The Savannah Cotton Exchange

The original Savannah Cotton Exchange was built 1872, but the structure has been added too and renovated a few times so who knows who was doing what, when and why. The current two-story building is a combo construction of ballast stonework on the lower River Street level and brick on upper Bay Street level. In the olden days the ships unloaded the shipped merchandise from the river and moved it to Factor’s Walk where factors (buyers) made purchases at the exchange.

The Savannah Cotton Exchange was a symbol of importance of the cotton industry in Savannah and was originally called King Cotton’s Palace and by 1880 the area was known as the Wall Street of the South. In the 1920’s the boll weevil did some weevil-evil-cotton-eating devastation to the cotton industry and the old exchange closed.

Today the building serves the tourist industry with retail stores, antique shops and a tavern. The living people enjoy shopping, dining and drinking in the Cotton Exchange, but the dead folks also seem to like hanging around.

Renovations were done after a fire in the building and it sort of stirred up some ghostly trouble. Now people hear footsteps when no one is there and the sounds of crying babies. In the tavern there are reports of flying bread loaves, deadly ice-cream scoopers, unexplainable falling objects and the volume on the radio randomly changes.

A ghostly woman in a long white dress has been seen descending the staircase and another ghost is thought to be Oompah, an old clockmaker who liked to visit the tavern for his morning coffee. The strong smell of coffee sometimes fills the tavern before anyone has turned on the pot.

On Bay Street the impressive old Savannah Cotton Exchange has a beautiful red terra cotta winged lion fountain in front surrounded by a fence with medallions of poets and presidents.

The original terra cotta lion, which dated to 1890, was shattered by a car that sped north on Drayton Street, jumped the curb at Bay Street, knocked down a section of wrought-iron fencing, obliterated the winged lion, snapped a lamppost in half, soared over a pedestrian walkway and came to a grinding halt at the front steps of the Savannah Cotton Exchange.

The most amazing part of the accident was that the driver was a native Savannahian, not a tourist and nobody died, which was fortunate otherwise there might be more ghosts haunting the old Savannah Cotton Exchange.

 

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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The Sorrel-Weed house is one of Savannah’s most haunted hot spots. It has been featured on numerous TV paranormal investigation shows and is a must-see for visiting ghost seekers.

Weird vibes at the house cause the living to get nauseous and have the sensation of being strangled. Strange bangs, thumps, and disembodied voices are heard. Shadow figures are seen roaming the rooms and halls. People’s cameras and cell phones are sometimes found to be completely drained of energy. And Psychic Sensitives run away having panic attacks.

Who haunts the house is questionable and the story behind the haunting is about as clear as tidal pluff-mud.

The house was built in the early 1840’s by Francis Sorrel, a wealthy plantation owner who married Lucinda Moxley, who died five years into their marriage. Francis married his dead wife’s younger sister, Matilda, but he also had a long ongoing affair with Molly, a young slave girl. Molly lived above the carriage house and one night they were discovered by Matilda Sorrel. Enraged by her husband’s betrayal, Matilda committed suicide by leaping from the second story balcony of the house. Distraught over what had happened to Matilda, Molly hung herself in the carriage house.

Sounds like good enough reason to haunt a house except that there isn’t a record of a slave woman named Molly and Francis Sorrel sold the house before the date of Matilda’s death. The Sorrel’s moved next door and Matilda took her flying suicidal leap from the balcony at 12 West Harris Street and not The Sorrel-Weed House. Yes, Matilda did kill herself.

And so if it isn’t Matilda and Molly haunting the house, who can it be?

Perhaps the paranormal activity could be Savannah’s mischievous wicked haints following a ghost tour around. It could be a hot spot for ghosts playing pranks on the living. Just think how much fun it would be to scare the bajeebees out of a group of ghost hunters stuck in the basement “voodoo room” at The Sorrel-Weed House!

It’s all in what you believe.

The Ghostly Guest 17Hundred90 Inn

17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant is the oldest hotel in Savannah. It was built in 1820, but 1790 was a better year so, like many places in Savannah, the name was changed out of confusion and convenience. And so it also goes for the ghost stories surrounding the old Inn which have been changed or invented for entertainment.

Story 1: Anne in Room 204. Anne White was the wife of the Inn’s builder, Steel White. When he died in an accident she was so upset she jumped out the window of room 204 and killed herself.  She haunts the room, moves objects around and steals jewelry.

To believe this story a person must overlook the fact that room 204 is located in a portion of the hotel that had not been built when Steel White died and to forget that, after his death, Anne moved to Isle of Hope to live with her sister and brother-in-law.

Story 2: Anne In Room 204. Anne Powell was a flirtatious servant girl who had an affair with a German sailor. He sailed away, she found out she was pregnant, and out of despair and heartbreak committed suicide by diving out the window. She haunts this room by caressing men’s faces, rearranging women’s clothes, and making a dramatic tearful appearance before she takes the fatal leap out the window.

To believe this story a person must overlook the fact that there is no record of Anne Powell living in Savannah. There’s an Anna Powers who lived in the house, but she didn’t dive out a window and actually lived to into her 80’s at the residence with her 82 year old husband.

Story 3: The Voodoo Kitchen Servant. A ghost haunts the kitchen basement and has been reported to push around, pull hair, blow air in ears, and throw pots and pans at women.

To believe this story a person has to believe there isn’t a rat in the kitchen causing mischief and blaming the dead.

Story 4: The Servant Boy. He has no explanation for why he’s there, but he leaves change around.

To believe this story one must believe nobody drops change or has holes in their pockets.

Paranormal investigators ask specifically to spend the night in room 204 for a chance ghostly encounter with Anne. People dine at the restaurant and wait for The Voodoo Spirit to blow air in their ears. They walk the Inn’s hallways and hope to find spare changed from The Servant Boy.

Of course you have to believe the conveniently invented confusing entertainment stories or nothing will happen and you’ll miss all the ghostly fun in The 17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant. But in any case, you most certainly will have a pleasant dining experience and sleep in a nice hotel.

It’s all in what you believe.

There’s a basement bar in City Market known as Pour Larry’s. Not only is this popular pub known for featuring local musicians and cheap drink specials, it’s also known to be haunted by an usually stinky ghost.

The unforgettable nauseous smell of burnt flesh is often combined with unexpected flying drinking glasses aimed at employee’s heads by unseen forces. The overall ‘bad vibes’ experienced in Pour Larry’s, and the unexplainable stench can only mean one thing; it’s haunted by a previous owner, John Montmollin.

John Montmollin was a wealthy plantation owner who owned the brick building at 206 west Jullian Street. He also operated a slave trade business out of this location and kept slaves in the basement. He was an evil sinister man who didn’t treat people fairly and had a devious reputation for crooked dealings. He financed the building of the sailing vessel, The Wanderer, to import slaves. Since it was illegal to bring Africans directly into Georgia The Wanderer secretly wandered up and down the coast with its human cargo. But eventually the ship was confiscated and his lucrative business ended. He was not sent to prison or fined, but instead confined for a week to his luxurious apartment above his business office in City Market. He continued other distasteful rat business ventures for many years after.

And here is how John Montmollin became Savannah’s Stinky Ghost. On June 9th 1859 he was aboard the steamer, J.G. Lawton, 20 miles up the Savannah River when the ship’s boiler exploded and he was killed. He was found two days later with his head and upper body stuck in pluff mud and his legs sticking up like stiff boards. He was burned to a crisp and, after rotting in the Georgia sun for two days, he stunk to high heaven.

But heaven is not where John Montmollin went. Instead he went back to his place of corrupt business to stink up the basement with his rotten burnt flesh smell. He’s not a very happy bar patron (a disgruntled business owner gone mad) and makes his presence known by busting up glasses, stinking up the place and giving off some really ‘bad vibes’.

If you visit Pour Larry’s for a drink and you get an uneasy feeling, and your nose is accosted by the disgusting odor of burnt flesh then perhaps John Montmollin is sitting on the bar stool next to you, or maybe somebody just farted.

In Savannah ya just never know.

It’s all in what you believe …

Casting The Gift Net

I enjoying fishing in the tidal creeks around Savannah, but buying bait (shrimp and mullet) can become expensive. I decided to do what the locals do and learn to throw a cast net to get free bait that God so graciously put in the water for me.

Casting a net is no simple task. It requires practice to acquire the skills needed to toss out a perfect circle, tighten it up and haul in the bait.

To learn this skill I watched YouTube videos, asked questions, observed other cast netters, and I practiced, practiced and practiced until I was able to cast out my net and catch live free bait to go fishing.

The next trick was finding the bait to catch. I learned a bit about catching mullet (little 1-3″ fish) and found a creek that provided a good supply, but I had not been able to find a source for catching shrimp. I really wanted bait shrimp, but I couldn’t find any.

My perfect mullet spot was popular not only for me, but for another cast netter and often he’d be there first and he’d get all the mullet or we’d cast our nets in the same place and scare all the bait away. One day I got so mad that he was in my casting spot that I said, “forget it, I’ll find another mullet hole!” and I went to a different place.

I didn’t have much faith in this new place because it was not a good environment for little bait fish, but I cast out my net and to my delight and surprise… I pulled up a cast net heavy with shrimp! After only a few more casts I had a bucket of bait shrimp!

This wonderful new spot became a shrimp goldmine throughout the fishing season.

I’m grateful to the fisherman who forced me out of my favorite mullet hole because that was how I received the wonderful unexpected gift of the perfect shrimp casting hole.

Sometimes you never know how or where gifts will come to you, so my advice is Go forth… cast a wide net… see what ya get… and be thankful for cast net gifts.

St. Patrick’s Party Week

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It’s that week again; St. Patrick’s Day Week.

St. Pat’s is not a one day event in Savannah, it’s an entire week. It starts with the typical Greening of the Fountains and the arrival of Port-O-Potties.

Seven days ahead of the festivities it’s perfectly acceptable to dress up in green body suits, dye your hair bright green, wear green flashy hats, and of course start drinking green beer.

Savannah is a big party town and this is the biggest party event of the year. It’s even bigger than the Fourth of July and New Years Eve. People come from everywhere to drink, party, and watch (or walk) in the parade. Being Irish isn’t a requirement to have fun, but having lots on money is because everything in town costs twice as much during St. Patrick’s Day Week.

And there’s twice as much stupidity going on; walking, talking and driving while intoxicated, swimming in the fountains, peeing on the azaleas bushes, fighting for a place to watch the parade, smacking the mounted police horse’s butts, thinking it’s a good idea to run across the tops of the Port-O-Potties and the list goes on and on and on.

Why did the Irish come here in the first place if there wasn’t any green beer to entice them? The first nine Irish settlers came to Savannah to escape debtors prison. Later the Irish arrived to work jobs that the plantation owners didn’t want their valuable slaves to do. They built the roads, railroads, and dug the canals. And for all their contributions to this fine city it’s only right that we fill-up and lift-up our to-go party cups and offer-up the second largest St. Pat’s parade in the whole US of A.

With all this party and craziness going on I bet you’re wondering if I’ll be in City Market dressed up like a leprechaun. Well, the answer is no freaking way! This town is off- the-hook crazy with out-of-towners. Like most locals I’ll be as far away from Savannah as I can get!

Party On All y’alls Crazy Irish!

The Gribble House Ax Murders

Every town needs a gruesome gory ax murder and Savannah, not to be out done by any other town, had a Triple Ax Murder!

The diabolical crime was committed on December 9, 1909 at a Mrs. Gribble’s shabby cheap rundown boarding house on West Perry Street.

Carrie Ohlander, a 36 year old deaf lady, lay in the hall; her bloody head crushed and her throat cut. Eliza Gribble, 76, Ohlander’s crippled mother, was found dead with a smashed skull in a back bedroom. Maggie Hunter, 35, had a busted skull, but was still alive and lying at the front door in a pool of blood. She died three days later.

A bloody ax, found in the house, was believed to be the murder weapon. The crime happened at 2:00 in the afternoon on a busy street and, odd as it was, there were no witnesses. There was no sign of a struggle.

How could this horrendous crime happen without anyone seeing or hearing anything? Was it a robbery-gone-wrong or was it a revenge killing? No matter what it was, it was murder and mayhem in true Savannah style.

Police stomped all around the crime scene, so did attorneys, reporters and morbid curiosity seekers. Everybody and anybody was welcomed in to see the dead and give their assessment of the fiendish assaults. Evidence was compromised. Gossip, hearsay, and suspicious behavior was reason enough to haul somebody off to jail. They let lose the Bloodhounds, a $1,000 reward was posted and anybody with a bloody ax was suspect. (I guess they forgot the murder weapon was left at the crime scene)

There wasn’t very many bloody ax welding killers around and eventually the suspects narrowed down to three. 1) Maggie Hunter’s third x-husband JC Hunter from Guyton who turned out to really be David Tayler; a horse thief, a bigamist and an x-convict. 2) William Walls, a family friend and a possible lover of Maggie. 3) John Coker. A cocaine addict neighbor said John Coker did it, but it was discovered she lied and wanted the reward money to buy herself two gold teeth and a diamond ring.

All three men denied the killings.

On her deathbed Maggie told Reverend John S. Wilder who the real murderer was, but he never divulged that information and nobody asked.

Matters got more complicated and weird when rumors spread that Maggie Hunter had a premonition about her pending demise. The morning of the murders she told a friend that ‘Bloody work would be done.’ And when an insurance salesman tried to sell her an insurance policy for JC she told him, ‘I won’t live long enough to collect’.

Apparently in Savannah a death premonition is evidence enough for a conviction. It was decided the crime was not a botched robbery, but a sinister premeditated murder by Maggie’s vengeful x-husband.

JC Hunter was sentenced to death by hanging. He went to prison, but wasn’t hanged and instead spent his time working as a waiter in the Confederate Veterans’ Home. In 1923 he was pardoned and returned to Savannah as a free man.

After the murder and mayhem, the boarding house opened again. But typical of Savannah’s restless dead folks, they just wouldn’t stay dead. Living persons who rented rooms in The Gribble House said blood stains reappeared on the walls where the three women were killed and misty apparitions wandered the halls.

The Gribble House was demolished in 1941. The lot is now a car barn for Old Town Trolley Tours and they say the portion built over the scene of the triple bloody ax murders is haunted.

This is a True Crime Story and I didn’t have to make any of it up because sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; especially in Savannah.