Many cities, Savannah included, claim to be America’s most haunted.
It’s probably not a title that can ever be proved, but The Haunting experience is aiming to get some more examples on the books, according to organizer Caitlin Gray. A limited number of guests can attend a guided experience through the largely unused spaces at Moon River Brewing in downtown Savannah.
Long before it was a popular restaurant and brewery, the building was the City Hotel. Built in 1821, it was the first hotel in Savannah, and reportedly housed Marquis de Lafayette, James Audubon and Winfield Scott. Of course, not all the guests were so esteemed, and many claim some never checked out at all.
The hotel closed near the end of the Civil War and fell into relative disrepair. It did duty as a warehouse until 1999 when it was converted to the Moon River Brewing. But the operations are largely concentrated on the main level of the four-floor building.
The upper floors haven’t been renovated and retain the original peeling paint, curved doors and creaking staircases. A portion of the basement has been cleaned up for simple event space but it is unfinished, with the original beams and stone walls on display.
The Haunting visits these unfinished spaces in an attempt to conjure the waiting spirits. The guided tours lead informal seance-like ceremonies, inviting the guests to consider the stories of past tragedies while waiting for a sign from beyond.
The Haunting differs from other downtown ghost tours by focusing on a central location and designing it as an immersive sensory experience. The encounter with the uncanny is enhanced by the guides who hand out tourmaline stones and enclose the guests in a salt circle to protect everyone from negative spirits.
Each evening is different, Gray says, but guests have reported seeing orbs and shadowy figures, and hearing whispers and heavy footsteps.
“I want people to know that they are on hallowed ground when they come to Moon River," she said. "We do our best to stir up the paranormal activity for our guests during each experience and it’s different every time but memorable nonetheless. I really wanted to do something specific for Savannah that would bring attention to its history and ghost lore, as well as local businesses in the city. And, I can tell you from experience, Moon River’s spiritual energy is certainly alive and well.”
Gray encourages guests to be open to a ghostly experience, but the visit is enjoyable regardless of your level of skepticism.