Savannah, Georgia is one of the top tourist destinations on the Eastern seaboard, in large part due to its well-deserved reputation for being a city where the past is perfectly preserved. To walk the streets of "Georgia’s First City" is to step back into the 18th or 19th century, complete with the soft glow of gas lamps flickering over cobblestones.
In addition to offering world-class dining and legendary hospitality, Savannah tempts visitors with one more tie to the past: a reputation for being the most haunted city in America. Ghost tourism has become a major component of the appeal of Savannah’s Historic District.
“Nearly every building of consequence boasts a spirit or two,” says Jean Soderlind, owner of Ghost Talk Ghost Walk, the original haunted walking tour in Savannah, established in 1996.
A thorough check of the ghostly landscape that is Savannah confirms that she’s right. Whether it is a benign haunting, like phantom footsteps at the Lucas Theatre, or something openly hostile, like the angry specter at the Moon River Brewing Company, stories abound in Savannah.
“I was leading a pub tour through the unfinished second floor of Moon River," explains Cobblestone Tours guide Julie Brown, "and a chunk of plaster detached from the wall. Rather than falling straight down, it flew across the room as if thrown by an unseen hand, landing in the center of the front room. No one was near the wall when it happened. I had a couple of people on the tour ask me how I did it, like it was some kind of magic trick. All I could say was, ‘Look, I told you this place was haunted.'"
There are different levels of paranormal tourism: some simply wish to take a haunted tour (there are a number of walking tours, motorized tours, and even a hearse!), and hear tales of tragedy from years gone by. This seems to be enough for most, just hearing a ghostly tidbit and experiencing a vicarious thrill of hearing stories all about the paranormal.
Then there are those brave souls who wish to make their ghost experience a little more personal, and actually stay in a haunted hotel or B&B, like the 17Hundred90 Inn or the Kehoe House. Still others seek to actively hunt ghosts via an expedition, complete with scientific equipment.
Whether you are believer in ghosts or not, it seems that the key craving of most Savannah visitors is authenticity. Whether it is genuine stories of hauntings, authentic historical sites, or bona fide Southern cuisine, The Hostess City has it in spades. Much like Savannah’s much-lauded dining scene, it seems there are enough ghostly offerings to satisfy every craving and fit every budget.