The British loved to tax, and tax they did—the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts…if you remember your American History, this should all sound pretty familiar. In fact, the reason there are so many big, picture windows in these old, historic Southern homes is because there was a tax on doors, so they built huge windows that you could open up and walk through. The main point in all of this is to help you understand the fact that Savannah is haunted as hell—there’s a heavy supernatural presence hanging over this city and I may have spent a little too much time in the local cemeteries and it’s entirely possible that’s done something to my head. But you didn’t hear the whispers I heard. The footsteps. The shouts. The cool gusts of air, the tickling of a frigid breeze against the back of my neck. And if you’re skeptical—that’s fine. That’s okay it doesn’t hurt my feelings but I’ll just give you a heads up you should tune out now. Because I’ve got ghost stories for days (come back in a week—I’ll have something new).
But the entire point in traumatizing you all with reminders of your seventh grade U.S. History class is to point out the fact that taxation is likely the very reason behind Savannah’s ghosts. In the mid to late 1700’s, burying people was unaffordable—the British taxed you for the amount of buttons on a dress or coat, the time of day the body was buried, the weight and size of the body, the amount of miles from the cemetery, I’m certain they were trying to find a way to tax a widow on her tears. Either way, there is estimated to be somewhere around 25,000 bodies stacked secretly, with no record, underground throughout the city of Savannah and we’re not talking in cemeteries we’re talking casually buried under the Savannah Grays that line the walkways. You think you’re stepping on tree roots that have disturbed the layout of the path but, in reality, it’s coffins and bodies that never quite settled fully into the ground. I’ll give you a moment to look back over that; to re-read that sentence, to understand the implications of the fact that a fairly large portion of Savannah is a mass grave.
See, Savannah soil is marshy and wet, meaning anything that gets buried there doesn’t stay buried for long. For a place with so many secrets, Savannah does a pretty piss poor job of keeping them locked up. But then again, how do you lock up a ghost?
The house I stayed in this past week was next to the Bonaventure Cemetery. And you’re all thinking it’s a cemetery that’s fine it’s cool maybe a little creepy but I’m an odd chick it’s to be expected. But Bonaventure isn’t just your casual local cemetery where you go to visit Grandpa every now and then and you wave at the groundskeeper and walk around beneath the sunshine, unperturbed. No—here the stone faces of gothic angels grimace and turn their backs. The statue of Gracie Watson cries tears of blood when someone removes the trinkets that line the dirt surrounding her stone form. Corinne’s marbled face smiles at those young men she’s taken a fancy to and the Hell Hounds breathe against the necks of unassuming tourists. The mediums and ghost hunters I spoke with this week all told me one thing: they stay away from that place. There is too much activity and too much energy—so much so that you can’t sort the good from the bad.
And you’ve got to understand I had no idea. For the first couple of days I didn’t realize it was as close as it was but I’ll tell you one thing for certain and that’s that I was getting pissed as hell with the fact that it took me hours to fall asleep at night. That the room would get too hot and then too cold and I’d hear footsteps and little whispering breaths against the siding of the house not for just a few minutes but all night. All night. And on the third night I took a drive and lo and behold, I had parked my ass right next to some viciously active little spirits.
So I decided to do what any rational human being would do and visit the cemetery early in the hours of the morning, when the heavy fogs were still sitting low over the graves, shrouding them in a whispering mist and leaving goose bumps on my skin. When I would be the only one there—solitary, confined, vulnerable. Just to have a chat with the resident delinquents who were keeping me up at night, leaning against the tomb stones in their little ghostly leather jackets, taking a hit from their little ghost cigarettes and blowing back a stream of cool vapor into my face. Hey, you little shits. How about letting me get a good night’s rest? At least, that’s where my imagination took me.
But, in reality, I’ve never seen a ghost. A spirit. An anomaly. Call it what you will I’ve never seen one but I’ve felt some heavy shit in my life, some spiritual burdens some negative energies some toxic weight. The kind that sits on your chest as you’re trying to fall asleep at night, the pressure squeezing your lungs and you suddenly can’t breath and you don’t know why but there’s a vice like grip constricting your airway and you feel scared and the hair rises on your arms but it’s not entirely cold enough for that.
Welcome to Savannah. When you walk the streets at night, you don’t walk them alone. Solitude is an enigma here. There’s always someone on your shoulder.