The 'ghosts' of Savannah
In Savannah, Georgia, a man named Stephen C. Bader bought an old Greek Revival mansion now known as the Sorrel Weed House back in the 1990s and rummaging around found a number of historic documents, including a rare one penned by Robert E. Lee, who had visited the home on at least two occasions. The document was related to the Confederate surrender. Other visitors to the home had included Civil War notable General William Tecumseh Sherman. But here's the kicker: Bader, a businessman from Atlanta, who made a fortune on Wall Street before buying it in 1996 -- the one who finds the document -- soon after learned that he was a direct descendant of General Lee!
If that seems a bit much for "coincidence," it's hardly the end of this story. A bit of history: the house, in the heart of historic Savannah, was built in the mid-1800s by a wealthy shipping magnate named Francis Sorrel and was the boyhood home of his son, Brigadier General Moxley Sorrel, who fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War and was close to Lee. In architectural class it's compared to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and is about 15,000 square feet in size, one of the "treasures" of Dixie.
That might be enough to distinguish it, but there's more. The opening scene of Forrest Gump (in which a feather floats down on the city) was filmed on the home's roof. A special on the house aired on a show called If Walls Could Talk (about the home's history and the Civil War document finds). And then there are the "ghosts": some consider it the most "haunted" house in Savannah (which is saying a lot, it seems), and it was investigated by TAPS during a special 2005 Halloween episode of the show Ghost Hunters (a very precarious "profession," one we all should stay clear of). It was also investigated by the crew for another show, Ghost Adventures, in 2014. One prominent "ghost hunter," Zak Bagans, said the Sorrel Weed House Museum gave him a "3-alarm hangover" and two other nationally-known "ghost hunters" said it was one of the most haunted locations they had ever investigated in 2005. The house was also featured on the Travel Channel's "The Most Terrifying Places in America" in 2010, and on the Paula Deen Network in 2015.
You get the point.
Some homes just seem like magnets for all kinds of energy, historic and perhaps otherwise.
The same is true of cities: certain ones seem to concentrate energy, good and bad, what one might call "power spots." (Think: Jerusalem. Or think: New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and -- yes -- Savannah.)
Some think the city is the most haunted place in the U.S. (every building has some kind of story), and while a lot of it is hype -- great for ghost tours and TV shows, and thus for tourism, meaning the pocketbook -- there are certain accounts and spots here that make one wonder if perhaps spiritual forces are focused here, for whatever reason.
Indians had burial mounds there, and pirates hid in coves. The city is literally built on the dead. It is the site of epidemics of yellow fever; hundreds are buried in tunnels there. When settlers arrived, they dug their graveyards just outside the original settlement, and the city eventually expanded over those graves, all of which were not relocated (only the elite deceased had that privilege, it seems). Some believe that Freemasons designed the city in such a plan (as a square cubit) as to evoke mystical powers. Add to that the voodoo that arrived in the city with slaves and immigrants from Haiti who practiced curses, spells, and "root medicine" (still in evidence there). One energy seemed to attract the next.
An important battle in the Revolutionary War -- one of the bloodiest, with a thousand casualties -- was fought right near or perhaps even on the site of the Sorrel-Weed mansion. Is this why there are "ghosts" (if we believe in ghosts: earthbound spirits; perhaps purgatorial)?
Or is it because there was also a graveyard there (only the wealthy who were interred there were removed when the structures in the vicinity were built)?
The basement of the home served for years as the operating room for a prominent surgeon -- and back when many patients didn't survive surgery.
Now add to that a suicide and possibly a homicide committed at this home (the wife of the original owner, Francis Sorrel, threw herself off a balcony when she discovered her husband having an affair with a female slave, who herself then turned up dead two weeks after the suicide, at the end of a noose). In the fireplace of the carriage house where she died, there is supposedly an image in the soot on the bricks. Local stories say this is from the remains of a secret love child who was burned to death. The soot -- or so goes legend; many legends in Savannah! -- can not be removed.
Lots of "bad vibes."
Do such things really resonate? It certainly felt oppressive. Prayed for the souls (and for protection.)
Call these summer musings -- late summer musings -- after visiting Savannah and trying to get a fix on why so many claim so many spiritual happenings.
The builder of the home was from Haiti -- home to voodoo; some slaves were from that island. Any connection there?
Or just another place in the larger picture of a "haunted" city?
It is where, Savannah is, another famous murder took place, one that served as the underpinning for a huge bestseller called Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, set in a second famous Savannah mansion -- one that was likewise a bit on the spooky side, with a history (again, before the homicide) of untimely death. It had also been used as a Masonic temple.
Do we see a trend taking form, a pattern?
Many people claim to have seen various apparitions at Sorrel-Weed (so named because the second owner was Harry Weed, who also experienced unfortunate events), including youngsters, a distraught woman, and soldiers in uniform, to name just a few. One tourist insisted that she saw the shadows of a cowering man (slave?) being whipped by a man standing next to him. There are strange voices. Do not "investigate" such spirits, nor take ghost tours. It can be more precarious than you may think. Many who do so at Sorrel-Weed report illness.
Maybe. Maybe not. Power spots. You discern. It was right near Sorrel Weed that Forrest Gump sat on that bench and nearby where a man named John Wesley who founded the Methodist faith started the denomination. The garden of good and evil...
Lots of energy here.
But none top the cathedral.
Towering over Savannah -- thank God -- is the (Catholic) Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
Went to Mass there. Forget ghost tours; didn't take one. Beautiful place, the church. Far more impressive than the mansions. Here there is the Holy Ghost.
When the Host is raised: That's the kind of energy that cleanses; that's the kind we like; that's the kind that cleanses "ghosts" of the past and present.