The Haunted Poet – Conrad Aiken

Some hauntings don’t necessarily take place in a house, a graveyard, a brewery or a hotel room. Sometimes a haunting occurs within. Such was the unfortunate case of Savannah born poet, Conrad Aiken.

His father and mother moved to Savannah from “up north” and settled into a nice brick home. Dr. Aiken was a brain surgeon and his wife a popular socialite. But the Aiken house was not a happy home. Conrad’s parents fought a lot and as time went on Conrad’s father turned dark and volatile.

One night, as the eleven-year-old Conrad lay in his bed he heard his parents arguing. He heard his father count to three, followed by one gunshot, and then another. Conrad ran to his parent’s room to find them both dead. His father had killed his mother, then shot himself in the head.

Little Conrad was sent “up north” to live with family. He graduated from Harvard and eventually became an American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, short-story writer, novelist, and a critic. But the tragedy of his youth would haunt him and his writings forever. He was fearful he’d be afflicted by the insanity that his father had succumbed to. His poems were sometimes dismal and hauntingly sorrowful.

In his later years, Conrad moved back to Savannah, and morbidly odd as it may be, he bought and lived in the house next door to the family home. He spent many days in Bonaventure Cemetery by his parent’s graves.

One day he saw a ship named Cosmos Mariner pass by. When he inquired about where the ship was going he was told “destination unknown”. He decided that would be the perfect epitaph for his own grave. Being a true Savannahian, he selected his grave stone made in to a seating bench to invite visitors to sit down and share a drink with him.

I have in fact visited Conrad Aiken’s grave in Bonaventure Cemetery. I sat upon the bench and raised a glass of wine to toast The Haunted Poet to bid him a peaceful journey home.

Because we are all Cosmos Mariners sailing among the stars to unknown destinies.

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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A Grave Mistake

In Savannah Georgia there’s an old burial ground, Colonial Park Cemetery, that has over 10,000 dead buried in it, but less than 1,000 grave markers. You might think it’s a grave mistake, but not necessarily so.

The shortage of markers is because many of Savannah’s dead were buried in mass graves due to yellow fever epidemics and others were placed in family recycling tombs. It was common practice that, when pappy died, he was placed in the family vault until he rotted away, then his dusty remains were shoveled into the family urn and space was then available for the next deceased family member.

The cemetery covers 6 acres of prime historic downtown real estate. It was established in 1750 and dead folks were put there until 1853.

When General Sherman’s yankee troops came through town they used the grounds as a campsite. The soldiers had fun rearranging the grave markers and changing the birth and death dates of the dearly departed. There are date mistakes everywhere!

But in Savannah it ain’t so smart to go messing with the dead because everyone knows Savannah is haunted, especially old cemeteries! Duh!!! And naturally, Colonial Park Cemetery is a hot spot for ghostly activity.

Who haunts the old cemetery? Perhaps one of the “dueling ghosts” who got shot in the dueling grounds next door, or a yellow fevered southern belle, or maybe the 7-foot murdering beast-man, Rene Rondolier (see my blog Rene’s Playground) or maybe just the usual restless dead who will always call Savannah home.

Colonial Park Cemetery was made a park in 1896. Today visitors can walk among the dead and perhaps encounter a spirit while sitting on a park bench. It is after all Savannah, and it’s a grave mistake to think the dead stay in their graves.

Be careful where you tred… you walk upon Savannah’s dead.

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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Deathbed Confession

If you were to give a deathbed confession what would it be? What would you want your loved ones to know before you died and went off into the great beyond? I doubt you would tell them about the person you kilt-and-buried-for-dead in the wall of your house. Well, that’s what Honoria Foley did on her deathbed… she fessed up about murdering of one of her guests.

The Foley House Inn on Chippewa Square in Savannah Georgia was owned and operated by Honoria Foley. As the story goes she had an unwanted suitor who would not leave her alone and, much to her displeasure went so far as to book a room in her Inn. He proceeded to make inappropriate advances and snuck into her bedroom one night for a visit. She fought him off and eventually beat him in the head with a candlestick which resulted in his untimely, but seemingly necessary death.

Much to her dismay, Honoria found herself with a body to dispose of and she did what every proper southern lady would do; she called in a few “favors”.  The next day a brick mason friend came over to seal up the dead man good and tight in a wall. The murderous secret was kept a hidden until 1989 when workers, doing a bit of reconstruction, were surprised to find a skeleton in a wall at The Foley House Inn.

Hononia had no explanation for how a dead person could’ve ended up in her wall. She said she knew nothing about it and was just as surprised as everyone else. And as for who the gentleman was, she had no idea about that either.

People dismissed the matter as being just another Savannah unsolved mystery and they saw no reason to purse the matter further. It was not until Honoria died that she confessed to killing Mister Guest in the bedroom with the candlestick.

And today they say Mister Guest, having been disturbed from his resting place in the wall, haunts The Foley House Inn.  There are no records of who this ghostly guest is (Honoria left that bit of information out of her deathbed confession). The owners affectionately named him Wally. His ghostly shadow is a harmless presence and he doesn’t seem to have any ill feelings towards Hononia for killing him. Perhaps it’s because she made a sincere confession on her deathbed, or perhaps it’s because none of this is true and somebody just said that Hononia confessed, although that somebody didn’t hear it all personal from the source, but heard it from somebody who knew somebody who heard it from somebody who told them that’s just the way it happened.

A deathbed confession. True or false? Ask the dead.

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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Aargh! Ghosts In The Pirate House

The building for The Pirates’ House Restaurant in Savannah Georgia is over 250 years old. And so, it only stands to reason that a place being that old, and also being in Savannah, can mean only one thing…. it’s haunted!

During the golden olden days, when Pirates sailed off the Georgia coast, it’s understandable they’d drop in to the old tavern on the bluff for a tankard of rum. (Savannah has always been a hospitable friendly party town.) Rumor has it that not only did pirates come to town, but upon occasion they’d Shanghai a few drunken sailors into a secret tunnel under the tavern and make them join their pirate team.

With so many pirates coming and going it’s possible some notorious evil-doers died here and never left or they just decided to return to haunt the old tavern.

They say shadow ghost pirates can been seen lurking in the corners, and the thump-thump-thump of a peg-leg sailor can be heard stumbling across the wood floorboards. Photos taken outside of the inside capture the flash a golden pirate toothy grin. While dining people sometimes get the sensation of being watched… by a ghostly one-eyed pirate with a black eye patch perhaps?

It’s believed Captain Flint, from the book Treasure Island, died in The Pirates’ House and he haunts the place, which would be appropriate considering he’s a fictional character.

There’s no doubt there were deviant pirates pillaging off the Georgia coast and also believable they’d sail into Savannah for a good o’l Pirate-fest, but all I know is; I’ve dined at The Pirate House and although I did see a creepy skeleton bone display and a gift shop, I did not see, hear or sense any paranormal pirate activity.

But perhaps on that particular evening the ghost Pirates were sailing on the high seas, raising the black flag, slitting throats, walking gangplanks and collecting treasure. Or could it be the ghost pirates are just waiting offshore for favorable winds so they can return to The Pirates’ House and order the shrimp gumbo?

The Pirates’ House is a location in my book Zombies Y’all! There’s lots of excitement happening in the underground Shanghai tunnels when they’re filled with hungry zombies!

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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The Willink House

Henry Willink built his little house south of Oglethorpe Avenue at the corner of Price and Perry Streets sometime around 1845 or maybe it was built in 1851 when he returned from New York having learned more about the ship building business. (He built the C.S.S. Georgia Ironclad for the Confederate Navy and The Ladies’ Gunboat Association thought it was too ugly so he had to build a second one, which was just as monstrous, heavy, stinky and it leaked. The Confederates sunk it themselves in 1864).

His shipyard business and his life was going pretty well until a fateful day when he invited his wife to join him at the shipyard. Poor Mrs. Willink tripped, went over a ship’s rail, and drowned. She couldn’t swim and her heavy skirts dragged her down.

Needless to say, Henry was quite upset that he couldn’t save her, and spent much of his time at the shipyard to forget the tragedy… until another fateful day when he saw his wife’s ghost standing on a ship’s deck. He was so stunned to see her that he tripped, went over the ship’s rail and fell into the Savannah River. He didn’t drown, but was saved and went home safe. He was so mad at her for frightening him that he slammed the front door on his way inside.

And so… now the ghost of Henry Willink opens the front door and closes it with a loud bang just to make a statement, but for some strange reason he can’t get out of the little house he shared with his dearly departed wife.

The house was also rumored to have been used as a school for African American children where they were taught secretly by a white school teacher. She would reward the children for doing their school lesson by bribing them with candy treats. It is said now the living encounter a ghostly Candyland as sugar treats are randomly found in the house and the house smells of sweet spirits.

The house was moved to 426 E. St. Julian Street and is privately owned. If you take a walk by perhaps you will find a candy treat or get a door slammed shut in your face. Will you get a trick or a treat? It must be Halloween at the Willink House all year long. Trick-or-Treat!

The Eliza Thompson House

The first house on Jones Street in Savannah was built in 1847 by the wealthy cotton merchant, Joseph Thompson and his wife Eliza. Joseph died soon after the 13 room mansion and 12 room carriage house was built. Eliza was left with a big house and seven kids, which would seem like a Nightmare on Jones Street.

But in true southern woman style Eliza took care of the estate, raised her family and even threw a grand o’l Savannah party or two.

Eliza Thompson died and her family eventually sold the house. It was occupied by other families and even a few businesses. Now it is the elegant haunted B&B Eliza Thompson House.

Who haunts this place? A soldier, a lady, a kid and a cat.

Eliza’s son, James Thompson fought in the American civil war. He survived the war to come home, but had the misfortune to be standing in front of the house when he was kicked in the stomach by a horse. He died of course.

It is believed James Thompson is the ghost who haunts room 132. He’s often seen dressed in his confederate officer uniform. And odd as it may be, only the top half of his ghostly shape can be seen seated on the couch or at the window overlooking the courtyard.

There is also a spirit woman dressed in white who wanders around the house. White apparently is the preferred dress color for spirit women to wear for haunting because most of them appear in white.

Visitors say they’ve felt the presence of a giggling ghost child who stands at the foot of beds. There is no explanation for that, but kids do the strangest things.

And there are reports of a ghost cat because, if The Davenport House has a ghost cat, then Eliza Thompson can’t be outdone and her house needs a ghost cat too.

The Eliza Thompson House was featured in The South Magazine’s Savannah Paranormal Investigation and got a 4.5 out of 5 on the Fright-o-meter.

Oh nooooooo! The ghosts have been certified! Beware if you spend the night there, or you might experience a Nightmare on Jones Street!

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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The Hampton-Lillibridge House

If a house had the legend to have a suicidal sailor, a creepy burial crypt in the basement and a shadow man wandering the hallways (who was perhaps the workman who got his head smashed in the attic), then it must be the most haunted house in Savannah, The Hampton-Lillibridge House, and the perfect place for a Paranormal Freak Out!

The Hampton-Lillibridge House was originally built in 1996 on Reynolds Square by Rhode Islander, Hampton Lillibridge. When Hampton Lillibridge died his wife sold the house and it continued to be bought and sold a number of times. When it was a boardinghouse rumor has it a sailor hung himself on the third story. (Believe it or not)

The house remained vacant for awhile until 1963 when it was purchased by Jim Williams. Yes, the very same Jim Williams from The Book (Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil). Williams purchased the house and, the house next door, with the intent to move them to Washington Square and restore them. However, a laborer was crushed to death during the move of the second house and that freaked everyone out.

And then everyone freaked out even more when, during the relocation, they unearthed an ancient crypt under the house. (Some say it was empty and some say human bones were found). Since Savannah is city built upon its dead, and everybody in town knows its best to leave the dead alone, they naturally quickly reburied the tomb.

But some believe the digging up the dead is what started the paranormal activity in The Hampton-Lillibridge House because soon after, workers’ tools began to disappear or were moved to a different location. Mocking laughter and the sounds of footsteps were heard. Neighbors reported seeing shadowy figures in the windows dancing or walking aimlessly around. They heard eerie music, unearthly singing, creepy laughter, and sometimes they heard a woman screaming. Often the lights would turn on and off randomly when no one was home.

In 1963 Jim Williams, freaked out when he saw a shadow man go up the stairs and then disappear through a locked door. He decided to call in the big Ghost-Buster guns and invited an Episcopal Bishop to conduct an exorcism. Unfortunately, when Savannah’s dead folks are having a good time haunting an old house in the Historic District, it will take more than a sprinkle of holy water move them over to the otherside. The exorcism didn’t work and they say there is still paranormal activity going on.

That’s to say everyone says there is freaky weird ghostly activity going on in The Hampton-Lillibridge House, except the current owners who say they haven’t heard or seen anything freaky weird. And that “no trespassing” sign at 507 East Saint Julian Street on Washington Square is for the living to stay away, not the dead.

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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