Every year, millions of people swoop into Savannah to experience its haunted side, especially during the spookiest month of the year.
Through the end of October, there's even more cause for celebration, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the first official guided ghost tour in Savannah, courtesy of Ghost Talk Ghost Walk Tours.
"In 1989 when Jack Richards started Ghost Talk Ghost Walk Tours, he had the help of Margaret Wayt DeBolt, author of 'Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales,' by introducing him to people who had experienced paranormal activity in Savannah. She also helped him with the first tour route," says Jeffrey Hall, a GTGW guide for more than 13 years.
The Ghost Talk Ghost Walk tours originally met in City Market, and groups would range from two to 12 people on average, but plenty of nights "there were no guests at all. A year later, it was decided to move the tour to Reynolds Square, where there was better parking for guests and by then, word of mouth and publicity all helped to make GTGW thrive," Hall says.
Not only did GTGW thrive, but so did all ghostly related haunts and happenings in Savannah.
"What started as one walking tour in 1989 has become a major tourist attraction in the city of Savannah," Hall says.
"Today, thousands of tourists take a ghost tour, and they can choose to take a trolley, a carriage, a hearse or on a Segway. They can take a pub tour or buy a map and plan their own tour, (which all) contribute to the economic success that is Savannah tourism," he says.
According to the Savannah Tourism Management/Ambassadorship Office, there are at least 30 companies currently offering ghost tours.
Hall also shares one of his favorite tales.
"Since GTGW begins and ends in Reynolds Square, the stories of the Pink House are among the favorite ones that get told," Hall says. "Guests in the dining room will see what they think is an actor dressed in period clothes, only to have him walk through a table or a wall - many find the resemblance of the apparition to the portrait of James Habersham hanging in the entry way. And guests to the ladies room in the tavern will find that faucets turn on spontaneously while bar keeps have things flying off the walls."
But the story he loves to share the most is about one of their tour guides, Chris, converting from a skeptic to a believer.
"He once had a group of 20 people, and they all saw the same thing a one location. Some even got it on a video. They didn't want to go home; they all wanted to stay in the square and talk about it," Hall says. "When Chris began working for us, he said he wanted the job because he needed the experience of public speaking but he didn't believe in ghosts. We told him that was fine - that he just had to tell the stories and not be an advocate for or against. That night, he became a believer and told the story as part of his tour."
Marriage proposals mid-tour and hosting high-profile celebrities are also some of Hall's treasured memories.
While GTGW and Hall himself have received plenty of rave reviews, one comment has stuck with him the most: "An 8-year-old at the end of the tour once asked, 'How old do I have to be to get to be a guide and tell these stories?'
Hall adds that "although our advertising says, 'We started it all,' the real credit goes to Margaret Wayt DeBolt and her interest in the paranormal that inspired her to conduct interviews and write a book that has become the foundation for most Savannah ghost tours."