My Interview On “Doing It Different” with Tyler Martina

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When I got wind of this interview from the 6th Sense World office, I was intrigued to know more. When I saw Tyler Martina, he looked like a “too clean” Rock-A-Billy kid from California and so wondered if he was more trendy poseur or had some substance behind all of the tatts and such radiant skin. Hey, no one says you have to have clogged pores to be a greaser and who wants to be a greaser anyway? Turns out he was a real quality rocker guy with a lot of heart and intelligence and was really happy with the way it turned out. We met in the chapel at Hillcrest Abbey Cemetery and was with his family and that put a whole new light on him for me. He had a beautiful wife(?) and just darling daughter who apparently can see ghosts. And what I realized was they were really doing a neat family thing together by seeing the country and then also capturing neat characters and knowledge for the show’s listeners. It not only showed the guy had heart, but business savvy to go along with it. As I told them, the best thing my parents ever did for my brother and myself, was on summer breaks, and riding us around the country Griswold style to all of the big historic sites and National Parks across this great country of our’s and that they’d all be blessed for this as a family later in life. I think they were a tad too young to see all of that but I promise, they’ll one day be thanked by their daughter for it. Anyway, turns out I was their target character and just wanted to do a good job for them. So we talked life, death, paranormal, America’s Most Haunted City both in terms of how Savannah got the title, how I captured it formally and then went out and made a movie about it. We spoke of Bonaventure of course and one day time apparition moment I was witness to that was greatly affecting. Overall I think it turned out pretty decent and really inspired me to get back into my own podcast for 6thSenseWorld Radio more actively which hey, just ordered my new headsets and splitters today so be on the listen out! In the meantime, I hope this is entertaining and informative!

Doing It Different With Tyler Martina
Click Link For Interview

The Crypt Keeper: Shannon Scott

Help Bonaventure By Downloading The Apps

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Although I have 2 amazing Apps of my own, The Haunted Savannah App & The Savannah Historical Apps, I was very honored to be asked by The Bonaventure Historical Society to script and voice two stories for their own. I was bummed that they scrapped one of my stories as it was the hardest to write and record, but they kept in my Conrad Aiken version and as he’s a hero of mine as writer and thinker, I’m more than dandy with the fact. The Apps are $4.99 and its very generous that $3.50 of each download goes back to the efforts of The Bonaventure Historical Society and I hope you will all consider downloading them.

iPhone Users Click Here https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bonaventure-cemetery-tour/id1154175914?mt=8

Android Users Click Herehttps://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tb.tb614&hl=en

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Tami Sabo: Remote Viewer, Mom & Metaphysician

Remote viewing (RV) is the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target using subjective means, in particular, extrasensory perception (ESP) or “sensing with mind”. There is no credible scientific evidence that remote viewing works, and the topic of remote viewing is regarded as pseudoscience.

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You can pretty much bet if the military is using psychic operatives, there’s something to it. Even if ifs funny to make fun of Madame Cleo and all of the rest of the hacks, its like what other con men do. They rip off of the real thing or use the real thing for greedy gains. You have to wonder sometimes if Uri Geller wasn’t just a plant by the government to look like a fraud on Johnny Carson years ago when he was bending spoons and moving things mentally, or rather, lack thereof, just to keep the public cynical and mocking of things psychical. In that sense, you can’t blame the public. And yes, its not good to just believe every Joe who comes along even if its our nature to receive people to be considerate and helpful.

Even so, I’ve been a witness to the powers of Remote Viewing and other phenomenon that we call “spiritual.” Sometime before the subject was made mainstream through films like Subject Zero with Ben Kingsley, and the more popularly received and rather comical, Men Who Stare At Goats, with George Clooney & Jeff Bridges, I’d seen “RV” work first hand through Tami Sabo, and even before that, knew, but didn’t know at first, a Remote Viewer that had been part of the top secret operation, “Project Stargate” at Standford University.

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John Zeuli is a wedding photographer and portrait photographer by trade. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. According to him, before Remote Viewing was de-classified, he saw his friends railroaded to jail and murdered by the government for talking about what they were doing with their psychic abilities. But afterwards, you could write books and make millions. In fact he came to lecture at the first annual conference of The American Institute of Parapsychology in 2002 that I organized here in Savannah and spoke of what Remote Viewing was, and he even showed us how it worked. He noted that to desensitize himself to his physical senses and surroundings, the folks at Stargate put them all in flotation chambers to heighten their mind’s eye. John was quick to tell you that he never used it militarily as he kind of wanted to get into other things but that it was interesting being part of it all. And even though they still use these operatives, they don’t officially. Anyone invited to these programs are told simply they’ll be disavowed if ever asked about their participation officially. But you don’t think they found Saddam Hussein down in a hole just by being friendly to the Iraqi natives do you? Nope. They used Remote Viewers. In fact they located Osama Bin Frauden, or as I prefer to call him, the CIA asset, Tim Osman, multiple times with RVers. They even had some snipers on him in result. But you know, he was a useful idiot before and after 9/11.

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John Zeuli (Center)

All the same, it wasn’t until I met the beautiful, delightful and fiery Aries redhead, Tami Sabo that much more of this became understood to me. Or seeing it work. We’ve known each other for about 13 years now and one day when I do release my book to the world, there’ll be a chapter on the extent of our connection and all of the interesting things we saw and learned together. Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the interview so if I’ve caught your attention this far? Should be worth the 2 hour listen. We talk Savannah of course, hauntings, Remote Viewing, and her latest and greatest project, a custom tarot deck, The Savannah Deck, which uses Savannah & Tybee Island imagery for the purposes of the deck. I think what this recent interview illustrates yet again is that there have been and are so many fascinating people living here and its part of the depth of the phrase or what people mean when they call Savannah, “America’s Most Haunted City”! Indeed! Hope everyone enjoys!

LISTEN HERE: My Radio Interview With Tami Sabo

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Tami Sabo’s Website: The Savannah Deck

Savannah Mystic Fair: The Savannah Mystic Fair

Neat Savannah Events: Jelinek Creative Spaces Website

John Zeuli Photography: John Zeuli Website

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My Appearance On Travel Channel’s “REAL” w/Kinga Philipps

I was really glad to be invited to participate in the taping of this program. Some of the most beautiful camera work to every grace Savannah or vise versa is in this episode. I’ve not seen one done better about Savannah so major kudos to the crew. Naturally they wanted someone who was brainy and eloquent about cemeteries and Savannah strangeness. Oh, and who looked great on camera. Which is why they hired Kinga Philipps who is probably the hottest brainy woman on TV. Oh you thought I was talking about myself? Generally you’re right but now and again you’ve got to defer to another beauty and I’ve got nothing on Kinga. And she likes to surf in Malibu so I can relate to this human dolphin better than the average. The show’s name truly is complimentary to the vibe of the show. Kinga feels really REAL when she addresses you or interacts and asks you questions. And isn’t trying to necessarily “put on” for TV. And Savannah needs more of that. Which is why, in what turned out to be my longest interview on TV, the whole thing really worked. At the start of the program, it may not be clear but I thought it was cool they used a silhouette shot of me and a quote somewhat setting the tone of the show, “You can’t just do what you want in Savannah. Savannah does what it wants to do to you.” Hope you enjoy. She’s promised me that she’ll come back to talk about Root Doctors & Witch Doctors one day so I hope we can do that episode too!

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WATCH VIDEO! http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/real/video/real-savannah

Kinga’s Website! http://kingaphilipps.com/Kinga_Philipps/Kinga_Philipps.html

Daufuskie: The Lost Island & Joe

NOTE: Years ago I had two tours primed to begin on South Carolina’s mysterious and “cursed” island, Daufuskie. A ghost tour and a history tour. All was in place until a resort had its golf carts repossessed and a boat captain couldn’t keep his business of years afloat from the sheer collapse of things on the island economically. Life is still a struggle there but some say getting better. Jimmy Buffet wrote his “Prince of Tides” poem-song about his fears of development threatening this special place. This is my peek at the island through one of its characters and for a time, a man who was to be partners in the endeavor. Meeting him was the best thing that came out of it all really. If you like Part One, encourage me to write Part Two in the comments section. You never know, I just might.

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Daufuskie is only lost to those who don’t have a good guide. As is it goes for any in a strange new land who wish to journey it. But that’s the trick if you want to uncover Daufuskie. Unlike some other coastal vestiges with at least the random historical marker or friendly local, on Daufuskie, without the right hired guide, it’s a place that you can explore for hours and literally come away missing her soul beyond the visual obvious. Many like myself, found advance intrigue through Pat Conroy’s autobiographical novel, The Water Is Wide which recounts his time as a teacher to the Gullah children of the island and all of its cultural and political peculiarities. John Voight in one of his earliest film roles took on the role of Conroy in the 1974 film version, “Conrack,” which is how the Gullah children pronounced Conroy’s name.  Conroy’s book over time has certainly become Daufuskie’s most sacred, if not controversial text. But beyond Conroy’s tales, most of the info on Daufuskie is scattered in history book footnotes and one or two obscure books. There is great lore in those kinds of passages, but in most respects, that lore is limited to inside the pages of such books. To be on the island itself, it is once more silent on those subjects and gives no real clues to finding any tangible objects pertaining to such stories.

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As abstract as Daufuskie remains, a surprising many indirectly know of the island through Jimmy Buffett’s song The Prince of Tides which also became a Conroy novel title and subsequent film. Buffett’s beautiful 1988 poem turned song, is his own lamenting cry to the island and warns of Daufuskie becoming exploited for its beauty by elitist land developers. Today, over 20 years later, the song’s fore-shadowing has been proven all too true. The private neighborhoods and clubs across the island have a feeling of oblivious existence in contrast to the island’s older defining cultures and more integral historical identifiers.

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There seems to be an unspoken rule that if you are visiting Hilton Head, “you must go to Daufuskie.” It’s seen as a proverbial “Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200” type of thing. To the outsider this recreational advisement  resembles something unconsciously embedded in minds of coastal residents. Much akin to asking directions to City Hall somewhere, you either get an autonomic like directing nod or a plethora of stories. Some can explain Daufuskie to you and some cannot. Most simply tell you that you must go and most listeners nod back that this must be unfailingly done!  On the simplest level to the simplest mindset, it’s a nice boat ride and you can rent 4-wheeler type golf carts and drive around for 6 hours with Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. Of which as an activity, I have confessedly partaken. I won’t make excuse for that type of fun, but will say that when I did this almost 20 years ago, there was no Plan B for more soulful gain. Alas, to only go Plan Golf Cart will leave you with the sense that you aren’t really very welcome on the island as a whole and by the end you will be abandoned to an empty feeling that you missed out on something that might have been truly great. But yes, most in the end content themselves that the island lunch was good, shrugging  that their momentary hollow must be due to the long day and leave no worse for their lack of exploration.  But to the Daufuskie pious?  This missed chance for island enlightenment cuts a note like news of an unforgivable crime! To the reverent, the island is natural holy ground consecrated by a long history of unique tribes, food, music, artisans, plant & animal life and more. Daufuskie to many is the Low Country equivalent of Mecca! One goes to Daufuskie to commune with all of it’s beauty and inspiration and for those that understand this they might cry, “Put down thy golf clubs and pick up thy divining rods!”

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But yes, for those who lack divining rods and don’t already speak Daufuskie’s very spiritual language, one must find themselves the company of a great spirit guide. Permit me then to speak of Daufuskie’s storytelling minister. A man with a calling on Daufuskie known as Low Country Joe. Depending on who you ask, he’s like other mythical, many sided things found on Daufuskie. The meaning is all determined by the degree of light and shadow occurring when you encountered said thing or as in this case, man.  Much like the time cured stones from which Joe crafts and wire wraps jewelry, Joe is a composite figure. With Joe, you’re not getting delicate, unobservable crystals. By the time he’s gotten to you, he’s already a complete piece ready for application. Simple to observe and hold, but much the same of other gems, there was a long complex process went into making him. Joe in fact might as well be Daufuskie. By all counts he’s considered the living face and voice of the island, and like the island, Joe has as many faces as he does voices.

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Like all those trying to survive on a complicated land mass like Daufuskie, Joe walks in multiple worlds in order to thrive and to live creatively.  When Joe is on Hilton Head Island, he works as a realtor and is greatly admired by his peers for his track record.  But for Joe, Hilton Head is the physical world and Daufuskie is the spirit one.  One gets the sense that Joe sees going to Hilton Head as the place where he does good earthly work, but that crossing back over the water to Daufuskie is a return to a place more sanctuary like for himself. Yes, Daufuskie is home for Joe, but it’s also a bit of his own personal heaven.  Yet for Joe it’s not the Heaven of eternal rest. No, Joe is more than just another celestial resident. He’s more like like an angel on call and his duty it would seem is to explain the place’s surroundings.

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He often tells the tourists that he’s a “tweener.” Meaning that he lives and lavishes in between the two cultures on Daufuskie.  There are the fore mentioned rich, living in the Haig Point community, and then there are those who are rich only in culture and family called “Gullah.” They are descendants of the first quarter of a million slaves to enter the colonies, stolen from their native African nation of Angola.  Interestingly, if you were to ever visit there, you’d find that those Africans refer to themselves as Golla. When slaves were emancipated, there were many freedmen who trekked Northward to the cities for real work and to begin fresh. In contrast, the Gullah (and the Georgia Geechee), for reasons of home affinity and economics,  opted to move themselves to the islands of the Southern coastline. Understandably, this move was basically the perfect situation for those that had mistrust of their former white detractors. The Gullah came to harvest the islands and the sea and traded with the mainland but generally speaking, their culture became an isolationist one.  Yet even in those early days of the post war Gullah, there were people who acted as tweeners.  People who had need of the Gullah and they had need of them for one reason or the other. Well in the modern sense of Daufuskie, this is the position from which Joe works. Joe cannot be Low Country Joe without the Gullah and whether the Gullah know it or not, they have need of Joe. There aren’t very many people trying to bring positive energy directly to the island in terms of presenting the Gullah’s life and times.  But even amongst those who are, Joe is clearly unique.

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As a member of Haig Point, Joe is certainly not poor, but he is neither extraordinarily rich. It should be noted that when living on Daufuskie, there isn’t much middle of a middle class and of what there is, it’s so far removed from those in the upper crust that they are living more towards the fiscally poor. Low Country Joe’s riches have more to do with quality of life measures. There are other very interesting “tweeners” on the island (some parcel to his tours), but none respectfully seem so much a captain or island dignitary as does Joe. What truly sets him apart is his role as champion storyteller. Of which Daufuskie has more than one bard to count. But Joe through guts, passion and even the occasional act of folly, has landed himself as ringmaster and his guided tours serve as center stage.

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The ferry ride from Hilton Head to Daufuskie is as perfect  a 45 minutes that one could ever possibly spend. The unhurried waterways are full of breathtaking scenery of islands, boats, coastal houses, birds, dolphins, clouds, and other sensory delight that only add to the emotional  mythos  of the journey. In the case of the tour that day, there were a handful of friends with me and Low Country Joe met us earthly side for the ride over to the spiritual sands of Daufuskie. One of the first things you notice about Joe is that he’s very gentle in appearance.  His eyes are very soft and he has a very distinguished alabaster white beard and head of hair. He wears a long white, oversized and very finely made safari shirt with lots of pockets and buttons. His wrists and neckline bore wire jewelry that he crafts and with its simple wire, crystals and arrow flint, his whole wardrobe made him feel very much like some holy man escort. There’s a quality to him that is very light and at first, very under spoken. Before we boarded the ferry and were walking through the parking lot, it was almost as if he floated and I had to force myself to catch his sound. This nature I would come to understand is his style as a storyteller.  Going from underwhelming to then overwhelming is more his trick you could say.  Joe was quietly preparing to run us up a storytelling mountain.

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While on the ferry, Joe began to talk to us about “root.” Offering that there was good root operating in the world and bad root. The concept was not unfamiliar to me having lived in Savannah for so long and for having called some Gullah friends and neighbors. I’ve even known a few root doctors in my own time.  Root inside the Gullah world and in the most basic sense, is a reference to natural energy in the world that can be used for good and evil. But probably even more primordial than that, it stems from the long history of using roots for the improvement of health, or sometimes to the detriment of an enemy. The belief is that it can be channeled into an object and offered for protection or presented to harm or it can even be instrumented through words. One of the most serious things you could ever say inside of the Gullah culture or even just in some southern neighborhoods would be, “I’m going to root you!” At one time when root doctors were more the medicine people (and a bit like lawyers), of neighborhoods, this kind of a statement was a declaration of war. It would have typically resulted in all parties enlisting their own root doctor to help them do battle.

 

The phrase and suggestions of root can still be quite affecting. Root isn’t unlike Voodoo or aspects of Macumba or Santeria. Depending on who you ask about the subject, and I might argue that authority in the subject is as subjective as the craft itself, you’re going to get varying claims on it being more good or more evil. Most Gullah are and have been either Christian or Muslim so they tend to stave off the importance or value of root. The mention either gets you scoffs because their churches have taught them its anti-faith or they will simply do their best to avoid getting into its discussion. But make no mistake, root still thrives in this region and those who worship one way or the other in their churches or mosques, still seek out its purpose and practice if they feel it will benefit them in certain situations. If just as a back up measure to prayer and regular legal or medical counsel.

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Joe extended his hand to me to show that he held a piece of good root. It was a very old piece of Indian pottery and looked like black obsidian. He handed it to me so that I might consider its energy or powers. I could tell that it was not just old but ancient. It had ridges that reminded me of the way bakers pinch certain pastries at their edges. Its known that Daufuskie was home to what they call the “Woodland” tribes that date about 9000 years ago and Joe estimated that it was somewhere from that time. He’d said he’d found it on “Fuskie” and considered it his personal charm. Which at first I thought it was a gift for me and when he requested it back I made him laugh a little when I called him an Indian artifact giver.

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We arrived not far from the historic Haig Point Lighthouse and walked up a winding tabby path towards the Strachan Mansion.  Joe marveled to explain that this historic house had been built in the 18th century and in a very fancy move, one of the developers had moved the mansion onto the island flatboat style as a show piece to accent the nearby golf courses and other resort aspects. Somehow the mansion no longer felt antique with its highly manicured surroundings and buzzing golf carts. It looked less historic and more historic “like.” As we stepped into the mansion foyer, or what was once a very grand porch, for all of the many tables and other seating niches, it was devoid of people. Joe began to explain that since one of the resorts went bankrupt that it wasn’t quite what it used to be. I must explain that my interest in Daufuskie is much more about the Gullah and antique for its own sake and my lifestyle isn’t much akin to the life and times of gated communities and resort life. So frankly I was indifferent to the news and for this part of the tour I found myself feeling less convinced about it being that compelling or material. One resort is but another cut of the same cookie in these parts really. Old house out front or not. But besides this, I remained patient because I knew that the “good stuff” was just around the corner.

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As we went out the back door to what would have been an area for horses, we found instead a stable of golf carts. Some privately owned, some rentals and there were a variety of 57’ Chevy designed ones, those of limo length and off road ATV looking types. On a side note, I would recommend if at all possible, getting one with the fat tires if you’re going to voyage beyond the resort as we did. The sandy, unkempt roads of the historic neighborhoods and other areas aren’t much for the small tread wheels of the one we ended up securing. But I suppose that was a part of the fun too so take it or leave it. Joe made his introductions to the garage staff and we found one that sat all 8 of us and mounted up. What I came to admire about Joe that day was he isn’t one to really color inside of the lines all of the time. He didn’t much bother with golf course, golf cart etiquette and if there was something he felt dire to show us, by God he was going to drive across a yard or some boundary implied border to get us there! Which is also a rank he’s kind of earned but walks finely too. It became clear to me that day by looks and comments of resort members, that he’s revered for his character by some who are worldly and accepting enough, but that he’s also snubbed now as a distasteful entity among the elite. So goes his life as the tweener and for now, he pays his membership dues just like the rest of them.

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At this point I want to impress that if you have ever wanted to satisfy your childhood or perhaps even adult fantasy of riding shotgun to Willy Wonka inside of his factory, less the immaculate chocolate part of that idea, spending a day with Low Country Joe is a very close equivalent! He is all at once the island mystic and tour guide guru but it comes with personality streaks of a mad hatter alright! He’s going to show you all of the special and secret rooms with much dramatic annunciation, but yes, he’s quick to remind you to have the proper respect of this mechanic or that facet to the island. It would be easy to convince yourself that the island is just his factory with some of his libertine stories and off color takes on the place, but he truly manages to evoke and maintain the appropriate respect for the place while he’s dazzling you. He’s truly a master at balancing this like any great performer. Which I might add is another virtue of Joe’s kind of touring and its importance to the island by contrast to the general offerings of the “get a golf cart and go” routines. As you pass by those “other types” doing that, it’s basically comes off as out of control and bears no resemblance to having any respect for where they actually are.

As we sputtered off across a path or two, our first stop was to a series of tabby ruin buildings. If you’re ever in the South and you want to show off your regional knowledge and even one-up some of the locals, just expound on the subject of tabby ruins and you’ll gain instant respectability. It’s a statement that you’ve put some time in the area and have quite possibly sought them out like an ancient shrine, as many a tabby ruin are only found in obscure places and some even more obscure than Daufuskie. Tabby is a “lost” building art and the substance is comprised of oyster shells, limestone, sand and water. It took 8 men an entire work day to build a section a foot high and 10 ft long. Some of the sturdiest stuff every manufactured in its time and the chemical moment that made all of the ingredients bind is gone from memory. So yes, they’re iconic structures that to the unfamiliar eye look quite primitive and almost like natural formations rather than manmade.  According to Joe, these ruins were some of the early slave quarters for the no longer extant Haig Point Plantation of the mid 19th century. But as these ruins sat somewhere between the tee green and the clubhouse, we stayed but a minute and then went ambling back down the road.

A moment or two later we set our sights on the very curious and very beautiful Haig Point Lighthouse built in 1872.  It stands so close to the bluff that it very much looks ready to jump into the water! The structure is very much the definition of “light” and “house.” Unlike the rising cylinder or needle styled light houses, it looks like a home that was built around a tower containing a look out deck and housing for the lens. Haig Point Lighthouse was built on top of the foundation for one of the largest tabby homes ever built and when the lighthouse was restored in the 1980s, instead of covering up the foundation, they left the tops of its walls exposed and marks an impressive outline that at first glance appears to be an unusual sidewalk. Joe drove us up close to the house and around it and described that it was now a 2 bedroom B&B situation for guests of Haig Point. Low Country Joe is also known as “Lighthouse Joe” and anything lighthouse is very dear to Joe’s heart since he lives in his own, The Bloody Point Lighthouse on the other end of the island. So if you want to endear yourself to Joe forever, brush up on your lighthouse history and you’ll be fast friends.

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Bonaventure: Heaven’s Playground (Part One)

Photo By Shannon Scott (C) All Rights Reserved

Photo By Shannon Scott (C) All Rights Reserved

NOTE: Originally appeared in the online quirky magazine, Twisted South, and I am mentioned as the mysterious man of the cool business card. Any other implications to me in the writing are either highly exaggerated or completely true. As many know, there is a City Cemetery Policy against telling ghost stories or discussing anything psychical, paranormal or otherwise “creepy” in City of Savannah Cemeteries. And although this seems highly contrary to A, The First Amendment, but also in a city where the heritage of such discussion easily goes back to The Revolutionary War, if not prior, all the more curious. Noteworthy is that the City of Savannah government page has a Q&A section where in the Top 5 questions is strangely, “Are any of the cemeteries haunted?” As if this somehow is such an issue that they need to formally address it in a government way. Lo & behold there is actually a governmental answer and everyone should definitely check it out at the below link. http://www.savannahga.gov/faq.aspx 

Part of my adding this article to my blog page is that I found it highly respectful of Savannah, the history and entertaining at the same time. I also address my feelings about said rules & their reasons in the article itself. 

Bonaventure: Heaven’s Playground (part I)

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

I went to Savannah, Georgia looking for ghosts, yet I’m the one who came back feeling haunted. For the past few years, I’d heard that Savannah was supposed to be the most haunted city in America. When I got the call to write a story for a magazine, I wasn’t sure I’d end up caring much about it because, frankly, I had some pretty cheesy perceptions of such things. I was leery. Now, I’d say never judge a ghost by its sheet!

As I poked around, it turns out in 2002 Savannah was dubbed “America’s Most Haunted City” by The American Institute of Parapsychology.  In no time at all (according to the city’s Visitors Bureau), it went from a town of five ghost tour companies to over 50!  So if Dahlonega, Georgia is known as the original Gold Rush town, Savannah may well be considered the original “Ghost Rush” town. Like any good prospector, I wanted to know if there were ghosts in dem thar hills (or swamps, but you get the point). I’d visited Savannah before and really took to the place, but I didn’t want to be too touristy this time around, so I decided to bypass the ghost tour scene. My aim was to grab up a few ghost stories from the locals and head out on my own. To be honest, it really seemed that everyone I talked to had the same story about this house or that hotel, with some variations. I was getting discouraged. But with one phone call, my angle (and my attitude) completely shifted to a single cemetery.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne PhotographyPhoto courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

I was on the phone with a city person, and was trying to feel them out on why hauntings were such a big deal. At one point, I asked what seemed to be a perfectly normal question, “Do you have any haunted cemeteries?”

*Silence*

They muttered, “Umm…we don’t have any.”

I chuckled back, “How’s that?”

The person responded more convincingly, “None of our cemeteries are haunted.”

My curiosity was naturally raised by this retort, “Are you telling me that officially? How do you know that they’re not?”

More withdrawn, they replied, “Ummm…we have a city policy that there can be no discussion of ghosts or paranormal subjects on cemetery grounds managed by the city.”

I nearly dropped the phone. Although it felt very stop-the-presses, I could not get much more out of them and was shocked by what seemed a genuine nervousness around the conversation.

“You do realize you’re known as America’s Most Haunted City, right?”

“I’ve heard that, yes,” they replied.

Coyly, I asked, “So do Savannah’s ghosts just know to stay out of the cemeteries or do you tell them they can’t come in?” I had hoped to prompt a little laughter, but none came and I left them with a final query, “Ok, so if I wanted to not find some ghosts and not hear any ghost stories in a cemetery, where would be my best bet?”

“On or off the record?” they asked. “Off,” I told them. And then came the name…”Bonaventure.

Once the name had been spoken, it was like it kept growing in importance. I started to see the name printed in tourist magazines, on brochures and heard the word coming out of many mouths in hotel lobbies and gift shops. I got the feeling this place was taunting me through total strangers. My curiosity only grew while feeling equally uneasy, like maybe I should ignore the voices. Unfortunately I couldn’t, and it got worse when a beautiful, smiling bartender named Sabine, standing behind the basement bar of The Olde Pink House, exclaimed, “Oh, you’ve got to go there! I know the perfect person for you to talk to.” She handed me the strangest business card I’d seen in a while.

BizCard

Half listening to Sabine talk of being in Bonaventure late one night during a lightning storm with friends thinking they’d not live to see tomorrow, I stared hypnotized at a single large red eye staring out at me from this business card. Three links formed a crescent above it like a halo or bizarre eyelash. There was no name, just three initials, “S.S.S.,” but on the back of the card there was a winged hourglass graphic, and it boasted, “PROVIDING the Public with The Most Illuminating, Inimitable and Eternally COMPELLING TALES Currently Possible Here On Earth.” I felt like I was inside of an 18th century mansion root cellar and the ghost of P.T. Barnum had handed me his 19th century calling card through a gypsy woman. I half expected Sabine to be gone when I looked up, but no, thank God she was still pouring. Tomorrow I’d dial the number.

At first, I got the voicemail a few times, then finally a call back. The man’s voice was very pleasant and he sounded like he was a singer or a DJ.

Asking politely, “How can I help you, Byron?”

I spoke of my mission and he acknowledged my interest but after a few minutes of conversation he said, “I respect your interest but I really can’t comment on anything because it would put my livelihood at stake.”

He seemed genuinely guarded, “You see, I’m a believer myself, and have seen things, but to do what I do in the old guard’s cemetery, I have to keep the lid on that topic. It’s kind of a gentleman’s agreement out there.”

Inquiring further, “But why all of the secrecy? Don’t they know it just makes it sound more haunted?”

Photo courtesy of Dick BjornsethPhoto courtesy of Dick Bjornseth

The man with the strange card thoughtfully answered, “I do, Byron, but really I think the intention is to guard the old cemeteries from exploitation. I think their hearts are in the right place, but it’s a kind of censorship, and you know, some of the earliest ghost stories themselves come from locals talking in the 18th century about the spirits of Revolutionary War soldiers coming out of the wall of Colonial Park Cemetery. That’s on record.” He went on to add, “Ghosts are a long-standing part of the city heritage and really, if told the right way, can act for sources of reflection on life and our values. Some scare a little, but you know, mostly they’re there to tell a kind of life story or comment on history in a different way. It’s not a bad thing, but some see it as making fun or something about life being cheap.” He joked, “Some story tellers are better at keeping it thoughtful and classier than others.”

He spoke of a tour that he did called Bonaventure After Hours which was the only cemetery night tour in the city.  He invited me along. Our conversation was like Savannah itself, a mixture of dualities and contradictions. Even though I’d not gotten what I’d hope to get out of him, I felt like I’d learned something very deep about Savannah. I was more eager than ever to visit Bonaventure.

Bonaventure Cemetery sits in a town that according to Savannah author, Tarrin Lupo, was named by pirates, as well as for the intense lightning storms that occur there. In the minds of most who live in the area, it’s still Savannah, but the old fishing village is technically a separate jurisdiction. Any town named by pirates has got to be good, so I made my way down Victory Drive to see the town, Thunderbolt, where Bonaventure rested. As I turned down the waterfront road, there were condos, a smattering of funky old cottages, a couple of shops and not much else. It was quaint, reminiscent of many New England port towns I’d grown up around. Smack dab in the middle of the main road was a large wooden cross.  I thought of John Carpenter’s The Fog and had visions of sailor ghosts with glowing red eyes wandering the streets.

I decided to pull into the parking lot of a restaurant that was all verandas and decks called Tubby’s Tankhouse for more story reconnaissance and a drink. The bartender, Sheila, was nice and without much hesitation, I told her what I was doing. Before I could even ask her, she was off and running with a story about working there and seeing a ghost in the kitchen. My mind began to wander and it struck me that people who live in Savannah are either slightly off, or there’s something about the environment that causes people to really see apparitions. Not expecting much, I asked her if she’d ever seen anything in Bonaventure itself.

Photo courtesy of Dick BjornsethPhoto courtesy of Dick Bjornseth

Sheila paused for a moment and then offered, “Mostly spook lights and children’s voices…and their laughter sometimes.”

I gulped a little bit at her answer and asked, “What do you mean?”

She began, “Ever since I was a little kid, my friends and I, we’d sneak out there and just wander around, and we’d see these big balls of light jump across the path and sometimes rise up into the trees and sit in the crooks like they was birds perched or somethin.”

“How big were they?” I asked.

“Some were tennis ball size and then some bout as big as a basketball, I reckon,” she concluded.

“You said something about laughter,” I inquired.

“Yeah, it’s the darndest thing…we’d hear running in gravel behind us, feet skidding and pebbles going every which way, and then kids laughing like they were right behind us and all around us, and then we’d see the spook lights,” Sheila said, somewhat elated.

Beyond curious, I pressed, “Sheila, why do you think all of that is happening?”

Her answer was touching and amusing. …“Well we used to call it Heaven’s Playground as kids…there are more kids buried out there than anything and we kind of saw it like Heaven was letting them come out at night to play with us real kids.”

I thanked her, paid my bill and set off to see a place that now felt more mythical than real. Bonaventure.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2!