Ghosts, Witch Doctors, Midnight In The Garden of Good & Evil and Why Donald Trump Scares The Illuminati

Feel free to read the original interview with additional video media by Scully Love Promo by clicking this link My Most Personal Interview To Date

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Savannah Storyist Shannon Scott is
The Bard of Bonaventure 

by Scully Love Promo

As a fan of all things Gothic and of the phenomenal bestselling book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (1994) and the movie of the same name (1997), I have long been fascinated with the singularly unique city of Savannah, Georgia. The city’s splendid Federal, Georgian, Regency, Italianate, Romanesque Revival and Second French Empire architectural styles, stunning ornate ironwork, 22 historic squares, and live oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss just scream Gothic romance. It is known as America’s Most Haunted City because it was literally built upon its dead and you don’t have to walk far along its streets to bump into someone who has had a ghostly encounter.

I finally got to visit Savannah for the first time in March of this year and returned for a very quick second visit in mid-October. I’m going back in January because the place has cast a spell on me and I truly feel that absorbing what it has to offer is part of my spiritual path.

The most important tourist destination for me was always going to be Bonaventure Cemetery because of its beauty and because I’ve been interested in history and the paranormal since I was a teenager.  Meeting Savannah Storyist, Shannon Scott, also known as The Bard of Bonaventure, was a delightful experience as he is one of the most interesting people I have ever met and if you read this interview in its entirety you will understand why. He’s a busy man so I didn’t have time to ask him many questions in person, but he has graciously agreed to be interviewed for my blog.

Christine Bode and Shannon Scott

Shannon is a Renaissance man … a charming, multi-talented, intelligent gentleman, who has had a fascinating career as an artist, filmmaker, producer, paranormal expert, historian, author, storyteller, tour guide and CEO of Bonaventure Cemetery Journeys and Shannon Scott Tours.

Thank you for agreeing to take the time to answer my questions, Shannon, and for being a guest of my blog.

Note to readers: This is a very long, but fascinating read. It is not a typical blog post and is not to be rushed through. Take your time. Prepare your favorite beverage. Turn your phone off. Enjoy it in pieces. But do finish it as it will be worth it to anyone who has similar interests. 


SHANNON’S PARANORMAL OR “PSYCHICAL” WORLD EXPERIENCE

When and why did you become interested in the paranormal?

I honestly prefer the word “psychical” if just one, because it’s a better word and one that I can take more seriously.  It’s more of a true historical literary word and has a broader connotation respective of the spiritual journey, layers of connection between the emotional nature of human beings and the world around us.  Which is what I’m interested in as a personal course of learning.  The word paranormal is like its modern day, bucolic cousin.  Although, I’ll be the first to admit that like everyone else I have taken advantage of its marketability as it draws attention to these spiritual and metaphysical subjects.  I mean I did own at one time, Savannah’s most famous ghost tour company, Sixth Sense Savannah.  It’s a useful word.  But it comes with a price for someone like me and I have worked harder to distance myself from that word and in some sense, the paranormal culture, because it’s become fashionable and gimmicky and often very silly.  But as an old soul and deep thinker, I’ve always taken in connections around me so being in touch with my psychical aspects from a very early age led me to being open-minded, but with Reason well intact, and from there, following my sense of curiosity.  In high school, I worked in a Victorian cemetery called Maplewood and when you dig graves, weed eat around old headstones, make a study of inscribed sentiments and last gasps of family expression, it gets you thinking perhaps more than the average person about life and death.

How did you become a paranormal expert?

Again, there’s that word. Hah!  In fairness you could say I became a very reasonable recorder or historian of at least Savannah’s haunted history.  When I was still a newbie here some 30 years ago, I noted that in the same way in other towns, people talked about the weather, in Savannah, the subject of ghosts was giving the one of weather a run for its money!  And it wasn’t as if I went looking for it.  It’s like it was just there…at sidewalk cafe tables, coffeehouses, people’s dinner tables.  And it also had a gossip like quality. Like in the way someone wants to tell you about a cousin who met a celebrity once? Exactly.  Everyone wanted to talk about the ghost over at their friend’s home or their own ghost-lebrity encounter.  I think the first ghost story told to me was by a man in line at a Kroger grocery.  At the time, I’d just gotten off the Objectivist boat with philosopher Ayn Rand, which means like a lot of college kids sorting out the universe, I’d pretty much become a card-carrying atheist and was in no way going to hear about the ghosts. Needless to say, Savannah had other plans for what I thought I knew about the metaphysical world.  Ultimately, my sojourn into all of this is a mixture of just growing as an individual, having some other worldly experiences and then also some course onto an existential path called “a job.”  And then different jobs that all stacked up to me gaining knowledge and notoriety.

At one point in my storyteller life, I was asked by a tour company owner to develop ghost tours for the area as there was only one operating that was more family operated and he wanted something that would really stand out.  I refused flatly as I didn’t want to be associated with anything of the kind.  Ghost tours in my mind were hokey and just didn’t appeal to my beliefs. But then he named my price.  Hah!  I agreed on the condition that I could craft a tour in a journalistic form and base it on current hauntings or for anything that was historical in nature, that I would be able to source it versus just reciting it out of the book, Savannah Spectres.  Which I will acknowledge as a book, was the first and original source for every ghost tour company in town and was the first book to break ground on sharing this knowledge with the greater public.  I used it as a reference for tracking down the witch, Sybil Leek, the ghost hunter couple and demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren from The Amityville, and a host of other important people like Uri Geller.  Eventually I tracked them all down less Sybil Leek who was deceased, but her son Julian and I went through her collection of papers that she’d recorded regarding her work in Savannah.

At the same time, I was running all those characters down, I typed up a letter to the general public, printed 1000 copies and went around downtown and put them in people’s mailboxes in the hopes of landing interviews. I ended up sitting down with people or took their calls and emails, compiling what eventually became my first ghost tour.  To my knowledge I was the first person to ever go at such a thing at that level and in some respect, I became the second ghost tour guide ever in Savannah operating a nightly tour and the first to offer this more mature, envelope-pushing researched tour.  I spent the next 15 years doing it too.

As I built my notoriety as a storyteller and researcher, Hollywood started periodically reaching out to me and would ask me for stories for different shows they were doing and at first it was, “Do you have a story about a Civil War romance” or whatever it was, but eventually in the late 1990’s they start calling more and more about haunted subjects.  In 1999 I was hired by Triage Entertainment to help research and shoot the pilot episode of Scariest Places on Earth with Linda Blair.  We shot some of the pilot episode in Savannah and over the course of the next six years, I was active in working for shows like MTV’s FEAR, ABC Family’s Real Scary Stories and then my last gig was researcher and associate producer on the 2005 Halloween episode of Ghost Hunters.  In that time period, I got to travel and talk to about every parapsychologist, psychic, medium, and clairvoyant that was working presently or had achieved some acclaim in the past. Eventually, I got out of the TV side of things and concentrated on making my documentary, “America’s Most Haunted City – Part One” about Savannah, Georgia. So, you see, it’s a long arc of events and a combination of many experiences that made me as you say, a “paranormal expert.” Again, cringing here.

Please forgive me for making you cringe as it wasn’t my intention. Will you tell me about the creepiest supernatural experience you’ve ever had?

Gosh.  I’d have to say in my house on E. Jones Street… One night I was awakened by the cold nose of my Alaskan sled dog, Mina the Malamute, which was the universal high sign for “Daddy, I have to go pee now.”  Admittedly, I was on the fourth floor of an 1850’s row house and so if in fact I was feeling exhausted, I would just open the door to my deck and she’d click clack out there and pee on the deck and the gutter would catch it.  I know, right?  But as she got older? Bathroom time was me carrying her down four flights of stairs and generally back up and so as there was the risk that she’d not make it in time, the deck option was also practical.

So that night she goes out there and squats but instead of going straight out, she B-lined to the side of the deck, squatted and then came back past me rather quickly.  Now, I’m half asleep, my contacts are out, but I’m standing there thinking, “that’s odd.”  And that’s when I noticed “It.”  It was about 10 feet in front of me.  It had what I would call large hollow eyes, a gaping mouth and was wearing some sort of tattered cloak and it wasn’t just standing there, it was hovering.  Now I get into trouble when I invoke the whole Harry Potter wraith thing, but if you need a visual? That’s pretty much it.  Now what I can tell you is exactly this.  I was shooting it an energy of, “I’ve never seen anything like you before,” and it was sending me a vibe of, “I’m not used to anyone seeing me.”  It was like it was busted or something?  Anyway, as I stood there, I just remember looking right at it and saying as directly as possible, “YOU CAN’T COME IN HERE!”  I then shut the door and for the next 10 minutes walked around like a madman in my room shaking of the heebies.  I then put my contact lenses in and opened the door back up and it was gone.  I even remember looking down the rooftops of the directly adjoining row houses to see if I could see anything and I did not.  Over time, this being would present itself to others both while I lived there and even to the Cherokee Indian girl who moved in right after me.  This was in part why Ghost Hunters investigated my house in 2005 but it was done as an aside thing to the show and wasn’t meant for the show itself.

Do you have any psychic ability?

I have psychical abilities like every human being.  It is limited to empathic and some seer type things where I can see or visualize a person in their future even if I’ve only known them briefly.  But I do not associate this with anything out of the ordinary or being extra special.  It’s just what already makes me special as an individual in a completely natural way, and all of us for that matter.  You’ll never see me on a TV show or promoting anything around that by the way.  I would argue that most who say they have abilities are over stating things or are deceptive.  It’s difficult to contradict that stuff to say the least but my intuition tells me they’re dishonest.

Have you had a near-death experience? If so, will you share a bit of it.

Not in the NDE way, no.  I was nearly killed by a man trying to stab me in a mugging once and then one time was abducted by a mugger who periodically stroked my neck with a gun barrel but in each case, I got out of it alive.  Makes you think though!  I did have an out-of-body experience once in a time where I was in great spiritual and mortal conflict and thought I might die if something didn’t improve or that I might resort to taking my own life.  My 2nd Spirit as some tribes call it, traveled to the glass ceiling of space and a magnificent large cosmic presence told me, “It’s not your time and you have more work to do” and they hurtled me back into my body. That was NYE 1999 during that whole Y2K nonsense.  There’s a greater story there but think I will save it for my book.

SEDUCTIVE SAVANNAH AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL

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How did you end up in Savannah and how long have you lived there?

Savannah seduced me of course. But in reality, like so many kids, The Savannah College of Art & Design secured me through a scholarship for their Fine Arts program.  However, as I would come to tell people later, “SCAD was the excuse, Savannah was the mission.”  I have lived in Savannah for 27 years total and three off and on or as of 2018 is the case.  I was floored by the beauty of the place, even in its decay.  Just like Lady Astor once said, “Savannah is an angel with a dirty face.”  Now she’s almost too pretty again and a little snooty to be honest.  I had it good in the old days when just the old guard were uppity in a well-earned way.  Now it’s the boutiquers and the trust funders snobbing around. Thank God Bonaventure Cemetery is just full of dead people who don’t care what they look like or much how you do either.  Anyway, I digress.  I fell in love with this living Southern Belle cousin of Williamsburg or something and haven’t much wanted to leave. It’s like waking up in a bed & breakfast every day and the birds sing 24 hours a day. Really, they do.

Was the publishing of John Berendt’s bestselling book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” a catalyst for any part of your career?

Positively and I could talk about it for hours.  And of course, Bonaventure Cemetery is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil“the Garden” in the title idea and most of the characters are buried out there. One of my first friends was the fine art painter and furniture restorer, Barry Thomas, who is a character in the book described as running the antique shop for Jim Williams and who gave Jackie O the tour of The Mercer House in one chapter.  He was a brilliant painter but sadly died of AIDS in 1994.  I was a fan of his paintings and he introduced me to Jim in the bar of The Olde Pink House which ironically was a gay bar in the beloved mansion and Jim had once owned or was partner in the restaurant bar.  In fact, the mirror above the bar there is still the same.  Eventually Jim became my neighbor and I spent some time around The Mercer House, went to the last Christmas party he held there and before he died, a friend of his hired me to cook a Christmas dinner for he and 11 other gay men and Williams was in attendance, albeit somber.  I cooked them a nine course Christmas dinner.

Most of that circle didn’t discuss darker subjects around me out of respect for my age and of course for Jim.  I think he died just 2.5 months after the dinner.  In some ways I remember him and then in other ways don’t.  But I did get interviewed by Kevin Spacey because of the connection and I feel that Spacey did an excellent job capturing Williams, but the film didn’t flatter it.  I thought at times he was Jim Williams’ ghost (that’s how accurate) and a stage play would’ve been better suited for Spacey.

It was around 1988 that I also met Joe Odom who was heavily in decline, addicted to drugs and alcohol.  He lived across the street from me and then later I saw him all the time dressed in his tuxedo in the middle of the day.  He would invite my tours and I off the streets and play the baby grand piano in The Hamilton-Turner House, which was owned by Nancy Hillis, aka, “Mandy” (Alison Eastwood), in the book, and just as the novel describes, Joe would have his black maid serve us lemonade.  My tourists’ minds were blown away by that but to me this was every day Savannah.  Even when Joe was dying of AIDS, he looked good and he was very vain they say and that was the only upside to his decline, for himself, I understand.

I have distinct recollections of going to Lady Chablis’ house after Club One closed on the weekends.  I’d had gay friends in my youth but never at that level, I guess?  Savannah was the big city to me compared to my hometown in Illinois so people like Lady Chablis were part of this great personality menagerie in Strangevannah and I couldn’t get enough.  It seemed like everything before 9/11 in this country had an innocence to it that isn’t here anymore.  You could get a wristband at a bar at 18 and getting served underage wasn’t a problem.  We’d pile over to Lady Chablis’ house and hang out ‘til she kicked us out and I only had to stumble a few blocks home to Jones Street.

The “career” acceleration moment was when I started dating an older woman who was a native Savannahian but at one time a real power player in the NYC fashion scene and who’d retired back to her hometown.  The author of the novel, John Berendt, was part of her rat pack in NYC in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  I think it was in 1992 that he mailed her the manuscript and I’d catch her looking up and gushing, “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!”  And I’d laughingly say, “WHAT!?”  She’d reply, “I can’t tell you!”  Well, she went to Italy at one point and I was house sitting her house and she put the manuscript in the drawer and said, “Don’t read that!” Obviously, I did.  Hah!

It was eye-opening because I didn’t know all these things about the murder trial really.  I was so young then and kind of oblivious.  But I read some stuff that didn’t end up in the book either and of course have my own stories that should’ve been but everyone around here says that and that’s a part of what keeps the book alive too.  Probably my favorite relationship at some level was with the character, Luther Driggers.  For fans of the book they’ll know him as the guy who has the vial of poison and the thing about the flies tethered to his collar like they were his fly circus pets.  Luther wasn’t his real name, but he didn’t want it in the novel, so they changed it. Anyway, he and I were lunchmates and even after he went into the old folks’ home, Sister’s Court, he would write me letters and mail me things.  In hindsight I realize he was passing the torch to me on some of the secrets and I really loved him.  He died in 2002 and is now buried in Bonaventure.

What’s scary is that my own tours out there are just an excuse to go visit all my friends. By the way, Canadians are still the number one buyer of that novel!  Thanks, Canada for keeping me out of hock!  Oh, and if I may be so bold?  By the time this goes live, I will be offering my brand-new tour, “The GOOD & EVIL X” Tour.  You’re the first to hear of it.  It will be offered as a private daytime or evening tour hitting all the key stops relative to the novel from a Bonaventure perspective and it will be completely adults only.  The price itself will reflect the content and a reveal at the end which is worth the ticket price alone if you’re a die-hard fan!

What is your perception of the integrity of the book?

The book is 92% true, 8% fiction.  Or maybe 10%?  But even the fiction isn’t wildly speculative.  The title couldn’t have been more perfect.  Once you really, truly live here, you realize that the light is the most beautiful, but the shadows are the darkest too.  It’s a decent novel but some say, not a great novel.  However, where it’s great, it’s fantastic, and where it’s average, it’s average, in the way a Monet is average in places. It’s like the average stuff doesn’t matter as it’s just glue for the overall picture and it’s a very visual book in the way it’s written and then of course right down to the cover and the alienesque Bird Girl statue and her scales of good and evil.  The magic of the book is that any reader reading it in the early 1990’s might have difficulty fathoming that a place such as Savannah might exist at all and if it did, then they would more than want to visit, and wallah, the understanding of our Tourist Boom.

I think author John Berendt did a fine job and like any artist, wrote it from his own shade of interest levels.  Some have criticized them, but my reply would be, well what do you want from a gay writer about a super closeted society where one gay man kills another? It’s accurate from that level, and John Berendt, admittedly an outsider.  Although Jim Williams dying was perhaps the boon for Berendt because I’m not sure he’d have approved everything for publication had he lived.  Some say Jim’s sister signed off on it and gets royalties to this very day.  Just the story of how the book came together would make for an interesting book.  But for me?  It’s the cover photo by my friend and neighbor, the now deceased, Jack Leigh.  I mean that statue and that image made Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil a Rosetta Stone of Savannah understanding. And like the power of art or a great image, it gave the book other worldly mojo. The image speaks to the title, and the title back to the image and then it all speaks to The Book. And note that the book hasn’t changed its cover in 25 years whereas tons of novels do.  The publisher KNOWS.  I mean incredible magic.  It would’ve been hard for John Berendt to mess it up but then none of that stuff could’ve clicked without his wordsmithing.  After that? Savannahians needed a good kick in the ass with a book that kind of put the town on trial.

Who is your favorite character in it?

It’s a funny question because some I loved more in the book than in real life and then some, I loved in real life more than in The Book.  On a purely sentimental level, I will go Luther Driggers. On an intellectual level, Jim Williams hands down.  Quite possibly one of the greatest mad geniuses that ever walked the face of the earth and the ultimate dichotomy of all emotions and human experiences and complexity.  If anything, the “Good and Evil” part of the title speaks to him as being both and possibly through a real time bi-polar condition, the struggle of rectifying it all inside of himself or reconciling? Not sure which word is more vital there.  I also think he’s a fascinating case study of an outsider that comes to Savannah, and a great individualist with a progressive attitude, but plugging all that ambition into a town where standing out from the crowd historically was the greatest blaspheme.  Especially if you did it freestanding from the controllers.  If I also sound like I’m speaking from personal experience you’re more than onto me.  So yes, of all the characters, I can most relate to him and even my walk here in Savannah and my movements here, have been influenced by his own trials.  It makes me think of Groucho and the whole, “I don’t want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.”  Jim pretended to be a member but really despised them the whole time.  I mean he was his own club, but he got too close and then didn’t treat the members of the main club the best.  Maybe they had it coming, maybe they didn’t.  But once you turn your ambition into getting over on others just to have a feeling of power, you’re in a darker space spiritually.  I think that’s where his apple orchard started to rot in a way. Even so, my memories of him are fond on a personal level but I wonder what Jim might have been had he not had such a chaotic desire to get revenge.  He was literally a genius in the fullest sense of the term.

What can you tell us about root doctors and, in particular, the character of Lady Minerva, in Midnight?

Well for a decent amount of money I’ll take you to her grave and perform a ritual with you!  Hah!  I was just out there last weekend, with some mystic friends.  Never a dull minute. But in general?  Root doctors, root men, root women, are the lawyers and doctors for people who put faith in their powers of “heal’n and hurt’n.”

At a glance, they more or less come from the Gullah and Geechee culture of The South’s slave past and their traditions originated in Angola.  So, what they do in part, or represent, is post-African survivalism inside of The United States and quite possibly the most important facet of that or most closely tied to it as far as being on the back of black history in America.

The practice of root in my mind is about the roots they use to help heal people and on occasion, hurt people.  Although I like to think of root doctors in general as goodly people doing a lot of white magic and love spells and money spells and fertility ones more than black magic.  It’s my interpretation that the word “root” is both a nod to the actual roots and then The Bible.  Like it’s the root of their faith and they see Jesus in a way as the ultimate root doctor.  So, this makes it different from the Haitian aspects of vodou or Vodun which is all Underworld based gods and them possessing you.  And yes, there is white magic and healing in that world, but blood work is largely absent from root where it’s fairly standard in Vodun-vodou.

As I try to express to my clients, some 300 years ago or so when those traditions first came to these shores, they probably looked much more distinct…like chefs borrowing recipes.  Hundreds of years later, there’s crossover.  So sometimes you see rituals around here that look like a mix of root, Vodun-vodou, Santeria and Macumba of the Brazilians. I mean let’s face it, it’s a competitive world out there and every chef wants to be different, right?

In any case, when a family in The South determines a child has the gift of discernment, they raise that child in the woods to raise mystery and enhance the powers.  Which is why the old school root workers are very sheepish people, Lady Minerva included, who didn’t ever really feel comfortable with her fame.  Fame is a mixed bag especially if your clients see it as a literal detriment to your powers.  Anyway, they use a lot of cemeteries. They see them as in between places, and kinds of justice courtrooms where yes, the fate of spirits are decided one might say?

So, if you’re doing white magic, you look for the grave of a child 10 years or younger.  If you’re doing hurt’n, the grave of a known criminal, hence, why those rituals are the most expensive. Anyway, Lady Minerva or Minerva as she was commonly known to her people, was a complex character.  It would also take a book to do her justice so this is just scratching the surface.  I feel like it’s both hard for outsiders to have a true sense of her importance and then at the same time, a portion of her reputation relies on the myth. It’s like, was she all that or was it the character that made her more so?  She came from a known family of root doctors and in the family cemetery where she’s buried, many of the headstones say DOCTOR this or that.

Minerva also laid claim to the mantle of power of the great Doctor Buzzard who was the most famous root doctor of all time.  Meaning, she inherited his power at death which might make her a root doctor feminist, as traditionally the mantle goes from male to male.  Some say this is where she went too far even if she and Buzzard did have a romantic relationship when she was younger.  I guess that’s what keeps it all interesting, right?  Certainly, Jim Williams had confidence in her and their relationship is layered with intrigue.  He paid her hundreds of thousands through the years.  I’m also of the understanding that he paid her to help him perform black mass type rituals to bring darkness to his enemies which points to the blood work or Vodun-vodou elements again. I have no proof of that, less on good authority, that I trust.  I also have eye witness testimony to Minerva doing a ritual in the plot of a very powerful family in Bonaventure while Jim was still alive, and I’ll only say that the family name is in the novel itself. Near the end of Jim’s life, it’s said that Minerva and he had a falling out and he cheated Minerva of some back monies owed for devilish services rendered.  He was pretty, plum broke near the end of his life, but he cheated on Minerva by taking up with a Santeria priestess.  Personally, I think that cost him big time.  You don’t want to cross the wrong or right root doctor.  But that is another story for another time, kiddies.  I will just say this…Don’t ever agree to drink blue root tea.

For a fan of the book, this information is pure gold, so thank you very much for sharing it! Fascinating stuff! 

AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED CITY

Shannon Scott

How did you get involved with the show “Scariest Places on Earth” and the filming of “America’s Most Haunted City” and what was your role in those productions?

I had a friend, Jill Sherrer, who was already a contact in LA, and she called on me from time to time about productions and we had a relationship.  She introduced me to former Power Ranger’s director, Bob Hughes, and we got involved with a motley crew to shoot the pilot episode in Savannah, Alton, Illinois and Athens, Ohio.  I was a story researcher and at first, an assistant producer and all around everything else.  I was 30 and they sent me a million dollars in equipment and were like, “make sure we get this back.”  That was it.  I rocked it for them honestly and then after Fox Family bought a season or three, I asked for a job once Bob Hughes became Co-executive Producer on the series.

So, for two years I did more of the same, albeit I need to re-up my IMDB presence as they’ve shafted me on some credits!  But really, I was in it for the fun and putting Savannah in the spotlight again and so I did even if the corporate suits at Fox made the first episode a little hokey to say the least.  I aided greatly in two episodes here, one, “Savannah Frankenstein,” and then “Haunted Fort Pulaski.”  The cameraman on the latter, Don Burgess, had been the chief cinematographer for Forrest Gump, as he lived in the area. Just a fun fact but it was a wide pool of talent.

After 5-6 years in Hollyweird, doing primarily ghost TV stuff and voiceover work – although the opportunities for me were beyond the pale – I, frankly, was still haunted by Savannah.  I’m a stubborn person and most stubborn for this town for some reason.  The fakery of ghost television was so absurd with a public who just didn’t seem to care or were just having too much fun pretending they didn’t seem to.  As for me, I come from that whole, “Leonard Nimoy’s In Search of…” era and was too much of a purist.  I wanted to do something serious on my own that Hollywood didn’t seem to wanna do at the time or anymore.

After I worked on the first Ghost Hunters episode ever shot out of their home state, I started laying down the track work for my own documentary.  Years earlier I’d started working on it with Savannah friend and feature member of the episode, “Savannah Frankenstein,” Mr. “Hollywood” Ron Higgins, just doing interviews of locals.  That became the spirit of the eventual film, “America’s Most Haunted City,” along with the obvious title being borrowed from the recent history of Savannah receiving that award from The American Institute of Parapsychology in 2002.

Essentially, I wanted to do something that was unfettered by interference of others that seemed more truly local and of my own voice.  It seemed like the film took six years to finish as it was being filmed and edited between other projects going on in four different countries, but I owe a lot to cameraman, Jeremiah Chapman and sound guy, Michael Gordon.  I hated the film for years because it was financially draining and friendship challenging, and it took me another four or five years to accept that I had anything to do with it at all!  I’m my own worst critic and the film is not without flaws, but I think I did everyone and every subject a good and that it’s good for my first film.  One of the cooler things that came out of it was the soundtrack of 12 tracks by Edwin “Blue Ice” Brown of Icebuilt Productions.  He’s a brilliant composer and made the music without me even asking.  He just handed me a soundtrack one day and told me it was just based on all our conversations we had in the Sentient Bean coffeehouse.  I was floored and so when people get the media pack, it has both the 90-minute film and the soundtrack included. I think I’ve moved 20,000 copies in its life so far, so you know, it’s out there.

The tale of the spirit of Rene Rondolia is a popular one in Savannah but in his book, Haunted Savannah: America’s Most Spectral City, author James Caskey says that there was no such person. Do you dispute that claim?

Well good thing you’re asking the in-resident authority on Rene Asch Rondolier.

When I first moved here in 1987, I learned quickly from older locals, that Colonial Park Cemetery in their childhood was called, “Rene’s Playground,” which eventually became the formulation for the S.P.O.E. episode, “Savannah Frankenstein” and Rene’s story is my favorite ghost story of all time.  When I actively gave ghost tours, it was my grand finale or sometimes fear-striking introduction.  As to your question?  It’s funny about some ghost book writers and ghost tour company owners, right?  They do all of that but also admit they have no belief in the subject less that others believe it?  Well OK then.  All the same, I 100% dispute the claim against Rene’s existence and not just specifically Caskey’s, but everyone’s, including those long before Caskey was born.  But permit me to explain why.

There are lots of the hardball facts, guys.  I respect that.  But if anything, Savannah has taught me, the former atheist I might add, who believed “there are absolutes,” is that oral tradition itself is also a genre of fact.  Things are inside of it that live both in fact and in lore.  I poke fun a lot at fact guys or academics with PhDs when it comes to Savannah’s past and what’s fact or not.  I mean look at how many records have been destroyed in fires, hurricanes and then what the Freemasons themselves are concealing and have also lost?  In my research experience, and bearing in mind those facts, I have seen that Savannah, while restoring its buildings, is also only now really learning about what it has been.  Facts are like a jeweler’s lens to peer more deeply but are limited by the magnification and then the seer.  And every seer is different.  There are some objective things available to all and then there are shades of shadow and light, color hues, that are also observable but are fuzzier and more subjective components to the beauty of the object.

It’s like the great historian at UGA, Phinizy Spalding said, “Georgia is the last unpioneered colony of the 13 colonies.”  He was famous for telling his students, “historians can go into Charleston or Georgetown and at best, just follow the research trails of others and expand on what they’ve already done.  In Georgia, a researcher every day of the week can pioneer their own paths and discover treasures at every turn and odds are you’ll be the first to have seen them.  What every tour guide loves about Savannah, or the good ones, is finding a treasure fact one day and sharing it with others the next.  So, without making this a full debate, what I am willing to say here, is this.  I have seen church records noting his birth and the discussion of his deformity and his mother as a grist mill worker.  I have read colonial newspapers from other colonies that discuss his presence in Savannah, using his nickname and a few records of rather famous people who observed him while they were in the city.  And although this is bit off topic, I will lastly tease that I have a humdinger of a sighting of his ghost that was detailed to me directly from the experiencer which clinches it for me.  Rene was real. He was unjustly killed.  His ghost walks and he is King.

BONAVENTURE CEMETERY’S HOLD ON SHANNON SCOTT

Shannon Scott in Bonaventure Cemetery


How did you end up working at Bonaventure Cemetery?

Obviously, cemeteries were an interest already and I knew ghost tours would have a shelf life for me, but I had a crazy notion that I wanted to tell ALL of Savannah’s stories in as many venues that I was able.  The sign from above was when in 2001 I noticed no one owned www.bonaventurecemetery.com so I grabbed it, naturally!  Even so, tours as Bonaventure’s first storyteller were sporadic early on.  I knew it would take time to grow. Even in 2010 when I split with a business partner, tour traffic out there was still turning a corner.  However, about five or six years ago it really started to pop.  Now 800,000 tourists a year visit and I’d gander to say it’ll soon be a million.  So yes, smart business move meets selfish love of cemeteries.

What’s the strangest or most unusual thing that has happened on one of your tours that you can share?

I think it varies from the psychic to just the obscene.

On the night I opened Sixth Sense Savannah Ghost Tours in 2002, I received some validation from Savannah’s spirit world.  I was the first to give ghost tours South of Liberty Street and I lived on E. Jones and Abercorn.  I’d been living in that house of 1852 for about two years and my roommate and I had seen the ghost of a female in the home from time to time who was very life like and seemed very busy doing her chores.  At that point I had not spoken the name that I’d received, “Eliza,” to a solitary soul.  Nor had I intended to make my actual residence a stop on my own tour.  But you might say the home invited itself.

We were a half block from my house by Clary’s Cafe and there were two couples behind me talking about their day in Savannah and I’m thinking on my next story stop so their conversation is sort of white noise.  But I pay more attention to this woman from Texas on my tour because she had a twang in her speech and she was saying something like this, “Yeah, we were down on River Street at this gallery and I found the perfect print and had it framed and it’s going to go over the couch; and you remember the one honey it was the – ELIZA WANTS US TO TALK ABOUT HER!”  Now I stop, mid-thought, with my back still turned to them.  I start turning and saying, “Wait, you didn’t just say…?”  And the woman has her hand over her mouth, her eyes bulging out and she says, “I don’t know what just made me want to say that, but Eliza wants us to talk about her?”  And I said, “Well what if I told you?” At that point I felt Eliza wanted us to come into the parlor and as I was seeking to take ghost tours to the next level…wallah, the first ever ghost tour in a haunted house in Savannah was born!

The old saying is that ghosts want to be acknowledged and I felt this was the invite moment for sure, so I took them into the parlor and told them what my roommate Gerome and I had seen, etc.  Nothing happened, but after the tour, the couple hung out in the kitchen for a while.  They’d been married 25 years and she was a nurse with empathic abilities, but she’d never told her husband even as much as they seemed like a very together couple.  That night she confessed, and he had such a face!  Kind of like, “Hey 25 to life, I love her, what’ya gonna do?”  However, I remember she said to him, “Honey, you know how I collect those old wooden kitchen stirring spoons?  Well, when I squeeze the handles?  Sometimes I can feel their energies and even see who they were!” She was a legit empath and noted that the same happened to her in her profession of touching patients.  She was sometimes treated to a whole cavalcade of sensory information.  She noted that in antique shops, objects of glass, metal, wood gave her the same although like some batteries, they were dead or faint or yes, full of charge!  So that night, my first ghost tour under my own moniker gave the tour something unique, brought a great couple closer together, gave a spirit satisfaction and then for me it was like Eliza saying, “You go with your ghost tour company, boy!”

Painting of Shannon Scott by Cheryl Solis

Whose grave at Bonaventure holds the most special place in your heart and why?

That changes by the decade depending on who has died.  I’ve loved so many people and keep them alive on my tour as we stop by some of their graves.  But two of the most important – and I wish they were on my tour more often – Ron, “Hollywood Ron” Higgins buried in the Greenwich section, and then famed historian and former Smithsonian archivist, Paul Blatner.  Both died far too young. Ron at 45 of a massive heart attack and Paul at 58 I think from a heart attack that had elements of brown recluse spider bite complications mixed in with his diabetic condition. I loved both men dearly, like brothers, although Paul was more of a mentor as he was older when we met when I was 18.

I met Paul first in his famous antique collectible shop, Blatner’s Antiques.  It was the ultimate rummage store meets hoarder hovel meets tax shelter.  This guy was a character who had everything from the rifle surrendered to Sherman with Savannah’s capture to a baton of power given by Hitler to his successor, Donitz, and many things beyond that.  He was the king of bottle diggers and bottle collectors.  He was a bard in his own right and for most of his shop’s life by Clary’s Cafe, well I lived over it at one point and then on the same corner for 14 years.  He also started The Savannah History Museum.  He taught me much, gave me much in terms of my own collection and we’d hang in the shop for hours talking history, Savannah, the world and of course, women. He lived vicariously through my stories as a man about town.  I miss him and his closing words at his shop at 5 PM, “IT’S CLOSIN’ TIME!”  Even now at The Smithsonian, some of the African American art objects on display from the Gullah Geechee culture, particularly the ritual and burial ones, are some of the most valuable in their collection. The burial ones might be considered priceless.

As to “Hollywood Ron” Higgins?  He was Savannah’s tourism mayor, and everyone loved Ron. The guy had two funerals really.  One Catholic and one Jewish.  He’d gone to UCLA film school, toured with Michael Jackson and seemed to just kick around with major celebs; personally worked on “Training Day.”  We were coffee house pals and part of our daily routine in the early 90’s, was just sitting there talking like old men about what was going on in the town and what we felt Savannah could be or we could do with it.  We were each other’s mentors.  Eventually, I helped him get started with his own cutting-edge company, Savannah Movie Tours which was a stunning accomplishment for all the movie scene visuals incorporated into the tour.  I was part of the tour with the Scariest Places on Earth show we were both in and on the tour, he’d stop the bus and make me get on to say hello to everyone like I was a celebrity sighting! Oh, man.  I literally pictured us as old men in rocking chairs one day like some sort of man couple looking back on our lives, still talking about the future.  And then he was gone at 45.  His headstone features a bench and an illustration done by Mark Streeter showing him sitting on the Forrest Gump bench and looking up at the stars.  That’s the one death I’ll never come to accept. All his friends talk about his infectious giggle and I hear it all the time.  My heart aches now just talking about it.

I know your ring is very special to you as you’ve included it in your last two posters for Bonaventure.  What does that ring symbolize?

It’s the ring of The Rosicrucian Order.  It features a chevron, an ankh, a cross with the 2018-08-24 22.04.22rose.  It was made in Egypt.  It’s my spiritual discipline in some sense and the oldest one in the world if you really track it correctly. They’ve had names like The Rosea Crucis, The White Brotherhood and others; their traditions steeped in the Essene and further back.  They recognize Jesus Christ as Master Jesus or the ultimate disciple and avatar for good.  In fact, they had much to do with his education on Mount Carmel and many other things that are not considered proper Bible teachings yet, but should be in my opinion.  At core, love is the religion and not much more complicated than that.  I found it through my sleuthish nose you could say.

As a kid, I was immensely taken with Ben Franklin, Nostradamus, and later, Sir Francis Bacon.  But I noted that lots and lots of famous creative, inventor types were part of this order but even their best biographers only footnoted it.  Now I understand that even those writers had missed out on how it connected to the achievements of those people and how it’s also easy to miss at the same time.  It almost has a secret history of being non-secret.  It’s just that the students or disciples don’t overly discuss it or make it a part of their general spoke identity in the way someone might say, “I’m a Christian” or “I go to that church or this one.”  Rosicrucianism promotes deeds as the mark of character and with as little ego involved as possible or maybe in the way people use institutions to somehow give them automatic or quasi credibility?  So, it’s fairly humble in most aspects.

Where I tend to depart with them is on their view of politics or the passive involvement due to their prophecy beliefs.  Just like most of us wouldn’t stand for someone beating up an old lady, I’m not prone to sit on my hands and see my country beat up.  I’m not sure if that makes me an outsider or not.  Probably, but that’s okay.  I mean Jesus was.  Are you familiar with the controversial Georgia Guidestones?  They were built by a Rosicrucian and let me just say, they’re not advocating a New World Order but the complete opposite. However, you can’t understand Georgia Guidestones without being well into the understanding of the order and it takes a while.  I’ll put it this way, I’ve seen and learned some of the wildest things and the most beautiful things because of it.

No, I am not familiar with either The Rosicrucian Order or the Georgia Guidestones. I have some extensive studying to do!

Have you been to Père Lachaise and if so, what is your most interesting memory of it?

Yes, and Montmartre and many others.  The most interesting thing is that I’m the guy who stole the penis off Oscar Wilde’s monument.  Feel free to print that.  I kid of course. But I think it’s fascinating that a number of people buried there, like Oscar Wilde and Isadora Duncan had Savannah and Bonaventure Cemetery moments.  From Isadora dancing on the stage at The Savannah Theater to Oscar Wilde sleeping in Bonaventure for two nights of his three-night stay in Savannah.  Which is why I chose to sleep in Père Lachaise for two nights.  It wasn’t easy but at this point, I’m a pro at the “after hours” cemetery thing. 

THE GULLAH GEECHEE

Gullah art by Diane Britton Dunham

I know that you are drawn to the Gullah Geechee culture. Can you talk a bit about that and why it is special to you?

Yes, or as I call them, the most fascinating people you’ve never heard of.  Which is part of their appeal to me.

Being the keeper of something not everyone knows and as storyteller that kind of thing is tantamount.  We LOVE LOVE LOVE being the people to turn you onto a subject worth knowing about.  You know popping your story cherry kind of thing.  Also, despite what some people think about me these days, my heart always lays with the underdog story. The journey from birth to death, rags to riches and all the rest.  The journey of self and through it all.  And yes, that story often made even more monumental through the lens or reflection of America.  Plus, what could be better than a mysterious culture hidden behind the veils of Spanish Moss in The Deep South?  Thank you.  Not to mention my history books were devoid of greater slave narratives.  I had the whole “people in bonds” thing in my mind and nothing else.  It was made rather generic and possibly safe.

Savannah and The Low Country in general is a history eye-popper and turns a lot of what we know or cling to or think we know about events, upside down.  I mean you get here and learn about these willful people who arrived as slaves but very early on stole back their freedom, earned it, bought it and then as early as the 1780’s had real business and political power in Savannah.  Until I learned that stuff I was like, “they came from Africa, worked, died and then everyone got freed in 1865.”  I had no other information. So yes, here’s where you come to get it.  They have their own indigenous language recognized finally by The Federal Government in 1940, I believe, a kind of secret language that helped them as people from many tribes, speak and communicate around their controllers.  Some of those words are found in our language like the number one word of all rappers, “chillun.”  Also, culturally, I clearly grew up white albeit in the very mixed world of The Midwest where unless you live in a large city, black kids are just your friends, neighbors, playmates, fellow churchgoers and all your parents are friends. You don’t see race or only in an appreciation for differences that make everyone unique. Even so, as a kid I loved the electric energy, passion and soul of black people and admired their athletics obviously.  But it’s only until you come to a place like The Low Country that you can start to see more of their cultural origins and so you might even say that Savannah is halfway between my home state of Illinois and Africa in some sense. This is as close as I’m gonna get unless I cross the ocean.  I also think my Midwestern values made me less judgmental in a city of 61% black.  Like I’ll talk to anybody.  And some didn’t know how to take that while others found me refreshing.  It’s all about basic respect and showing a desire to share and that you also have something to share.  That’s what life’s about.  Civility and exchange.  Or should be.

My point is that my attitude opened a lot of doors and early on made acquaintances with everyone from Civil Rights activist, W.W. Law to root doctors like Angel Hakim and Mama Tilda. I knew in some cases that in order to understand ritual sites I found in cemeteries, I had to go to people who knew those things.  And they showed me stuff because my heart was in the right place and they knew I wanted to know some new truths.  I also loved moving to a city where “black” people, but are really Gullah or Geechee, would be walking down the street singing out loud like nobody was looking or yelling across the street to each other like they were in the same room.  White people don’t do that generally, although in The South maybe a bit more so.  It’s like we’re just one big family and hey, like the old saying goes, “if you’ve got a song in your heart, let it out!”  That might be the best statement about Gullah and Geechee peoples.  They’ve got lots of passion and lots of music and vibration to share!  And the Geechee in particular, love to share knowledge and anything that is life.  They can also cook food like a mofo. I’m fairly certain I’m part Gullah Geechee now.  Hah!

SECRET OR NOT SO SECRET SOCIETIES

Bonaventure Cemetery Love Truth & Stories

Are you a Freemason?

Epic fail!  You can never ask one if they are, don’t you know that? Hah! I’ll put it to you this way. I’m a truth seeker who enjoys sharing knowledge with anyone open enough and I stay far far away from any Lord of The Mist.

Will you expound upon your beliefs about The Illuminati?

How much time do you have?  This might be better as Part Deux.

The Illuminati was both a literal historical organization in Europe and then a modern name-for-all that points to controllers in shadow operations influencing civilization through government, banking, education, religious and other cultural organizations. Today they represent 300 families more or less that rule the world and see themselves as high priests whose bloodline must survive at all turns.  There are 13 families at the top of the pyramid, one for every step you see on the back of the U.S. dollar as well.  They see everyone else as fodder for their efforts and that they are destined inheritors of the earth.  Crazy, right?  But it’s very scarily true.

In Europe today, they’re generally just called The Group and, in the USA, known as The Order. They have some private names for their gangs and then very public ones.  Which is partly what they’re required to do.  They observe that true ritual power is doing everything in plain sight. They cannot do evil to you generally if you don’t accept it or allow them to do it.  One of the three offices that The Illuminati ordered to be established, was by Satanist, Albert Pike, in Charleston, SC.  Another being Bohemian Grove in California.  A third location is still unknown to me, but I think I’ve set eyes on where it was or is located and it’s my intent to vet that more in the coming years. The mansion I’ve seen in Charleston has its own iron Gates of Hell entrance and doesn’t hide the fact.  Their history is complex and convoluted too…but to understand secret societies at one level…

Ideas outside of certain churches and governments and the cultural institutions of history did indeed imprison minds and hearts of men, because to express them, they, along with their families might be mocked, blackmailed, reputations ruined and even put to death.  This really is in some sense, what drove certain men to go “underground” and cooperate there, swearing secrecy to each other but that they would use their roles in society or offices to advance their ideas and to promote each other within the ranks and so on.  Which you could say is where we see the advent or reinvention of certain secret words, gestures and handshakes to identify each other, which is also not unlike The Freemasons.

All these kinds of groups from what I can tell, including The Rosicrucian, have ties to the mystery schools of Egypt.  It’s where all these groups are rooted in what they do.  But as “The Devil is in the details”, it’s how those organizations have traveled, translated and evolved throughout the centuries.  Some remain benevolent while others become, or some might argue, stay, extremely evil, like The Illuminati.  Maybe it was corrupt from the start or just became corrupt later but at some point, in its history, Satanists were well in charge.  History shows some of these organizations as having been co-opted by darker influences and then they rewired the groups to function on the outside as something good but these “priest classes” then use the lower level members to advance what are sinister agendas without their knowledge.  Which is part of the ritual power play, especially among The Illuminati.  We see that now in Hollywood and pop culture.

Also, it is very important to note that for The Illuminati, blood and bloodlines are everything and I want the readers to absorb this next sentence.  They will literally do ANYTHING, say anything, deceive anyone, murder anyone and put on any kind of face in any circle in order to preserve their bloodline.  There is no moral marker higher than that for them.  Anyone not of the families is seen as expendable.  Most normal people have no concept of what this means spiritually because it’s too deep and too dark and not something anyone wants to conceive of or think of. But they are here in the world all around us carrying out these evil acts and many of them are known to the American public and around the world in certain realms of power.  All one has to do is track their family heritage.

I get lots of weird looks, trust me, when I speak of household names because it seems too out there.  But the reason most people don’t recognize them as villains necessarily is because of most people’s unfamiliarity with “programming.”  Very key word.  It’s essentially about stripping someone down morally, so viciously, by abusing them psychologically, sexually, and physically and then programming them back up with the morality and response recognition that you want them to have or that the Illuminus require.  Then they will have a public face that is seemingly flawless, and they’re made to be a person everyone wants to know and is drawn to.  It’s all very Manchurian Candidate but mind control isn’t new, it’s centuries old.  There are some public figures in high places of power that are known, programmed individuals and as they are, I despise them, loathe and revile them.  Yet I also have empathy for them because I know very evil adults did very evil things to them to make them that way.  And sacrificing children, even their own, is part of the ritualism.

This is largely why 800,000 children in The United States vanish annually.  Some of them for their sex rituals and some for their bloodlust ones.  It’s a national and international crisis but sadly some of the 300 names of the Illuminati, belong to media moguls and of course, their protective political leaders.  I mean, let’s face it, try walking up to someone and saying, “Hey did you know that people on Capitol Hill take planes over to Europe and pay thousands to beat kids to death with ball pin hammers?”  Try using that one as an icebreaker some time.  Exactly, this stuff makes people’s brains hurt and their insides scream.  This is why you don’t want to be in my head.

As I told a woman on my tour recently, “If someone were to write The Bible today, this is the stuff that would be in that Bible and would be taught for the next 2000 years.”  I’m sad that it’s not. People routinely ask me what I want on my own headstone.  It would be something to the effect that I did everything in my power to wake people to the evils of The Illuminati and that the reader should do everything in their living power to recognize them and stop them.  It’s really a courage most people lack and sadly, with fluoridated brains, no longer possess deeper critical levels to even understand.

So, to that I say, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing.”  I often use the expression, “Bridge the gap.”  Or like Morrison sang, “Break on through to the other side!”  If I could re-teach America’s children, or open The Shannon Scott School For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, I would strip down the historical narratives taught to children by the Illuminati institutions and I would teach every American or yes, every human, the real history of the world by illustrating where The Illuminati corrupted it or how events tie into their operations.  If we and all the children of the world were educated this way, I assure you the world would not be in the trouble it is currently in because we’d be a much more awake, loving, enlightened, civil and just society.  We would not allow these people to walk the earth.

Everything you see in the media now is a spiritual war from The Illuminati raging against those waking up and taking power away from them.  If more people were educated in these secret society respects, they’d realize that.  But instead it’s division by design and The Illuminati using our humanity against us by pitting us against each other. And as much as some want to think it, Trump isn’t connected.  As Newt Gingrich brilliantly said when Trump was running, “He hasn’t done their rituals.”  That flew over the heads of most, but it didn’t mine because I knew he meant it literally.  Trump also recently made fun of George Bush’s “1000 Points of Light” rhetoric from his time as President.  This was historically UGE!  Why?  Because it’s a Devil concept of their New World Order agenda and Trump made fun of it.  He acted like he wasn’t being that serious, but he was.  It was him using their media to say, “I’m going to take you down.” We’d all better buckle up too.  They’ll stop at nothing to keep control of the world.  My money is that they lose but at what cost to the rest of us?

Holy crap! This stuff will keep you up at night if you think about it too much! I’m almost sorry I asked but I appreciate you being so frank in your response. I am still processing all of this information.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING LIGHTER…

I think it is time for some lighter questions and as this is a blog to promote recording artists and authors…

Who is your favorite author? Book?

I have a soft spot for the author buried in Bonaventure Cemetery, Harry Hervey, who wrote the original Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil styled book, “The Damned Don’t Cry.”  He was brilliant, fun, odd, and had a powerful command of the English language.  But in general, my favorite favorite author is Victor Hugo and his book, “Ninety-Three.”  It’s Hugo at his finest and briefest, showing that the most seemingly unimportant person can be the hero.

Who is your favorite band? Singer?

Again, asking to pick my favorite kids.  So, I’m not going to.  I have a real love for “the sentimental genius,” Lloyd Cole and of course, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.  His album Love Stories was like my life soundtrack in Savannah and his music takes me to that good, pure, decent, human place.  After that?  It’s Steve Kilby from The Church and throw in some Danzig for good measure and it’s a great car ride in the countryside.

What does a guy like you do for Halloween?

I live in Savannah, Georgia and just like Al Jourgensen says, “Every day is Halloween.”  I just act normal that day to be different.

And finally … What’s next for Shannon Scott Tours?

Shannon Scott

Photo of Shannon Scott by Jason Burgess

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My Huckleberry Friend…

By Shannon Scott

Some of my fans and friends out there have already read this but wanted to add it to my blog as its been a popular request. Really looking forward to the expanded version of this story one day so people can really appreciate what a great friendship I shared with Paul Blatner and what a great man he was to this life!

7CI0_Gettysburg_UniformSavannah_Blatner

So I have a theory on why I saw the ghosts two days ago. It was today that I learned that on the same day, one of my very good friends, mentors, teachers, Paul Blatner died. He was an amazing man who I will never in my life forget and he was just 58. He was one of the most amazing collectors I have ever met and very distinguished in his accomplishments. He started The Savannah History Museum, was an archivist at The Smithsonian and some of the objects on permanent loan there in the black studies collection, are considered priceless and the most valuable in the museum itself. He was funny, like a brother and I just talked to him less than two weeks ago for the last time and we shared some laughs. I am currently writing a story to honor his memory and our friendship and will be sharing it with everyone soon. A funny moment occurred this morning. I did not know his funeral was in Bonaventure at 10:30am but as I walked my tour to the map board there, I see the red funeral arrow bearing his name. I briefly mentioned him to my crowd, and first person to drive in and up to me was Professor John Duncan (Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil character) and naturally he asks me for directions. So for about 5 minutes I stood there and directed everyone towards Paul’s plot. I believe this was the universe operating yet again and Paul was smiling on this. Our friendship was about stories and ribald and while he was being sent to the Great Beyond, I was peppering the grounds shaman style with the energy of my storytelling. Naturally I intend to make him a stop on my tours in the future. Yes, later I went back to have a word with him and wanted to take him something personal that was “of me” and “of us.” As he was one of the great bottle colllector’s of Savannah, and almost literally, “The Father Of,” I placed a broken 19th century Savannah made Ginger Beer bottle at his grave as a flower vase. I found this in Bonaventure awhile ago and to me, the broken aspect, symbolic of the end of our earthly friendship and that yes, an earthly gesture that there will never be another like him. Bottles can be seen as the foundation collection of real collectors and shows humbleness and the ability to see beauty in simple things, which too are often very valuable as objects. At core bottles show others that you’re willing to really get dirty and dig to find something great and that you’re more than high brow academic or snooty antiques’ dealer. I kid the reader not, but I could bring Paul a pile of mixed glass out of a hole in the ground and Paul could tell me where and when every piece if it was made! The other object is a miniature of the statue to the Unknown Confederate Dead that you find in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Paul was a Reb through an’ through and had one of the most amazing Confederate collections in America, including the rifle surrendered to Sherman by the Savannah Mayor. Interestingly, Paul was also buried with his father today. Howard Lee Blatner who died in 2009. I also knew him and he was a great man who grew up in the orphanage, Bethesda, America’s oldest orphanage begun by Ben Franklin in 1740. His father had been cremated and Paul had his ashes in a closet the whole time so Paul’s sister interred both of them together and as they were really a team for so many years in so many things, it was only right. I am grateful that Paul doted some amazing story objects on me as collector and that these things are now part of my storytelling. I consider it a blessing that I will always be evoking his name with the ways that I continue to inspire people. In that sense, we too will always be a team. And to some degree, this is why I believe I saw the two children spirits with their Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn hats. We were two friends that like children, delighted in the world around us and made one another giddy without any thought paid to who was watching. Long live Paul Blatner. The South mourns you fine sir.

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My Song Dedication To My Friend Paul Blatner

Shannon On National Public Radio

Click To Hear Shannon’s Interview

When I was growing up, I loved the radio. WLS in Chicago and “Animal Stories” or Paul Harvey (who once mentioned me on his show!), Wolfman Jack, Kasey Kasem and so many others. I would buy crystal radio hobby kits and build them with my solder iron and at night, move the antenna wire around my headboard to catch the signal just right. I would also play with my voice and create characters and did my best to emulate and immitate the rise, fall and other nuances of my favorite MC’s voices. All of this made more ironic later when at 15 I learned that my biological father had been a radio announcer and confirmed without doubt, I’d inherited at least his voice.

Before the video game craze

Before the video game craze

Eventually, like lots of young intellectuals and music snobs in the making, I learned there was nothing cooler than National Public Radio. Other than sugar & cream, it was the other condiment for your coffee. And I lived for this station and their relative affiliates from state to state. I couldn’t wait until announcer Karl Haas opened his “Adventures In Good Music” with his intellecutally amused, “H-E-L-L-O every-one, I’m Karl Haas.” And of course Garrison Keillor to modern day storytellers, was the Mark Twain we never got to meet. My co-pilot is Lake Wobegon Days! In High School, when public radio was still largely classical music, it was my soundtrack for artistic all nighters, and continued later in my art school college years. Sadly my affections have waned as now, NPR has just become a government control tool funded by the worst of government operators and the wildest of liberal, Leftist political circles. I know, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but let’s just say I savor my memories and my fingers, eyes and ears now shun the call letters. You know, Paradise Lost an’ all of that.

Karl Haas & Arthur Rubenstein

Karl Haas & Arthur Rubenstein

But “Back in the early 2000s,” a tall yummy writer with naturally licorice red hair, Heather McHelhatton, contacted me about doing an interview for the Minnesota NPR show, “Savvy Traveler.” That was also a goodie back then. The show’s announcer, Diana Nyad (Champion Swimmer) had one of those smart, sardonic, even bedroom tonalities that you just wanted to worship and take a bath in. Sticky good. So when one of her field agents, Heather wanted to interview me about Savannah’s growing paranormal reputation for the show, I was beyond thrilled. I really wanted to do a good job for Savannah and myself. Which I was all about promoting Savannah to the greater world and having my name on the marquee as such. I’ve been criticized and hated for what people have called self promotion through the years, but if that’s all people think its been, they just don’t get it. Anyway, Heather was familiar with Savannah and had lived here for brief writer meditation periods, but didn’t know much about the ghost scene of Savannah. She arrived with headphones attached to a very cool 4-Track recorder and after sitting on a bench in Monterrey Square around sunset and did a “Testing, Testing, Testing 1-2-3,” we went off into the night together as we discussed many subjects tied to Savannah’s weirdness and mysticism, real and imagined.

Heather & Her Map

Heather & Her Map

Heather’s Website (Click To See)

Heather has a very silly kind of demeanor and was a lot of fun to be around. We had a natural repoire and I just did my best to conceal that I really just wanted her job instead of my own. She made it easy really and it was kind of like we were just hanging out as friends more than as interviewer and interviewee. To our credit, the NPR folks after hearing it, told her they didn’t just want to use me in a soundbyte, but wanted me to have the whole 7 minutes of the episode. This was manna to my ears! I felt like I was following in the footsteps of my heroes or something! Joining the ranks! And yeah, as my mom was a fan of NPR, I think as her son I couldn’t wait to tell her!

On premiere night, which was around Halloween if I recollect correctly, it sounded so smooth. Diana narrated the front end and the back end, introducing the episode and to me the coolest thing of all, was the music that they used to close out the episode and not sure if that was Heather’s choice or not, but it was music after my own heart — Massive Attack. Which at that time, was the coolest kid on the block. Unfortunately my own recording version in this article doesn’t really let you hear it-hear it but to me, it was the icing on the cake. Heather also did an amazing job with the narration and of course, I bow to her for her production of it and honoring me with the participation. Heather has since become a novelist, writing several smart story books that allow the reader to kind of go their own direction with different options. Yes, like grown up Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Books. I’ve got them all autographed. Last I heard she’s writing a novel where I’m a character driving a tour bus in Bonaventure and something about me carrying around the head of a statue but that’s that last thing I’ve heard….

One of my greatest validation moments regarding came later, at go figure, a coffee house. My home away from home was Savannah’s The Sentient Bean on the south end of Forsyth Park. Still the city’s best I think and occasionally I moonlight there reading poetry and telling an adventure story on stage. I was talking to a newly arrived barista, and while he was making up my latte, we mentioned what brought him to Savannah. He said, “well I grew up in Minnesota and years ago I heard this story on NPR about Savannah being haunted and after that, I knew I wanted to be here.” Yes, job well done and one more recruit secured for Savannah.

Massive Attack

Massive Attack

 

 

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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Pre-Order Your Haunted Savannah Illustrated Map! (March 1st Release!)

Having been one of the principal founders and builders of Savannah’s ghost touring trade, I can tell you this product has been long over due for explorers in the market. Friend & fellow map making colleague Michael Karpovage has succeeded in bringing this wonderful guide to satisfy. Over a year ago we discussed its prospect and I did all to encourage and offer some wisdom towards its creation and he has far exceeded even what I thought possible. One can take ghost tours all day and read all of the ghost books, but to have everything at a glance in such a devoted map guide, is really the icing in this kind of interest in Savannah. We wish to thank Michael Karpovage for not only all of his passion, skill and energies, but my personal appreciation for including my After Hours Cemetery Tours in his listings and for promoting the Haunted Savannah App on the map itself. We look forward to more to come from the talent pool of Michael Karpovage who is also a novelist -and hope you’ll check out his website! KarpovageCreative Pre-order your copy by clicking here Haunted Savannah Map Illustrated 

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America’s Most Haunted City DVD/CD Back On Amazon For Sale!

Fan of the paranormal? Hauntings? Family or friends who just can’t get enough of it? Shannon Scott’s film, “America’s Most Haunted City” a perfect buy for those seeking an intelligent narrative about Savannah’s social heritage and all told through the voice of Savannah’s most respected and long standing journalist of Savannah mythos and mysteries. Nearly 2 Hours in length and comes with soundtrack by composer Edwin Brown and his 12 Original Tracks. Can be purchased on Amazon.

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6th Sense World Mystery Intro

(Please Allow To Load Fully Before Watching)

Here’s another sample of my art direction talents. I took a myriad of my antique Masonic ritual objects, such as a ceremonial casket from 1857, a paper mache Goliath mask, along with an executioner’s robe of the 19th century, and put a video together promoting 6thSenseWorld, a Savannah ghost & cemetery tour company that I founded in 1995. Originally this was designed to be the intro of a TV show, but for now, is being utilized as a company promotion. Camera, Music & Editing by Matt Duplessie. 

 

 

The Hanging Tree in Savannah

One of my prouder moments in my story telling career was having the acclaimed George Noory of the legendary Coast To Coast AM radio show, do the narration over a segment on Savannah featuring my take on the hanging tree of Savannah, Georgia in Colonial Park Cemetery. Subjects like “Hanging Trees” on ghost tours or “whipping trees” on history ones, have become the stuff of cliche and are often entirely fake. More the reason why I am remiss that I can no longer show a true hanging tree that stood smack dab in the middle of Colonial Park Cemetery and pre-dated the cemetery of 1750 by another 50 years or more at 300 plus years of age. True to form, the failed Park & Tree Commission of Savannah, did nothing to save this tree and permitted its murder in my opinion when it was cut down. Granted some would say such a tree is made evil, but lets face it, it had more purpose as beautiful tree and less say in the matter when they threw a rope over one of its grand branches. In fact, I often sat on the bench beneath this tree and we kept each other company during many daytime and evening visits. This tree was one of the capital live oaks of downtown Savannah and will never forgive the loss or forget that tree. Incidentally you can see me talking about it in my film America’s Most Haunted City and I feel blessed that I could capture it in a forever spotlight with my documentary. The last known hanging from the tree was in 1911. A black man had been falsely accused of raping a white woman, was being kept in the neighboring Old City Jail (currently Habersham Hall of the Savannah College of Art & Design), but the man never made it to trial. The mob beat the courtroom to the process. They dragged the accused to the tree, hung him and burned his body on the tree. The photo of the man charred on the rope, has never been published, but a friend of mine owns the photo, in 2001 loaned it to a lynching exhibit at the Martin Luther King, Jr Center in Atlanta, GA. Seeing it was something else. One wonders if the tree didn’t bear the scars of flames for a very long time. All the same, that tree saw the founding of Georgia, is where many famed and acclaimed strolled, picnicked beneath its branches, dueled nearby on the duelling grounds and it survived every fire, hurricane and act of war that Savannah ever experienced! And aren’t you a little sad you never got to see it? Or if you did, maybe a bit mad that they just took it down without much ceremony? Me too. That tree was kind of one of the first familiars for me in Savannah. In this video I discuss the hanging & spiritual tale of legendary figure and phantom, Rene Asch Rondolier, Savannah’s ghost king. We’ll talk about him in a future post! For now, enjoy the video!

“We Live Here In Fear”

Boy, I was really working that Fabio look wasn’t I? This was 2004 I believe. Most of all I was rocking it for Savannah and always happy to do that!

Bonaventure: Heaven’s Playground (Part II)

Apologies that this has taken awhile to publish. Please read Part One on the blog first Bonaventure: Heaven’s Playground (Part One) These articles originally appeared in the Halloween Edition of Twisted South Magazine.

Gracie – Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Bonaventure feels old. Really old. But beautiful. It feels like a destination after a long journey. I was told it’s a 10-minute drive from downtown but was once hours by horseback. In fact, the winding roads going up to it from two directions bespeak of an old carriage road that was never straightened. At the main entrance stand towering live oaks that look like elder guardians and an elegant brick caretaker’s house with pristine flower gardens. It’s a city office today, but was first the home of the cemetery’s sexton families. You ever look at a house and get the feeling it knows things? This one does. Especially those upstairs rooms, but they weren’t talking. Again, those confounding dualities of the Midnight In The Garden of Good and EvilSavannah. Mysteries hidden like you have to earn them or wait til they come to you.

My first clues? Little bat or gargoyle wings cast into the main iron gates and these two statues capping the entrance pillars. These “Mary” figures look sleepy and kind of sensual prompting in the reverent spectacle, what felt a semi-blasphemous thought, “Can cemeteries be sexy?” Before I could give that much attention, I saw something looking at me. An eye shape on what appeared to be the main cemetery map board encased in glass. Sure enough as I approached, the eye was there (not unlike the one on the business card given to me by Sabine). I walked closer and as I did the sunlight went from feeling yellow to golden. I mused, “Shadows and sunlight are stronger in here.”

When I got to the map board, I saw that the cemetery is rather large to say the least (100-200 acres). As I looked at this very distinct hieroglyphic-like eye, the map seemed to have a profile of a head around it. I’d seen things on TV about map makers and park planners using symbols and other impressions of antiquity inside such designs but wondered if it was my over-active imagination. The Victorians were into the iconography of the Egyptians, although this head reminded me of those murals of bald slaves or perhaps a pharaoh without his headdress. Near the map board was a yellow wooden arrow on a temporary stake. Taped to it was a piece of printer paper bearing a name and time, “Martin – 2pm.” I presumed this was pointing funeral goers to a plot, so I decided to walk in that direction. It was still early, and I might meet someone interesting.

As I roamed, I was taken with how garden-like Bonaventure seemed. The sheer number of live oaks dressed out in dangling moss cobwebs. It occurred to me that if one was seeking to conceal anything gothic or creepy, they might consider sticking to just palm trees. The live oaks are like something out of Tolkien’s imagination, waving gnarled arms with mouths that are both yawning or screaming in the serenity. As you pass, it’s as if they’re saying, “Wait til the sun goes down, that is when our day begins.”

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Just ahead I could see a black van and a green tent. I continued to pass through an array of mourning statues, towering obelisks several stories high, broken columns and urns covered in veils. The many symbols made me aware of how so many religious views live on the backs of others and how diverse Savannah is or had once been. Suddenly more eyes were on me. A small headstone depicted the faces of three children peering from inside a heart-shaped window as if they were in heaven looking down on their family. The expressions of sympathy carved into their tiny faces was so natural. I marveled at the artist’s skill while trying to comprehend the mother, who in 1903, lay with all three of them lifeless in her arms. Standing over this small grave there was a simple but jarring phrase stamped in bold letters…(TRIPLETS). The parenthesis there as if to whisper the impact. Neighboring were the headstones of two other children for what appeared to be a total of five lost by a single mother. I was reminded of how novelist Mary Shelley had lost several children during childbirth and that “Frankenstein” in some way was her processing her anger toward God.

“Those are the carvings of John Walz,” a voice announced from behind.

As I whirled around, an older man stood there, probably in his 70s, breathing tubes extending from his nostrils leading to an oxygen tank strung over his shoulder.

“Sorry if I startled you, young man. I’m here for a friend’s service and came early to walk around as I’ve got a lot of family and memories here,” he reminisced. He called himself Mike Deegan.

“Who was this sculptor again?” I asked.

“John Walz. He was from Philly, married a Savannah girl and made our cemeteries more beautiful for sure…yeah, Savannah really lucked out with him,” he noted with a certain pride.

“Mike, is it true that those sculptors made their livings, so to speak, from children’s deaths during that period..it really seems like their graves are everywhere,” I noted.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” he sighed. Mike then popped up and asked, Have you met Little Gracie?“

Telling him no, he asked if he could introduce me. As we walked, Mike spoke of many names and families. Although the monuments seemed more than twice his age, he spoke of them as if he had known them. I heard both happiness and sorrow in his voice as if he wished they were still here.

Mike stopped in the road for a moment, wheezing, “Kid, whatever you do, don’t smoke anything stronger than pot…man, I shoulda listened to my friends at Haight-Ashbury,” he chuckled.

For all of the hushed conversation in Savannah, it’s amazing what residents will actually tell you if they determine you’re worthy. Like they want you to carry the truth outside of the walls and share, but not give them up at the same time in their home town. Mike said the reason he could talk more like this was because he lived way out in another county now.

As we continued to walk, I seemed to miss the major monuments in plots as I was struck by all of the children’s graves tucked at the back of family plots. Whereas monuments to adults were often bold, gray granite pieces, the memorials to children appeared stark white as if the stone marked their innocence. Tiny, even miniature headstones with little marble borders surrounding the grave poked out, and depending on their lengths, hinted at the child’s age at death. Toddlers a foot or so long mixed with slightly longer pieces of marble of children closer to 7 or 10 years old. According to Mike, these were flower beds where ivy once grew or morning glories, and now most are barren. There were reclined lambs carved into the top portions of some, with the occasional toy or trinket placed by family or perhaps a random stranger moved by the loneliness of one grave. I pondered if these were some of the lights and sources of the laughter at night. Do people hear it during the day?

Gracie - Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Gracie by Jennifer Anne Photography

As we turned down a road bearing the sign, “Gracie Section,” there were a few cars parked narrowly by a fenced-in plot and several people standing in front smiling and stretching their arms above or through the fence to take pictures. Rising above some interior shrubs, there stood a glowing white marble statue of a small, pleasant-looking girl seated on a bench. One hand of the child was resting on a tree that looked chopped in half, a vine climbing it, the other hand holding perhaps a flower, and the pedestal she was seated on had branches forming the girl’s name, “GRACIE.” There were toys scattered in the front part of the plot, some handwritten notes and coins placed along the railing of the fence. She was also holding a toy teddybear on her lap, evidence that the fence didn’t deter everyone. There was a marble plaque with a few details but I preferred to hear Mike’s take on her.

“Who was she?” I asked.

“She’s Savannah,” Mike replied. “Her mother and father had a fancy hotel downtown during the “Cotton Boom” and Gracie was their only child. There was something special about her and everyone knew it. Everyone came to see her at the hotel (that was their home)…mayors, politicians all saw her as good luck, travelers too that were so far from their families. She must’ve been an old soul or something. People would give her things because they believed it meant their own families would be well when they returned off a long road,” he remarked.

“Newspapers and travel journals talked about her for awhile and it seemed like everyone wanted to know her…but she died when she was six in 1889 of pneumonia. Some say she got hit by a carriage first, but I don’t know that.  First statue John Walz did in Savannah, and no one every forgot him for it…people were real sad over her death,” he noted solemnly.

“Every kid in Savannah grew up with her in a way…we all played around her before this fence was here, and you know, we all kept coming back to her as we grew older..she was like family, and I won’t lie, we might have had a beer or two with Gracie, but that’s ok, her parents owned a bar,” he laughed.

I asked him if he had more than oxygen in the tank, and after Mike stopped roaring over my jest, he looked at me like he was making a study and prompted, “Bet you wanna know the legend, huh?”

Of course I did, and said as much.

“Well don’t you believe that junk on the internet about her crying tears of blood…dumbest stuff I ever heard,” he fired back. “Even my grandmother told me this one, if you come out here under a full moon in the winter, all of these headstones are cold as ice, Gracie though – warm – like she’s still alive!”

As I looked at Mike’s elated face back over at Gracie, it seemed that she was smiling more than when we first arrived.

“She does that,” Mike boasted.

“What do you mean?” I chuckled.

“You saw her smile didn’t you?” he said proudly.

I thought to myself, had I? Was I becoming part of this illusory Savannah mindset?

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Gracie suddenly seemed to me the reigning child; princess of “Heaven’s Playground”. Like she was the central figure in the cast; that all living and dead children came to pay homage to and perhaps lead their games. And for all of those who have no life-like statue, no headstone, no face, she symbolizes all of them. She is every child buried at Bonaventure.

“Why is Gracie here alone, Mike?”

His face grew sullen. He looked deeply at Gracie and said, “No one really knows, but after Walz unveiled the monument, her mother and father lost faith in the business…things…they sold the hotel, and within a few years were all gone. Guess they had nothing left for this place after such a golden time.”

Mike genuinely had tears in his eyes as he spoke, “Stranger still no one knows where they went or what happened to her parents.”

After holding back, I bravely asked, “Mike, do you know any ghost stories about Bonaventure?”

He shot me a look, and then humored, “Boy you really know how to work a guy!”

We both cracked up for a minute. I went on to tell him what I’d heard about the spook lights and children’s laughter. I could tell from his face he understood every word.

“So you wanna know about Heaven’s Playground?” Mike asked. “Now I don’t want you to think what I’m going to tell you is dark or evil or anything, because I think these kids out here have passed on but come back to fill this place with good energy and that’s what people feel out here day and night. They’re like cleaners of all the energy people come in with. They take people’s pain away, you see. They send everyone back to their lives good or better than they were before,” he concluded.

“I appreciate that Mike, but how does Gracie fit in?”

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

He went on, “Well before they put up that dern jail cell around her, the tradition was for everyone to come here and give Gracie a toy, maybe a coin and keep her company for a minute. The old saying is that she adopts every passerby and every passerby adopts her…she’s kind of the main attraction in “Heaven’s Playground” I guess you could say.”

He added, “But now she’s in a pen, and I don’t much like it. Gracie was out here for everybody. I know people do dumb things but I miss the old-fashioned way, you know…guess I’m showing my age.”

Out of the corner of my eye I noted that hearses and a string of cars were flowing into Bonaventure.

“Mike! Oh man, I forgot you were here for a funeral!”

He looked over in the direction of the tent and laughed, “Do I look like I’m in a hurry to get to a funeral, son? They need this oxygen more than me!”

We laughed. He appreciated my own quip when I told him that I too had a “deadline” waiting on me. As we were saying our goodbyes, I couldn’t resist asking, “Mike, has anyone ever seen Gracie’s ghost? I mean, does she play here or does she just sit here?”

He seemed impressed, “Son, I’ve never seen her myself, but I had some good friends who did. They used to live in that house up at the front for a long, long time. Just before the city moved in to take over the cemetery, there were my friends who were the sextons. One night in the heat of the summer, the grandmother and great grandmother were alone in the home when a friend dropped by. They were all sitting in the den with the door open with just the screen closed to catch the breeze off the bluff. Without a whisper, …there was suddenly a girl standing at the door with her hands on the screen and her nose pressed into it. She was just staring at them.there was suddenly a girl standing at the door with her hands on the screen and her nose pressed into it. She was just staring at them. The family friend took no notice of the girl’s appearance, but the other women knew who she was and couldn’t even speak. They said that the buttons on the girls dress were identical to that of Gracie’s, as were the style of shoes and buttons as well. The family friend was first to speak and asked the strange girl if there was something they could do for her. The girl responded by taking her hands off the screen and began to walk backwards away from the door. The family friend got up and went to the door and the other women followed. There the girl stood at the top of the steps, still staring at them and without a word, and without taking her eyes off of their’s, walked backwards down the steps and uncanny I tell ya, walked backwards staring at them back into the mist of the cemetery! Can you believe it? In reverse! Just gives me chills thinking about it and the two women of the family were stupified! But the family friend hadn’t made any spiritual connection and said casually to the women, “I’m going to go after her.” As she opened the screen door, an icy breeze blew into the house and the great-grandmother lunged at the woman yanking her back in and shrieked, “DON’T YOU DARE!” Once the two women explained to her who they believed had just visited them, their friend began to tremble with understanding and fear. Funniest part is, they went over to a bar in Thunderbolt that next minute and ordered themselves the biggest shots they’d ever drunk in their whole lives!”

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anne Photography

Mike roared with laughter, yet I felt reluctant to do the same, as I stood there trying to process what he had just told me. Laughter was the last emotion I could conjure up thinking about not just a vaporous apparition doing this, but a flesh and blood statue spirit walking in the night.

“Why do you think Gracie did that or came to them in that way?” I managed to ask.

“Well, I can tell you what those women told me as a much younger man…since they were moving out they believed it was Gracie coming by in her own way to say goodbye to them, and a kind of “job well done for us here in the cemetery” parting moment. And I need a drink for just telling you that, young man,” he amusingly confided.

“But right now, I gotta go say a final toast to an old friend,” he said as he turned to go.

Some crows nearby began to caw in the trees and he commented, “Oh boy, that ain’t good luck. People used to say if you heard that at a funeral, meant someone else in your family was going to die. Sure hope it ain’t me, I gotta lot more to do today!”

I told him the crow would probably die before he would, I heard him laugh approvingly as he walked away. As I turned to leave, I caught sight of a note that didn’t seem to be there the whole time Mike and I were talking. It was a little weathered, yellow piece of journal paper, tied to Gracie’s gate, written in a child’s hand:

Dear Gracie, my baby brother came to join you last week. Please take good care of him for us. I loved him very much. Love, Jenny

Her handwriting told me she wasn’t more than 5 years old. Right about the same age as Gracie when she passed. A part of me wished I could tell Jenny that it would be ok and that Gracie would be looking out for her little brother.

That’s the thing about Savannah. It has the most beautiful of living things and the most beautiful of life gone by. It is full of notes and signs that seem to be found in the slightest moments with random encounters or people. They’re all reaching out and telling you something at every turn, entrusting you with it for some purpose of your own. And when I thought about why Mike had told me that ghost story, it dawned on me, that through the story, both he and Gracie wanted me to do a good job telling their story; and I certainly hope that I have.

So strange, but Savannah in a short time has become a new layer of my own skin. A part of its soul, now my own. Even if I didn’t have a moment with a ghost, in the very short time I visited, I feel like I got something better. Like I had a profound out-of-body and other worldly encounter with a mystical city and its most mysterious cemetery.

Photo courtesy of Dick Bjornseth

Photo courtesy of Dick Bjornseth

#Savannah #BonaventureCemetery #BonaventureCemeteryJourneys #BonaventureTours #TourBonaventure #MidnightInTheGardenofGoodandEvil #CemeteryTours #SavannahCemeteryTours #ShannonScott