GhoStock, a paranormal event founded in Georgia in 2005, is returning home after stints in Salem, Mass., and Gettysburg, Pa., among others. But none of the other cities fit quite like Savannah.
"While Salem certainly had the historical element we were looking for, we found the city itself - and the visitors' bureau in particular - to be less than enthusiastic about our proposed event. We also tried doing the event on a much smaller scale in other locations such as Gettysburg, Pa., but it was never the same as Savannah," says founder Patrick Burns.
Inspiration for the first GhoStock came out of Burns' participation in several annual road trips to allegedly haunted locations throughout Georgia. At this time, he was leading his paranormal investigation network called Ghost Hounds.
"I decided to host such an event of our own in July of 2005. Leading up to the event, we needed to figure out a location, so I ran a survey on our website, asking the Ghost Hounds network members where they would like to travel," he says. "Savannah, of course, was among the choices, as was Charleston, New Orleans, St. Augustine and Key West. The survey didn't even need to run a whole day - Savannah won the vote by a landslide.
"At that point, I had never visited Savannah, but I have been back dozens of times since, and I have fallen in love with this city and its amazing history and charm," he says.
The nationally recognized event is ready to return to its roots, with a full weekend of talks from paranormal experts, including Troy Taylor, Chris Dedman and Clarissa Vazquez - most being first-time GhoStock speakers.
"We've more than doubled the number of speakers on the roster and added an additional lecture hall," Burns says.
Beyond these new speakers, Burns has another reason to be extraordinarily eager about 2014's event, which he's dubbed GhoStock Resurrection.
"I'm excited to be reviving the conference and returning to its home in Savannah after six years," he says. "Savannah has always shown true southern hospitality to us in years past, and this year has been no exception. I'm also excited to be expanding the size of the event, and I hope the event will continue to grow in size and scope for many years to come."
There will also be a vendor room with books and other paranormal paraphernalia, and guests can get psychic readings.
"Attendees also have the option to upgrade their admission to VIP passes, which give them access to late night activities like our 'Zombie Prom' on Saturday night, as well as the option to purchase tickets to attend actual paranormal investigations," Burns says.
It's no secret that Savannah is proud of its status as one of the world's most haunted cities, which makes it an ideal home for future GhoStocks.
"Others within the paranormal (industry) have described Savannah as the most haunted city in America, and I think that is an accurate title," Burns says. "And within the historic district, it seems you couldn't throw a stone without it landing on a spot with a known ghost story or two. Mind you - these are the known stories. For every published story, there must certainly be an equal number of tales or more that have been kept secret."
And to complete any paranormal Savannah experience, Burns offers his top three haunted recommendations.
"It's hard to narrow it down to just three! Savannah's history is amazing, and there are so many active locations. Bonaventure Cemetery tops my list. Its surreal beauty of live oaks draped in Spanish moss is a quintessential image of Savannah. The Marshall House Hotel is another great location. I personally have experienced the sound of phantom footsteps in the halls and rooms of this haunted hotel. Getting out of town a bit, the Tybee Island Lighthouse is another active attraction that is not to be missed," he says.
Burns already has plans in motion for a fall 2014 GhoStock and is quick to praise the return welcome the event has received.
"One of the great things about Savannah is its convention infrastructure and ample hotels to host even larger events. Not to mention a large number of activities to keep convention goers entertained, so as the event grows in size and scope, we'll be able to expand. We're already laying the groundwork for the next event, possibly this coming autumn," he says.
"I can promise you this - we won't be strangers anymore!"