Q&A with Ryan Dunn, Savannah Author and Owner of Afterlife Tours

I am very excited about Ryan Dunn’s book that is coming out in March 2015. The book is entitled Savannah’s Afterlife: True Tales of a Paranormal Investigator. In addition to being an author and paranormal investigator, Ryan also operates Afterlife Tours in historic Savannah, Georgia. He was kind enough to let us tag along on an 8:00 tour last Friday night.

The locations we visited included: Twelve West Oglethorpe, the Foley House, Savannah Theatre, Colonial Cemetery, the Olde Pink House, and Moon River Brewery. Since moving to Savannah a year ago, I have been captivated several times by the old dilapidated home at Twelve West Oglethorpe.

Twelve

I have heard many various stories about the home, but Ryan’s tour is unique in the fact that he has not only personally investigated each location, he has actually done extensive research with the Georgia Historical Society and other sources to tell the truth about the history of the locations. He is not just standing on a corner spouting recounts of local legends. He’s telling visitors what the documents actually show. I respect that a lot.

The other unique characteristic about how he runs his tours is that he shares evidence that he’s personally collected during investigations. You may see a combination of photographs, videos, and hear Class “A” EVPs.

Ryan has been featured on A&E’s My Ghost Story.

Five Questions for Ryan Dunn:

What made you interested in the field?
I became interested in the field when I moved into a haunted house here in Savannah’s Historic District in April of 2010. I began doing paranormal research as a hobby, but soon started catching very compelling evidence. It soon became a full time business and also evolved into a ghost tour company too.

Any dream locations to investigate?
My dream locations would be 432 Abercorn Street here in Savannah, Waverly Hills Sanitarium in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Winchester Mystery House in California just to name a few.

Can you talk about the pilot you are filming at Central State Asylum in Milledgeville, Georgia?
The upcoming investigation in Milledgeville will be a filming of a pilot for a new paranormal show based here in Savannah that we will be pitching to national networks as part of a 5 episode package. We intend to embody the flare of Savannah itself and the fact we live in the paranormal hotspot of the United States. Not only do we do investigations, but we live this day to day.

Do you have a favorite place to investigate in Savannah?
One of my favorite places to investigate in Savannah is the Savannah Theatre because we always capture great evidence there. Also, the Moon River Brewery always gives us great results too. We will be doing our 8th investigation there on October 19.

Any plans for a second book?
I am currently conducting research for a sequel, and intend to began writing that one this fall.

Thank you to Ryan for having us out. I am particularly interested in getting an update about the Central Asylum investigation!

Further reading:

http://www.afterlifetours.net/

http://www.schifferbooks.com/savannahs-afterlife-true-tales-of-a-paranormal-investigator-5639.html

https://www.facebook.com/3DGhostHunters

http://savannahnow.com/accent/2013-12-14/savannahs-very-own-ghostbusters#.VAuAlcJ0xMs

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Morning at the MOMA

Labor Day found me fighting for a place amongst a crowd at the Museum of Modern Art. I like to walk with my elbows protruding up around my shoulders. Correction – I do not LIKE to, it is just sometimes necessary so that others know that I am not amenable to them getting free rubs. Moving on.

I did get to see Starry Night and Persistence of Memory. The former was impressive because nothing you see online does it justice. The reason is because none of the photos capture the actual swirls in the paint. I probably appreciated this painting more than most because I thought about poor tortured van Gogh sitting in his little asylum cell in Saint-Remy and looking outside at the sky to paint this image. This is the first time I have ever actually seen lasting evidence of insanity in art (in person). The swirls are manic, and they impressed me with their blatant craziness. The latter was cool for novelty,  but honestly there was nothing gained by me from in-person viewing. I am very aware of time and how it will kill everything and leave rotting decay in its path.

Links from the Moma for the above-mentioned paintings:

http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79802

http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79018

The real surprise show-stopper for me was Giorgio de Chirico’s Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure), 1914.

Gare Montparnasse

The very title alone made me stop in my tracks. The Melancholy of Departure? This guy was brilliant. I always just called it a vacation hangover. But the way he writes it, you can be melancholy over your departure whether you are going home or leaving home. Montparnasse was a real train station where Chirico lived in Paris. The critics like to debate about what the bananas mean and call out his skewed sense of perspective, since he is making the wind blow from both directions – as evidenced at the top where the flags are going to the left, and the smoke from the train is going to the right. Let me tell you what I think about all of this.

The bananas don’t mean anything. There is clearly a circus tent to the left of the painting and he is telling us that the earth is populated by a bunch of monkey clowns. This is more evidence of the Great Emptiness. We are all living (or escaping from if we are smart/lucky) our own nightmares. There are things all around us (like bananas) that just don’t mean squat. We have to navigate around all this meaningless crap because we are fighting against the clock always to find meaning and purpose. But there is no meaning or purpose in the Great Emptiness! It’s a cosmic joke. Earth is hell. Surprise! And the train? The train is empty. When the clock runs down the train comes for you and you alone. There is no conductor, no other passengers. Just an empty black train.

Coming for to carry me home…

That’s what I think he was trying to say. He died in 1978 or I would call him up and ask him.

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Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

The surreal ride in:

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If you zoom in, you can see an aerial shot of the ruins of the Sugar Beach Resort & Golf Club:

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Our home base was the Carriearl Boutique Hotel, the former home of Earl Blackwell (founder of Celebrity Service, see: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/04/obituaries/earl-blackwell-85-a-promoter-of-celebrities-and-their-events.html), which could not have been more pleasant. Angie and Marty are gracious hosts and we loved our getaway.

One of the songs I always hear when I am traveling is Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” I have it on my phone, and it is one of a few songs that I use as triggers to switch my mind into relax mode. It came over the Sirius XM station twice while we were at the Carriearl and I took that to be very appropriate for our venue – both the hotel itself and the island. I guess what I mean by that is the song always invokes a sense of timelessness. Read: “I have momentarily stepped away from my desk right now into Carriearl Land.”

What am I always saying I want? To be somewhere else, of course. And for a moment, I was.

There is a James Altucher quote that I thoroughly believe in and it is: “Only free time, imagination, creativity, and an ability to disappear will help you deliver value that nobody ever delivered before in the history of mankind.” You can disappear here. There will be Wi-Fi if you want it, but you can disappear otherwise. There are only 3 rooms for rent at the Carriearl, so you will be enjoying all of the amenities (including a golf cart you can take out to the caves and the ruins for two hours) with very few other people.

Partial shot of bar/restaurant for all your drinking and (blue crab ravioli with vodka cream sauce) eating needs:

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Pool views, view from the beach, and the beach in front of the Carriearl:

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Note the hammock:

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Exploring the ruins of the Sugar Beach Resort and Golf Club:

When I first heard there were ruins here, of course I was fixated on it until I was able to wander through. If you zoom in on the aerial photo linked above, you can tell just how sprawling these grounds are. We were only able to access just a small part of the remains, because we went in bathing suits and sandals.

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To gain entry, we shimmied across this wall on the left. One foot in front of the other, and don’t look down or think about it too much (these are good rules for life, by the way).

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Haint blue ceiling:

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Surveying the land:

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View of the ruins from the beach:

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Exploring the Caves at Sugar Beach:

High tide, looking down from a rock we climbed:

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Low tide, preparing to make a swim for it:

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Besides exploring the ruins, enjoying the peaceful luxury of the Carriearl and the beach, I have two other favorite memories from the island. Those are going to the marina and watching locals make conch fritters right on the dock, and discarding the shells:

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and meeting two sweet ladies who worked at the small deli at the airport. There was a small thunderstorm we were waiting out before we could takeoff. The younger lady engaged me in conversation by asking me where I was from. She said: “Oh, I just love Atlanta. I love Golden Corral.” The older lady, perhaps even her grandmother, chimed in on that one. “Oh yes, I love Golden Corral. I always get so mad when I fill up on soup and salad.”

I looked at them and raised my left hand. They could tell I was about to testify and impart some great piece of wisdom, perhaps something that had been passed down to me from my ancestors. They were absolutely correct. Like my father told me, and his mother who went before him told him, I gave them everything I had. “Ladies, when you go to the Golden Corral, you have to start at the hot bar.”

They howled at me. And I joined in, three of us shaking with laughter, united in our venture to come out ahead when partaking in a buffet.

Further reading:

http://www.carriearl.com/

http://www.greatharbourcay.com/WebPages/history.htm

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Investigating Lost Things: Midway Church and Cemetery – Midway, GA

On our way home from St. Simons Island yesterday, we took a detour through Midway, Georgia. The first time I had ever heard of this place was from Chris Wangler’s 2006 book, Ghost Stories of Georgia. By complete happenstance, we met the last tour group of the day at the Midway Museum and were able to join in.

I loved the original civil war-era clothes that were on display upstairs.

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Also, check out the original key to the 1792 Midway Church:

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You can’t tell by looking at this photo, but the key is huge! The tour guide used one that was very similar to let us in the church later.

Midway Church

According to the museum’s brochure, the exterior of the church was painted red in 1792, and the floors were painted in black and white diamond patterns. The present day appearance of the church dates to 1849. For six weeks during the Civil War, General Judson Kilpatrick used the church as a slaughterhouse and the church was abandoned after this.

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The pews have their own little swinging doors for entry, and we were told that they used to be sectioned off for subscribers.

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View from balcony of pulpit:

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Upstairs view of right side of balcony area:

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I expected the church to have some sort of feeling or smell to it, but instead the place just felt empty. Not cheerful or peaceful or even sad, or anything whatsoever. Completely devoid of emotion.

Midway Cemetery

Mr. Wangler recounts two haunting tales about the Midway Cemetery in his book. The first story involves two young people who allegedly involved themselves in an illicit affair and had a habit of meeting in secret in the cemetery. Sylvia Brown was a blond seventeen year old, and Anthony was one of her father’s slaves. When Sylvia’s father got news of the affair, he had Anthony murdered. The story is that Sylvia found his body hanging from the tree in the cemetery where they used to rendezvous and slit her own throat right there at the scene.  Visitors report shadow figures underneath the tree.

View of the church from inside the cemetery:

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The second legend is that of the crack in the north wall of the cemetery. The wall was built in 1813 by slave labor. Two of the men had been arguing all day and had fallen behind with the day’s construction. The master made the two stay late and finish the job and one wound up murdering the other and hiding him beneath the wall. The next day he claimed his partner had run away. The wall that remained covering his crime was reported to crumble at an unexplainably fast pace. One day, the master ordered the wall torn down so it could be rebuilt from scratch. The remains were discovered, and the wall was rebuilt. But the crack continues to this day even though the wall was rebuilt.

Info display inside the cemetery:

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My photo of the wall:

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The cemetery felt to me exactly as the church felt – empty. It could be that the harsh south Georgia heat is stifling my radar. But, Bonaventure in Savannah has always felt very peaceful and serene to me, and I have made plenty of summer visits inside the walls of Bonaventure (I don’t mean to imply that Bonaventure is haunted, just that it does make me feel a positive energy at least).

I look forward to a visit in October, to hear some legends on the Halloween tour. The story about the crack in the brick wall is well-embraced in Midway.

Further reading:

http://coastalcourier.com/archives/61008/

http://coastalcourier.com/archives/37420/

http://coastalcourier.com/archives/3526/

http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/midwaycemetery.html

http://www.themidwaymuseum.org/index.html

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Night Landing. Savannah International. Gorgeous.

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Kicking off a Saturday – Tybee Island, GA

On the way to Tybee Island, there is a great multipurpose trail close to Fort Pulaski. The McQueen Island Rails to Trails park area gives a good six miles worth of exercise options. We took advantage of it early one Saturday and saw more wildlife than people. Once again, I saw a great raccoon that eluded my photography skills. He was waddling (much like me after eating redneck nachos at Wiley’s), and by all accounts appeared to be living quite lavishly out on the island.  This is what the trail looks like to the west of Pulaski.

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I hear that the trail used to go on past what is now a witch’s curse sign:

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I was going to cross it, but Bob said he didn’t think we should test the witches in the heart of voodoo country. I agreed.

Bicycle parking:

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When you get to the end, there is nothing to do. You just rest a minute and breathe and take in the scenery. It’s funny, because, before I lived here I used to think that the salt marshes smelled funny (or even sort of bad). Now I love that smell.

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You just stand out here and look at nature and think maybe this is the type of place where maybe the worst thing that could happen is somebody in the Deen family burns dinner or when Comcast lets their cable go out in a storm. This is the type of place where you stand in front of a witch’s curse sign and watch the ships roll out of port.

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And you just stand there until they pass you.

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They didn’t come out in the picture, but there were several dolphins out there. They were close enough that we could hear them exhaling. I did capture a magnificent turtle and a crab.

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Tybee Island and Wilmington Island. Places for people who don’t really want to have real problems. And I mean that in a good way.

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Investigating Lost Things – IBM’s “Think” Notepad

Saturday got hijacked by an errand involving someone else’s airplane, and Bob and I found ourselves with time to kill in Swainsboro, Georgia. While walking through one of the antique stores downtown, we came across this old notepad:

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Before IBM invented the ThinkPad notebook computer, there was this. In 1914, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM created the motto:  “Think!” You can read all about it here:   http://www.osnews.com/story/22274/The_History_of_the_ThinkPad_Name/

The small pad was completely full of notes, some meaningless and indecipherable, others downright striking. I had found myself a real life mystery, and I was fully prepared to launch an official INVESTIGATION INTO LOST THINGS and analyze the book and profile the writer. I know that just because I found the pad in Georgia does not a southerner make the author. But I know she was southern, and also a woman. For one thing, look at her invite list to her sewing circle. “Mama” is first on her list.

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There were grocery lists (highly doubtful that a man would have kept a grocery list back then), daily tallies of funds spent while traveling (Wednesday breakfast $0.62, lunch $0.87) and even a list of things to pack for a trip. Like all women, she was very concerned with finding just the thing for the pool.

She possibly was taking notes at a meeting when she wrote this note:

freedom is never secure

“Freedom is never secure.” “Citizenship:  Women too busy themselves training children to be good citizens in home, church, community, state, nation, etc.” There are a few entries about 4-H and some activities along the same vein that made me wonder if she was a teacher.

And then, the most profound note of the whole collection:

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“Life has a tremendous secret. Search out your secret. Learn to do what you love to do – search out a way to use it.”

Who was this woman? She had a few pages of names and addresses contained in the notepad. There was even some mention of a woman who lived in “the red brick building, Atlanta.”

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And then, in the middle of the book, appeared a name.

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Mildred Craig, I found your notebook. Maybe it isn’t her. It is just a name, after all. But there is no contact information written in to correspond with the name like the other entries have. Also, it is human nature to scrawl out your own name somewhere in your book. Maybe it is ego or vanity, but we like to see our own names in print. It feels good to us.

There was a Mildred Craig in the 1940 census in Atlanta. She was twenty-one at the time, married to William Craig, and had a one year old son named John http://www.ancestry.com/1940-census/usa/Georgia/Mildred-Craig_1vwpnr.

The SSI Death index has the following listings for Mildred Craigs born in 1919.

MILDRED W CRAIG
Jun 30, 1919
Mar 11, 1997
Last residence: 39648 (McComb, Pike, MS )
MILDRED M. CRAIG
Dec 31, 1919
Jul 02, 2005
Last residence: 49057 (Hartford, Van Buren, MI )
MILDRED B. CRAIG
Nov 13, 1919
Jan 28, 2006
Last residence: 47362 (New Castle, Henry, IN )
MILDRED CRAIG
May 16, 1919
Apr 01, 1987
Last residence: 41015 (Latonia, Kenton, KY )
MILDRED B CRAIG
Jan 21, 1919
Jul 06, 2003
Last residence: 45233 (Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH )
MILDRED B CRAIG
Feb 28, 1919
Dec 24, 1996

The very first one is the closest match (see http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=craig&GSfn=mildred&GSby=1919&GSbyrel=in&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=20745907&df=all&), although to believe it is the same woman you have to assume that the one year old son died, and that she graduated from college and moved to Atlanta in 1940. Also, the gravestone gives the marriage date of 1944, so that doesn’t quite match either. She continues to elude me.

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