I have never seen a ghost or anything I thought might be a ghost.
Has my mind played tricks on me at several points over the years? Especially at night? When no one is around? When you think you might have seen something but didn't?
To that mix, I can add that I have had plenty of friends, especially in Savannah, tell me countless stories that I have no reason to not believe. Showers turning on by themselves in local hotels, or items disappearing altogether. Spend enough time in Savannah and you'll hear it all.
As I have.
Again, I have no reason to not believe the people telling me these tales. They typically have no agenda, no motive or frankly, no reason to make up some of the tales I've been told. The latest came to me over the summer. Quite frankly, it's fascinating and curious at the same time.
I got a call from Wille Tuten back in July. He is the owner of Tondee's Tavern on Bay Street near Bull, in the old Tony Roma's location. We had never met before. I had popped into his place a couple of times for a beverage but had never eaten there. Mr. Tuten wanted to show me a piece of video that had been recorded inside his tavern. A piece of surveillance video that he found very interesting, but didn't have any explanation for. We set up a meeting.
When I got there, took me into his office and played a piece of video for me. The video was shot by a ceiling-mounted surveillance camera inside of his establishment. A fixed camera that shot in the same direction at all times. It had picked up a fire that was growing outside on the sidewalk along Bay Street. Apparently, someone had put a cigarette into a flower box outside Tondee's Tavern as they walked by. The culprit moved along, but the fire crackled and popped right outside a window.
That ceiling-mounted camera captured it all. Oh, by the way, it was after 3 a.m. on June 22.
Meanwhile, two employees slept downstairs between a late Saturday night shift and an early Sunday shift. It wasn't uncommon for Tondee's employees to sleep downstairs if they had a tight turnaround, so this particular Sunday morning was no different.
Lisa Scroggin was one of the two young ladies sound asleep.
"Something touched me," she says. "It woke me up."
Once she was awake, she heard her co-worker screaming her name. From upstairs. The fire had been discovered and it was growing. They raced upstairs and attempted to put it out with buckets of water. All of this captured by that camera on the ceilling.
We've all seen surveillance video of fires before. Nothing new here. What was different were some of things the camera very clearly picked up when you watched it slowly or in a freeze frame. Nearly two dozen times in a two-hour period, white orbs or flashes fly through the screen. Sometimes left to right. Other times, right to left or top to bottom. No rhyme or reason. Crystal clear in most cases, a little harder to see in others, but they were there.
Mr. Tuten had no explanation for these "shapes" captured on that video. He wanted to know if I had one. I did not. I don't do ghosts. I'm the food guy.
I did ask Mr. Tuten for a copy of this video and sent it to a friend of mine in Florida who has two decades of experience with these types of things. He has operated regular ghost tours in Orlando, St. Augustine and New Orleans and has done paranormal investigations in half a dozen other places around the country. If there was an explanation, he'd certainly offer one.
The first question he asked me about was the presence of air conditioning vents. He was concerned these could have been pieces of paper flying around the room in the face of a fire. He had other questions for me, all of which I took back to Tondee's Tavern to verify. No interfering air vents. Nothing that would explain what those shapes captured on video were.
Ultimately, the question for my friend was "Are those ghosts?"
"They could be but we can't say for sure," he said. "I can say that we can't discount anything paranormal as an explanation for what they are."
That's really all I needed to hear.
Employees at Tondee's have told me that they've had people come through and tell them all kinds of stories of things that happened in that building once upon a time. There are stories of slave holdings downstairs, still other stories of a child who lives in the lower level at Tondee's Tavern and stays behind the stairs. Several ghost tours in Savannah make regular stops at Tondee's already.
You combine that with a piece of video that, at the very least, makes you wonder and you've got some visual evidence and quite a story to tell.
You can see an edited, narrated version of that video here.
Are they ghosts? No clue. Am I prepared to say they are not? Not at all. But I am adding what happened at Tondee's Tavern to my list of stories I've been told over the years in Savannah that have no explanation.
Take a look at that video, and decide for yourself.
See you on TV.