Why I wrote my Savannah ghost book, ‘Haunted Savannah’

Someone asked me a question yesterday, and it was a good one. The question was ‘Why did you write your Savannah ghost book?’

It wasn’t a formal plan, at least not in the beginning. I started my ghost tour in Savannah, Cobblestone Tours, back in 2001. I started writing the stories down for my tour guides, just for their reference, so they would get the names and the dates right. At the time, there was just one book on the subject (Savannah Spectres, by Margaret DeBolt) on the market, and that was originally published in 1984. In all that time, Ms. DeBolt never updated the work, and very little new research had been done since that time. Understand, most ghost tours in Savannah during the period I’m referencing (pre-2005) either told a variation of the ‘Spectres’ stories or made up their tales completely (and I’m talking total fabrication– one company which was based in Charleston SC moved their city’s stories to Savannah, just changing the names of the houses!). So doing real research for a ghost tour back then was seen as more than a little… strange, but I loved it.

I found myself digging through the archives at the Georgia Historical Society, and what I found was a treasure trove of information that was relevant to the topic. Very little of this info had been used for tour material, or had ever been published. I wrote it all down and incorporated it into my repertoire, and people really responded, because it was all authentic and new. And in the midst of all this research, I had been waiting for years for someone to write a worthy follow-up to Savannah Spectres. I hadn’t considered myself a candidate to do it, because I wasn’t a ‘real’ historian, and had never written anything longer than a five page term paper in my life. Besides, I was running Cobblestone Tours full-time. But three years passed, and I gradually amassed a huge folder of tour stories and historical tidbits, way more than I could ever use on a tour. But if something caught my interest, I would write it down.

The ‘Savannah tour stories’ folder grew to well over 30,000 words. It suddenly hit me one day that I had been busy writing the very Savannah ghost book I was hoping would be written by somebody else, so I’d better get serious about it. I began rewriting all of the stories in a more professional tone, and began to submit to a few local publishers.

It was sort of a perfect sequence of happy accidents that quickly led me to Murray Silver and Cristina Piva, my first publishers at Bonaventure Books. They shepherded the project into the work it became, a weighty 74,000 words. They have been more than mentors, and more than friends. I cannot compliment them enough, because without those two, that book would simply not exist. It published in 2005 and sales have been steady ever since.

I’ve been hard at work revising the Savannah book for a brand new edition in 2013, complete with photos and new stories. Lots of changes in eight years! I can’t wait to launch it, which will be happening in late spring of this year.

So my response to the question ‘Why did I write Haunted Savannah?’ would have to be a two-part answer: it was an attempt to correct a lot of misinformation that was being spread by well-meaning but misinformed tour guides, but it was also an effort to protect and preserve Savannah’s history and heritage through the art of oral storytelling. The book was (and is) intended to be a resource for Savannah tour guides, regardless of which company they work for, and is an honest attempt to raise the level of conversation about the subject of the paranormal in Savannah. I hope I’ve succeeded. Haunted Savannah

 

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