Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 3:45 am | Overcast 59º


Judy Crowell: Savannah, America’s Most Haunted City

Stroll through the enchanting Georgia city's squares and savor its restaurants and historic homes — just be careful when darkness sets in

A charming 1968 tour book I was given recently begins thus: “Savannah is a lady. A lady is gracious, a thoughtful gentlewoman who keeps her treasures polished for the pleasure of her guests. A lady never shouts. Savannah speaks in a soft, Southern murmur. Listen closely. She has marvelous memories to share.”

This gracious lady also has a million ghost stories to share. Listen closely. Just about everyone you meet will have his or her own version of the paranormal: Revolutionary soldiers still battling it out on moonlit nights over at nearby Skidway Island. Francis Sorrel’s wife, who killed herself jumping from the second floor of the Sorrel-Weed House. Danny Hansford, a local male prostitute who was murdered at the Mercer House, popularized by author John Berendt in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The hoodoo notion of midnight refers to it as the time for good magic and the time for evil magic.

Much evil magic was afoot in the Pirates’ House, one of Savannah’s most haunted places, now a favorite local restaurant. Bloodthirsty pirates who sailed along the coastline would gather here to drink and talk and drink some more.

Robert Louis Stevenson, in Treasure Island, said, “Old Captain Flint, ‘tis said, died at the Pirates’ House in an upstairs room.” Waiters frequently use the staircase to the storage room, where they swear the ghost of Captain Flint lives on.

Diners in the small dining room hear footsteps overhead, and staff entering the storage room have encountered flying objects sailing off the shelves. One of my personal favorites is the motorcyclist ghost, seen often along Eisenhower Drive wearing a leather jacket and glow-in-the-dark tattoos all over its arms and neck. He or she has even been known to drive right through an oncoming car.

Even ghosts have to sleep — I think! — and the Ballastone Inn, a luxurious 1838 bed-and-breakfast, is one of my favorites. Equally luxurious and quite romantic is the Gastonian Inn. For a restored historic stay, try Planters Inn on Reynolds Square.

Perched above the 18th-century cobblestone streets paralleling the Savannah River is the contemporary-styled Bohemian Hotel. Its chic design and exceptional guest rooms are a charming addition to the Savannah scene.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery. (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery. (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)

Rocks on the Roof, a bar, and Rocks on the River, a restaurant, afford spectacular views from the rooftop lounge area. And in the lobby, you’ll find a captured ghost — sort of.

Even ghosts have to eat — I think! — and some of my favorites are Olde Pink House, for Southern charm and cuisine; Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, for fried chicken and banana pudding in a boarding house setting, but long lines and no reservations; Local 11 Ten, a beautifully decorated Savannah gem; 17 Hundred 90 Inn and Restaurant, fine dining in a 1790 mansion; 700 Drayton Restaurant, modern sensibility and great fried green tomatoes meet; and Garibaldi’s Café, a quirky local hangout housed in an old fire station.

There’s much more to Savannah than ghosts, of course, but it is Halloween after all. So, for the brave, here’s a list of ghoulish tours: Old Savannah Tours, Hearse Tours, Blue Orb Ghost Tours, Sixth Sense Savannah, Creepy Crawly Haunted Pub Tours and All About Savannah Tours, where Kathy Moore, a walking encyclopedia of Savannah lore, will hold your hand as you walk through Colonial Park Cemetery and the garden of good and evil.

This gracious lady, Savannah, still has many polished treasures to show you any season of the year. Stroll through the enchanting city squares and savor the endless restaurants and historic homes. Just be careful when darkness sets in, watching out for floating luminescent orbs of every color, the motorcyclist ghost and things that go bump in the night.

Noozhawk contributing writer Judy Crowell is an author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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