“This is the exact spot where James Stark was shot dead in 1832, and his ghost has ruled these hallways for over 100 years.”
We’re standing in the empty, never finished second floor of Moon River Brewing, a pub in historic and haunted Savannah. Since opening, this popular pub and restaurant shot to fame as one of the most haunted properties in all of Savannah. There have been many accounts of bottles being thrown across the bar by unknown forces, people being touched, slapped or pushed.
The most puzzling of all, however, is that the brewing company has been unable to keep construction workers to finish work on the second floor of their pub, with reports of nails and hammers flying across the room. Besides the spirit of James Stark, another glowing white apparition has been seen on many occasions, and is believed to be the spirit of a worker who died in the hotel in the late 1800s.
I’m on a haunted pub tour of Savannah, Georgia, recognised as one of the most haunted cities in the world. Our guide lets us grab a quick drink at the bar, then hurries us down to the basement to tell us more tales of bewilderment from Moon River Brewing. We then head next door, to haunted pub after pub, learning about strange tales from the pas and present. Fires erupting out of nowhere, beer taps getting turned on in the middle of the night by a hidden for, wispy white mist seen floating across the bar. One thing is for sure, even the non believer will be forced to questions their beliefs on this tour.
The tour is definitely more about the spirits than the beer, so if you’re in town for the craft brews more than the craft witches, it might not be for you. At the halfway point we stop off at the Colonial Park Cemetery, where many famous faces from Georgia’s past are buried. A pub crawl that passes through a cemetery was certainly a first for me, and i was in desperate need of a strong drink after listening to the chilling stories and taking as many photos as possible in the hope that I might see something unusual when I look back on them at a later stage. If you’re to explore haunted Savannah, the city’s creepy cemetery seems a good place to start!
Our guide starts to tell us about black cats, enquiring if any have actually sat on our chests starting at us as we sleep. In Savannah, they say black cats are in fact witches and while you may think they are just watching you sleep they are really sucking out your soul. All I can think at this stage is, “How on earth am I going to sleep tonight?!” It just so happens that my creepy hotel has framed photographs of the owners black cats all over the walls. Nothing els. No family pics, happy kids. Just framed photos of black cats, looking all creepy, as always.
Speaking of my hotel, if you can call it that, it’s by far the weirdest place I’ve ever stayed. Located next to Forsythe Park in one of the poshest neighbourhoods in the city, it stands proud next to street after street of million dollar homes and haunted houses come museum mansions. It was cheapest hotel I could find at just 80 euro a night, but from the moment i arrived I knew something just was’t right.
From the awkward owner who would not let me in until after 5pm, to the fault-tower like policy of only been able to book in person or by phone (is this 1917 or what?!) to the fact that I appeared to be the only guest (minus those black cats and a few lost spirits, I guess) I had a weird feeling about this place from the start. Things only got weirder when my bedroom door opened at 7.30am, the owner telling me he was locking up the hotel from 11am to 5pm so everyone would have to get out. We could, he informed me, come back after 5pm but not before. What sort of business as this guy running?! And what exactly would he be doing between 11 and 5, if not creepily going through our bags? That’s a story for another day I guess.
Back to the pub crawl! From brother to boarding house, hotel to morgue, the stories coming out of Savannahs pubs and restaurants would give anyone the shivers. Imagine staying in a hotel where they discovered hundreds, if not thousands, of bones hidden under the floorboards? Then, to make matters worse, when the owners finally got the right people down there to empty the basement, half the bones were missing, sold on to the cities growing number of bone collectors. They saw the hotel is now home to mysterious spirits, probably lost souls in limbo looking for their bones. Welcome to The Marshall Hotel, a premises popular with ghost hunters thanks to their electromagnetic field meters going off the charts each time they visit.
What about falling asleep in your room only to hear the sound of children playing in the hall, running up and down the corridor, only to be told there are no children staying in the hotel at this present time. Or returning to your Inn only to catch a glimpse of a lady in white looking out the small window of your bedroom, your bedroom which you most definitely locked. And the finding that your bag has been unpacked and repacked while you were out for dinner?! That’s what you might experience if you book in at 17Hundred90, a haunted Inn and restaurant, with both buildings haunted by different spirits.
We also passed the beautiful Lucas Theatre, another one of the cities haunted buildings. Workers claim that they sometimes hear what sounds like cheers and clapping coming from the auditorium, as if a full audience is in attendance, ever before the theatre has been opened to the public.
At just two hours, it was a pretty whirlwind tour, but it gave so much insight into the city, the pubs an many of Savannah’s most famous buildings and squares. It helped me get my bearings, which allowed me to return to the historic district the next day and spend more time there reading up on the history of each square and mansion, and learning about both the city’s past and present.
On of the highlights was coming across Chippewa Square, famous as the opening scene of the movie Forrest Gump. While the famous bench has been removed, the statue and mansions remain, and it makes for a fun photo stop. There’s also a chocolate shop right down the street, which seemed pretty apt considering the opening lines of the movie!
While my visit to Savannah was short, it was also blissfully sweet. I’m unsure if the city is hauntingly beautiful or beautiful haunting, but either way it’s a place I would love to return to some day. I just won’t be staying in the same hotel, that’s for sure.