People claim that Savannah, Georgia, is the most haunted city in America. Savannah is located near the sea, which made it a thriving and important city. But, it also attracted shady figures such as pirates. After a long voyage they would find rest and what’s today known as the Pirate’s House. Locals didn’t go in back then, but much has changed since then. The echoes of the past still linger in this historic tavern.
The history of Savannah
Before we take a look at the Pirate’s House, we’ll have a look at Savannah. The city was founded in 1733 when General James Oglethorpe’s ship “Anne” landed on a buff high along the Savannah River. He named the 13th and final American colony “Georgia” after the English King George II. Oglethorpe immediately became friends with the local Yamacraw Indian chief Tomochichi. Tomochichi offered Oglethorpe Savannah to create his settlement. He wanted to offer a new start to poor English workers and to strengthen colonies by increasing trade. Because of the mutual goodwill between oglethorpe and Tomochichi the town flourished without warfare and hardship.
So why is Savannah so haunted?
Unfortunately, Savannah has had its share of tragedies. The city was taken by the British during the American Revolution in 1778. In 1779, a land-sea force of French and American soldiers tried to retake the city, first by siege and later by direct assault. Both actions failed and the city remained in British hands until 1782. After the independence, Savannah flourished again, this time for agriculture. Plantations were build and slavery was legalized. But, Savannah wasn’t spared from misfortune. In 1796 a devastating fire nearly destroyed half the city. In 1820, this happened again, followed by an outbreak of yellow fever which killed a tenth of the population. Some claim the dead were quickly taken into the tunnels underneath the city, to prevent the sickness from spreading. All these events have turned Savannah into a paranormal hotspot.
The Pirate’s House was built on a plot of land which was assigned to become a botanical garden. It would be designed like the Chelsea Botanical Garden in London. Oglethorpe recruited botanists from all over the world to acquire the plants he wanted in his garden. These were cotton, spices, indigo and medicinal herbs, and more importantly wine and silk. But, the soil and weather conditions threw a spanner in the works. However, peach trees seemed to do very well! Along with cotton, the peaches became a staple of Georgia’s economy.
A small building, built in 1734, became the original structure of the Pirate’s House. It was built to house the gardener who worked on the land. This small building was named the Herb House and it’s said to be the oldest structure in Savannah. In 1754 it was decided that the botanical garden was no longer relevant. Savannah became a port land instead. The Herb House was transformed into a tavern for seamen who could rest upstairs after a long voyage at sea. It quickly became a place the locals rather avoided.
It was famous as a smuggler’s den for gold and alcohol. Going there for a drink back then was equal to being robbed. And there was a chance you never returned home. The tunnels underneath the tavern were used to “shanghai” young men. When they passed out after drinking too much free alcohol they somehow ended up on a ship the next morning. The tunnels start in the Rum cellar and end at the port, but aren’t open to the public.
Interesting facts about The Pirate’s House
A place this old holds many stories. Author Robert Louis Stevenson visited the Pirate’s House (then: The Tavern) in 1883 which inspired him to write his novel “Treasure Island”. He was told the story about the ruthless Captain Flint, a character he used in his book. This Captain had buried a treasure on a deserted island and because he had murdered his entire crew, he was the only owning a map of it. Captain Flint did stay at the tavern, in fact, he died upstairs. There’s a chance the map is still somewhere in the building. The first few original pages of Stevenson’s novel can be found on walls in The Pirate’s House in the Captain’s Room and the Treasure Room. Another interesting room is the Anne Bonny Room. Anne Bonny was a female pirate. She doesn’t haunt The Pirate’s House, but her story is an interesting one.
Ghosts at The Pirate’s House
The Pirate’s House is haunted by several entities. Heavy footsteps and yelling are heard from the tunnels, employees have reported feeling a presence when they are alone and some have even seen full apparitions. It is said that the ghost of Captain Flint still haunts the building. And who knows, perhaps also the victims of the yellow fever pandemic haunt the tunnels.
The Pirate’s House today
The Pirate’s House is a very popular eatery in Savannah, so make reservations when you want to go. It’s certainly not a tourist trap: locals enjoy eating the variety of southern dishes. The Pirate’s House has 15 dining rooms, big and small, and can hold up to 120 guests. Check the website before going because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you want to read more stories about haunted places in the USA, click here!
Cover photo: W 1 via flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Sources: wikipedia.com, visitsavannah.com, atlasobscura.com and nightlyspirits.com
Address: 20 E Broad Street, Savannah, GA, 31401 USA