorrel jumping from the porch to her death. He implies that she was mentally unstable in the letter.

The letter you're referring to must be in Children of Pride, a collection of letters written by and to the Jones family in Savannah. It is collected into one volume by Charles Coldcock Jones, a Confederate officer and mayor of Savannah. I've never read the letter in question, but it is on my list of things to read.

I have met many descendants of the Sorrel family, and have copies of letters they have given me. They have also all relayed this to me, giving me copies of personal letters between James Longstreet and Moxley Sorrel, Charles Green and various members of the Sorrel
family and others. I showed these letters to the TAPS team, but I had no control as to what they edited out of the show.

This is unfortunate. The TAPS team dropped the ball on this one... wouldn't one think that a document supporting a witnesses assertations would be a key part of the show?

I was also upset about the implication that Francis Sorrel "raped" a slave. There is absolutely no merit to that. My comment that I strongly suspected that he had an affair with the slave(which I believe is true), combined with Chris stating "it sounds like the slave that was raped", created that impression. I did not know Chris had said that until I viewed the show on Halloween. The EVP he heard flipped him out, and that is what he concluded by listening to it, not by what I had told him.

Why do you believe that Francis Sorrel had an affair with a slave? You again quote strong suspicions without stating why. I'd love to see some documentation on this, speaking strictly as a researcher of haunted sites, as well as an author of a book about Savannah's ghosts. Perhaps there's even a chapter in a future volume in there.

I understand why Chris said what he did, but if you listen to the audio, it does sound like dialogue from a horror movie. I stand by my assertion that that is what the TAPS team captured on their EVP.

Thank you, BTW, for the interesting history of the house (which follows):

Francis Sorrel if I recall correctly, had the home next door built in 1856, and sold it in 1859 to the Weed family.

There were two stipulations for the sale. The first was that Francis Sorrel had to close several windows, so the Weed girls could dress without being seen from the windows of another house. The second stipulation was that Francis could maintain the Sorrel Weed House as his residence for 3 years, which means that Mrs Sorrel jumped from my porch, when she died in early 1861. It is an absolute historic fact that she jumped to her death from the porch.
The previous owners, the Cohen's will tell you the same thing.

Again, I lay this at the feet of the TAPS crew. They are idiots, not to put too fine a point on it. Any sort of investigation, ghost or not, needs to present evidence to support an assertation. I realize it is a 30 minute program, and some things will wind up on the cutting room floor, but all they needed to do was just show Stephen holding a letter. That would lend credence to their investigation much better than running around the cemetery.

I'll do some research (I'm a member of the GHS) to verify what you've stated, but it sounds reasonable.

One last bit about Bader:
In my last post, I brought up a Savannah Morning News article regarding Bader's finances. I shouldn't have done it. In my zeal to slam the TAPS team I colored everything with the same brush. The last little bit of Stephen's response deals with that, but to fair, I did a Google search of his name and that was one of the first things to pop up.

Perhaps you would prefer that I rebuild the Lady Jane shop around the house again, and open a ladies clothing shop.

No, that's not what I want. But the article makes the renovations sound substandard. If it wasn't true, then you could have sued them for libel, or asked for a retraction. I had to, once, over an article in which they mentioned me. Actually they were pretty nice about it.

And now a word from Chris, the tenant:

Here are some before and after pics of the Sorrel Weed House, before and after the shop was demolished. There are also some artifacts on the sight. I have been researching the house for some time, and apparantly you do not have an understanding of Steve's interest in History and the length to which he has gone to to restore the home to it's original 1840 appearance. Apparently you need to do more research before you post erroneous, slandering comments about others.


Yes, Stephen has done a much better job than the previous owner. But to criticize me for not researching is laughable, given that you imply strongly that a slave was raped in the carriage house by Francis Sorrel. I do have a strong interest in history, but apparently our definition of what constitutes history differs.

However, the pictures are very pretty.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

SciFi Channel's "Ghost Hunters" (TAPS) in Savannah

SciFi's Ghost Hunters team recently visited Savannah for their Halloween Special. I had actually never seen their show before, so this was my first opportunity. Sad to say, I'm pretty underwhelmed by what I saw. I'm not sure if this episode is indicative of the quality of their program, but I was severely disappointed in many, many ways.

Plumbers moonlighting as ghost hunters? I'll keep the potty humor in check, but it is a struggle. Those of you that know me personally know I can rarely resist barely-clever puns. I'm doing my best.

The episode started out with a 'Real World'-esque drama: one of their old members was welcomed back to the group after a past rift. It had all the makings of an old flame coming back to town... all we needed was a flashback shot of the old member's clothes out on the lawn. After some awkward male mumblings and half-verbalized apologies, the show finally moved forward.

And then they came to Savannah. Their trip started out well, with historian Rebecca Clark (some of you will recognize Rebecca from my book) relating some interesting historical bits. She was well-spoken and full of knowledge. She explained a theory of why Savannah could be so haunted, and gave them a quick tour of the city.

The show moved on to a location identified as "Bader's House." The house should have been identified by its proper title, The Sorrel-Weed House, but I realize why they did this: to match the house with the man (Stephen Bader in this case). But they should have gotten the name of the house in there. It may seem like a small thing, but to a Savannah history buff, it would be like discussing a trip to see the Mona Lisa without mentioning the artist or the museum where it is housed.

Anyway, the house was built by Charles Blaney Cluskey in 1840 (some sources say 1841) for Francis Sorrel. Francis' son, Gilbert Moxley Sorrel, was raised in the house. Moxley, as he liked to be called, was the youngest General in the Confederacy (aged 26), and part of Gen Longstreet's staff. The house was sold in 1859 to Henry Weed.

A brief aside about Stephen Bader. He gives the impression of being the owner quite well, doesn't he? The house, last I heard, was actually owned by his brother in Atlanta. Mr. Bader was the subject of a lengthy Savannah Morning News article in 2000 which chronicled his problems, including: not abiding by the Historic Review Board's guidelines for renovating historic structures, not getting proper permits to do said work, not paying contractors, not paying for antiques, and not getting along with the neighbors.

The story of the suicide of Francis Sorrel's wife is a puzzling one. Bader claims she pitched herself off the second floor balcony. I can't seem to find an account of it anywhere. On a website related to the Sorrel-Weed House, the claim is made that the wife died in 1861, which cannot be true, since the house was sold to the Weed family in 1859. One would also think that the wife in question (nowhere is she mentioned by name) would find a more suitable method of suicide than throwing herself off the second floor balcony. Stephen Bader also claims to 'believe' that Mrs. Sorrel killed herself after she found out that Francis was having an affair, citing some letters. He produced no letters to verify this account-- one would think he would be quick to pull them out to verify his story. It's a juicy story... without any historical record to back it up.

Then the show's focus shifts to the carriage house. A fellow living back there claimed to have shifted his bed to the living room because his name kept being called by a 'ghostly voice'. In the midst of setting up equipment to catch evidence of this, one of the team members whacks an antique with a cord roller; he rubs the wood to see if there is any damage, and then looks around to see if anyone saw him do it. Yep, man, you're caught on tape. Clearly TAPS has pretty high standards when hiring folks... or re-hiring, in this case.

The team finds handprints in the basement via thermal imaging. I'm not saying these were staged, but they don't really go into how they got there or if anyone had been in that area previous to them walking into it. The handprints seemed to be fading rapidly.

The next bit involves the carriage house. One team is shown asking for a sign that there is a ghost present, and then they hear a voice outside. Once they return, a clothes hanger is lying near a doorway where there had been nothing before. Another team also centers on the carriage house: they hear a bang, and walk into the house, seeing nothing amiss. Later they learn that there is a voice on the recorder of a woman screaming for help.

My problem with this? There are two teams, each with a cameraman and two members. That's six people scrambling all over this small carriage house. What is the timeframe for any of these events? Are they simply mucking up each other's data? The individual teams are chatting amongst themselves the whole time. They are also visiting during October in a heavily populated urban area-- and the voice sounds like an overheard horror movie, quite honestly.

When the voice is played for the tenant of the carriage house, he switches stories, claiming that there was a slave raped in the carriage house. The implication is that Francis Sorrel did it... the father of one of the heroes of the Confederacy. Later during the show Stephen Bader calls the suicide "a fact". Hmmm. This whole segment makes me suspicious that the intent is to drum up business for the ghost tour which goes through the house, or even for the bed & breakfast, run by Mr. Bader.

Switching gears, there is a bit in Colonial Park Cemetery where they (or at least a few of their members) go searching for the "Man Beast", who was allegedly "hung (sic) in the cemetery" (I believe you mean "hanged", fellas). In the segment, the TAPS team members are seen being scared by a giant spider, kicking open an iron fenced burial plot (!), and basically running around like a bunch of pre-teen boys. Great. They took time away from their segment about Savannah for this? And then a couple of team members jumped out in costume. How can we take them seriously at all?

The most credible portion of their program was the portion dealing with Moon River Brewing Company. Interviewing the manager, Chris, was a good step. He is knowledgeable and a genuinely nice guy. His story involving the pool tables dropping all the billiard balls simultaneously was one I had never heard before. And no, no 'ball-dropping' jokes will be tolerated in the Comments section of this blog...

I could have done without the bit where a TAPS member talked about "feeling up" a ghost. TAPS? More like FRATS.

They did capture a strange mist on one of their remote cameras. But the other supposed 'ghost' sighting looks very much like one of the TAPS members lurking behind a pool table. A team member claims that there was "no way" whatever they caught on tape could have gotten past the camera. Uh, sorry, fellas, whoever that was could have easily used the stairs off to the right, the ones not in the frame. The back stairwell is located right where the supposed ghost enters and then disappears from view.

All in all I was very disappointed in this show. They needed more historical data, more eyewitnesses, more interviews. I would have loved to see Elizabeth Piechochinski, Colin Young, or some of our other credible and well-spoken local historians on the program. I would have liked to see better care taken in their scientific research, as well. Sending teams pell-mell into supposed haunted locations might make for unintentionally entertaining television, but it doesn't speak well of their seriousness or commitment to presenting factual information.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

'Haunted Savannah' Pictures from B&B Billiards

These photos appeared originally in my book, 'Haunted Savannah', but they were reproduced in black & white. I thought they were much more striking in color.

Here's a strange photo taken by Craig Biszick, owner of B & B Billiards. It is a digital photo taken of his daughter. Craig is a non-smoker, and insists that they were alone in the downstairs of B & B when these startling photos were taken. There were 12 shots taken total, and these were the only 2 with an anomaly (shots 6 & 7 in the sequence).

These photos were not doctored by me in any way, and Craig claims that they were unchanged by him as well.

Is this genuine spectral phenomena captured digitally? I'll let you be the judge.

I've seen a lot of photos where people claim that there are spirit orbs, faces, or vortexes. My usual reaction to these is, "Nice shot of a camera strap, there, guy," or some other logical explanation. But these are very peculiar.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Savannah Pictures

I absolutely love Savannah. Just thought I'd share a few
pictures I've snapped over the years.

Sorry for the following legalese. All photos are copyrighted by me. Please don't copy them or retransmit them in any form. If you'd like to link to this page please email me, or ask permission before using them for any purpose. Thanks.

Outside the Savannah Cotton Exchange.

This relief was carved on the monument commemorating Count Casimir Pulaski. He gave his life for American freedom on October 9th, 1779.

Decorative ironwork in Savannah.

The Fountain in Forsyth Park.

George Washington donated two guns to a local artillery unit when he visited the city in 1791. The Chatham Artillery cheekily named them 'George & Martha'.

Lutheran Church of the Ascension on Wright Square.

Sculpture on Telfair Museum (Telfair Square). Four famous artists are pictured.

Another sculpture outside of the Telfair.

Colonial Park Cemetery, estblished in 1750. This gate was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1913.

This is where we begin our nightly ghost walk, the Haunted History Tour.

City Hall, designed by Hyman Witcover in 1905.

Our founder, Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe. He was a member of British Parliament turned reformer, philanthropist, and adventurer. He was also no slouch as a general.

On the base of Oglethorpe's monument there are four lions. The sculptors, Henry Bacon & Daniel Chester French, also designed the Seated Lincoln in Washington D.C.

Ironwork on the Champion-McAlpin House.

More decorative ironwork on the Champion-McAlpin House on Orleans Square.

(below) The Independent Presbyterian Church.

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