N.C. Harrison finally got to take his trip to Savannah, and may have brought back more than memories.
Finally, a couple of days ago, I got to take a trip to Savannah that I have been planning since I graduated from seminary in July of 2013. A series of illnesses and injuries (including a pretty severely broken foot) led to my putting the trip off for over a year, whetting my appetite for the town to almost incredible proportions. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t go, right then. Georgia is miserable, in general, during summer and the coast is even worse. The sand gnats are hungry and jelly fish lie everywhere on the beach. Even though most guys love the Atlantic, glistening green under a blazing sun, and the sight of bathing beauties on vacation I much prefer the cool, November nights and SCAD theater students doing mime on the sidewalks, outside of locally owned shops, restaurants and galleries. I… have a weakness for female clowns and mimes. It’s odd, but there you go.
Savannah, as you may be able to tell, is my favorite city in the world. It was ranked as the most haunted city in America by Duke University (they waver back and forth between Savannah and New Orleans) and, as a paranormal studies enthusiast, this makes it pretty much paradise. I love the history of the city, both haunted and otherwise, as it is the oldest in Georgia and so much has happened on the low, wet banks of that speeding river. The oldest building in Georgia stands there, still, inside the Pirate’s House restaurant, as does the oldest black church in America, the First African Baptist Church, founded in 1773 by the famous Baptist missionary to Jamaica, George Lisle.
We had a fantastic day, me and all my family. We ate at the Moon River Brewery (which is said to be the most haunted building in the most haunted city, and I can attest that there are places in it which feel “odd” or unnaturally cold or even quiet, compared to the rest of the hubbub) and took a tour with the Ghosts and Graveyards “Trolley of the Doomed.” A fantastic young storyteller named Katrina was our guide (she was supremely cool and a joy to talk to, after the tour, about shipwreck artifacts in the Perkins and Sons Chandlery and having had spirits tug at her long, dark hair) and the equally awesome Theresa drove our trolley through the city’s sometimes hectic streets. At the Juliet Gordon-Low (founder of the Girl Guides) house, my dad and I thrilled the depths of our bibliophilic hearts by discovering, in the library there, a first edition of J.H. Potts’ 1880 book, Golden Dawn: Or, Light of the Great Future. This was exciting, on one level, because many of my favorite authors, including Aleister Crowley, William Butler Yeats and Bram Stoker were involved with this organization. It was also proof of the stories that we were being told, that the folks who had lived in this house were deeply into the nineteenth century spiritualist movements.
I was happiest though, perhaps, to talk to a young man named Willie, a tour guide at the haunted Gribble House (the site of Savannah’s most notorious murder, a triple homicide of women by an estranged husband in 1909) and local paranormal investigator. We talked about the use of the spirit box, capturing EVPs and the possibility of his investigating in other historical, untapped paranormal goldmines all around Georgia. We examined the evidence that my mom and dad had gathered, during a Gribble House paranormal experience investigation during their anniversary trip (an investigation which Willie had lead) and left me feeling a lot surer of what I heard and saw, on the tape, and maybe… well, maybe not a lot less crazy feeling, but certainly a little. he left me feeling best of all, however, about the state of serious paranormal research in this area, the future of said research and the level of respect with which the spirits and history of this amazing town are approached. So if you ever find yourself in Savannah, and interested in spooky history or just learning about the odder, darker side of the town, you owe it to yourself to look into Old Town Trolley and the Gribble House. The field of paranormal studies is a weird places and there are a lot of… less than genuine people creeping around out there. That’s why guys like these, honest, decent and open, are such a credit to the field and should be celebrated and supported as much as we possibly can.
The claim of age is disputed by the First Baptist Church of Petersburg, VA. Although the First African Baptist Church was first formed as a congregation in 1773, it was not officially organized until 1788. The First Baptist Church of Petersburg was organized in 1774. This is what happens when you set a student of American religion loose with footnotes, an archive and old folks willing to talk…
Photo: Eric Fleming/Flickr