When I meet Rob Carroll for our scheduled tour, it is a wet, chilly fall evening on Tybee Island. For any other island excursion, the rain might pose a problem. But for telling ghost stories, it's perfect.
Rob is part owner of Tybee Tours, the only tour company operating on Tybee Island, and he is driving me through town on the Tybee Ghost Tour. One of Rob's favorite stories involves a rental house on 12th Terrace and a famous actor who stayed there.
"I met two sisters whose grandmother lived on Tybee Island," Rob says as we pull up next to the sand-painted brick house. "She lived on 12th Terrace, and they would often visit her during the summer for long stretches of time.
"They called her Nana."
"Nana was a patient grandmother, but the girls would sometimes annoy her with their rowdy behavior. She especially hated when they'd run out the back and slam the screen door behind them. Every time this would happen, Nana would yell, 'Don't slam the screen door!' Well, years went by and eventually Nana passed away. The house was sold to a rental company.
"In the 1990s, Robert Downey Jr. was filming 'The Gingerbread Man' in Savannah. He made an agreement with film executives that he would be able to stay on the beach," Rob says. "They rented Nana's old home on 12th Terrace.
"Downey Jr. invited his entourage to stay with him at 12th Terrace. Apparently, they threw wild parties and stayed on for several months during filming. At the end of the stay, his assistant was asked to fill out a comment card.
"He said glowing things about the house. They loved it; they'd recommend it to their friends. If they ever came back to Tybee, they'd stay at 12th Terrace.
"But he wrote something else on the comment card that was a little odd: 'There's only one thing I want to know. Who is the woman who keeps shouting, 'Don't slam the screen door?'"
Rob and fellow Tybee Tours owner Rebecque de Fontes have more than 10 years of experience in the tourism industry between them.
The pair met while working at Old Town Trolley Tours in Savannah. There, they bonded over their mutual love of Tybee Island and respect for its often-overlooked history.
"People forget that Tybee Island has a history of its own," Rebecque says.
"I love the characters and the laid-back atmosphere," Rob says.
"You never know what kind of people you'll run into. I've been coming here for almost 40 years, and Tybee Island hasn't changed a bit."
It wasn't long before the pair were investigating and researching local stories. After a year of preparations, they allied with Sandy's by the Shore at Inlet Avenue, where they have access to golf carts for tours.
Tybee Ghost Tours opened its doors in the spring, and already, Rob and Rebecque have a full arsenal of spooky stories to share.
Every ghost tour includes a cemetery walk-through.
"We're the only tour in the area that allows year-round tours of the cemetery at night," Rebecque tells me. "All other cemeteries are closed to visitors once night falls."
On our tour, we rode past the Atlantis Inn and the Beachview Bed and Breakfast, where old proprietors still roam the halls.
Some ghost tales date back as far as the mid-1800s, when three bodies mysteriously washed up on Tybee's shore. Some are, just like the island itself, even older.
For families with children, no need to worry. Tybee Ghost Tours offers a PG event.
"There is very little on Tybee to entertain families once night falls," Rebecque says. "It became very important to us to provide quality entertainment for people of all ages on Tybee, which is why we offer a kid-friendly tour."
Tours are 70 minutes long and run every evening, seven days a week, starting at 7 p.m. Tybee Tour offers three tours on Halloween: 7, 8:30 and 10 p.m. Reservations are required, so call ahead at 912-786-0531.
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