My Savannah Story

It’s been a while! You may or may not have noticed, but I recently enjoyed a much needed vacation out of town. Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I traveled with friends to Savannah, Georgia and experienced one of the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parades. Upon our exit from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, I was immediately hit with fresh, warm spring air. That afternoon was spent milling about the glorious Forsyth Park with a John Daly cocktail (you can have open alcoholic beverages outside!) and meeting friendly people around the stately fountain. I also found some time to ham it up amongst the beautiful oak trees.

Later that evening, we had a lovely dinner at The Wyld Dock Bar, overlooking Savannah’s oyster shell-lined channels. I enjoyed a delicate filet of sea bass over broccolini and grits. My only gripe was the incessant intrusion of tiny gnats that the citronella candles did little to deter.

At 11pm, Kylie joined our group straight from the airport just as we embarked on a ghost tour. Our tour guide, I believe his name was Skippy Spirals, weaved us through the beautiful, eerie squares in the Historic District, peppering in some dubious, but intriguing anecdotes about the dark history of Savannah. In between these anecdotes, Skippy told me he is an active ghost hunter, amateur puppeteer, and artist, having previously served as tour guide for many years in New Orleans. Ultimately, he prefers the quieter spookiness of Savannah.

Though we got home around 1am, I chose to sleep on the couch so that I could research the verity of the ghost stories and my cell phone light wouldn’t disturb my friends. I was particularly interested in verifying the ghost story of the Sorrel-Weed House. It goes a little something like this:

Francis Sorrel, the builder of this home, apparently had a relationship with a slave named Molly that lived in the adjacent carriage house. His second wife, Matilda, discovered the relationship in flagrante delicto and jumped off the carriage house balcony to her death or possibly, she was pushed. A week or so after this event, Molly was found hanging from the rafters in the carriage house. Since then, both Molly and Matilda are rumored to haunt the house.

We were shown grainy pictures of “faces” behind the dark window panes and an audio recording of a woman, purportedly Matilda, screaming, as proof. The story is intriguing and dark, but I had my doubts that this was little more than peddling nonsense to eager tourists. Apparently, there is no evidence of Molly’s existence in the Census. There is also evidence that Matilda was known publicly to suffer from depression and so the idea that she was pushed to her death makes little sense. For more information on this, please see my sources below and do your own research and decide for yourself. I will say, the Sorrel-Weed House is very ominous looking in the dark!

On Friday, we had an excellent brunch downtown at The Collins Quarter. I enjoyed a lovely Bellini and beef short rib hash with a poached egg. Afterwards, we went shopping around Broughton Street and I bought a bunch of goodies at Savannah Bee Company, including the rare tupelo honey, some whipped honey, and a set of beeswax lip balms with fun southern flavors like Sweet Tea, Mint Julep, and Key Lime. Our feet were starting to ache from the long days of standing and walking, so we returned back to Maggie’s apartment and cat napped, before getting ready for dinner at Husk with our complete group. We had a delicious charcuterie board, fresh oysters, and I opted for shrimp and grits as my entrée. I can’t get enough of lowcountry food! Before we left, I ended up having a “dance off” with a member of another group, a bachelorette party, and the whole restaurant apparently enjoyed it. Lord knows I got my steps in and once again definitively proved that I cannot dance.

The next day was the day of the famous parade! It was an extremely diverse crowd celebrating Irish heritage. We saw many characters including Savannah’s political who’s-who, multiple marching military factions, high school bands, young Irish dancers, and even an elderly Confederate squadron that shot off their guns periodically. They scared the bejesus out of me and many others. In general, the crowds were extremely friendly and mixed well regardless of their apparent socioeconomic position, skin color, sexual orientation, locality, etc. The only scuffle I witnessed was a LGBTQ woman hurling a Trump 2020 flag into the middle of a square and the white man running over to security, urging them to go arrest her. I was also surprised that I didn’t see more people severely intoxicated. I’m accustomed to many people struggling in the gutters of Chicago on the day of the St. Patrick’s river dying, bobbing their heads in semi-consciousness or vomiting on their shoes. Or jocular type circling one another with boozy bravado. Not so in Savannah. Everyone just seemed buzzed and cheerful!

On Sunday, we were truly exhausted and had to endure two flight delays on our way back to Chicago. I spent the next 12-15 hours sleeping and recovering my sore legs and feet. I then eagerly awaited the arrival of my book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about the famous murder at Mercer House. More than that, it’s a sort of love note to the eccentrics of Savannah. Actually, on Friday, we had gone through a 35 minute tour of Mercer House (sadly no photos were allowed). The focus was very polite, much more so about the antiques and architecture of Jim Williams, who restored it. The murder (Jim William’s employee and sometimes lover Danny Hansford’s murder) was essentially glossed over, but that was fine with me because it allowed me to do plenty of my own research. I have practically devoured the book in a few days, with only a few chapters left. I’m reticent to watch the film, not only because it stars disgraced Kevin Spacey, but because I’ve heard it’s pretty mediocre and I am not a John Cusack fan. Perhaps I’ll give it a shot. Perhaps not.


When I was a junior or senior in high school, meeting with the college counselor, I remember distinctly telling him, whatever you suggest, I absolutely will not consider a southern schools. He suggested Louisiana State University. You can imagine, I was none too pleased. And yet, this is the second southern city I’ve visited as an adult and I am finding myself more and more intrigued and enchanted by the south. As a lover of history, dichotomy, parties, lowcountry food, and eccentrics, Savannah seems to be the epicenter of this. It’s relative remoteness makes it a very nostalgic city, for better or worse. It’s like an alternate reality there. I’m eager to return again and learn more about the architecture, the Civil War, notable characters, and ghost stories. It doesn’t seem to really matter if they’re true or not. Savannah has its own special kind of special energy, especially at night.


SOURCES:

The Sorrel-Weed House: Haunted By Bad History? (2017, February 14). Retrieved from https://www.ghostsavannah.com/2013/09/the-sorrel-weed-house-haunted/

Uncovering the Buried History of Savannah’s “Ghost Tours”. (2018, October 29). Retrieved from https://www.ttbook.org/interview/uncovering-buried-history-savannahs-ghost-tours


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