Jamie Davis Writes



Movie Night at the Lucas Theatre – Savannah, GA

Outside Lucas Theatre
Historic Lucas Theatre – Savannah, GA

Friday, October 18, Bob and I took in a showing of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

It was tremendous fun seeing the movie here, and recognizing a lot of the real venues that were used in the film. Some things were true to form, others were not. For instance, we have yet to see a jet fly over Forsyth Park, and the airport used in the movie is decidedly not something we recognize. Clary’s Café is only open for breakfast and lunch, and there are no double-decker tour buses in town, much less airport pick-ups by the tour companies.

They did get a few things spot-on, such as depicting the beauty of Jones Street, and sensationalizing the nutty eccentricities of those who inhabit this small town. There is a quote in the movie that Bob always cracks up at and it is:  “It’s like Gone With the Wind on Mescaline.” That about sums it up.

About halfway in to Midnight, the seventy or so year old woman in the row in front of me decided she needed to get up. Since this is Savannah, the movie theatre was of course serving drinks, and she and her friend had been enjoying this particular amenity for some time. Well, the poor lady fell right on her butt, and being in a Lemonhead delirium myself, the only thing I could do is suppress my laughter and sink low in my seat, shaking uncontrollably. Bob thought I was having a seizure. Well, she was fine, and she and her lady friend received top-offs from an employee (and signed waivers if someone was on top of their game) and settled back in to enjoy the remainder of the movie, like a true original Savannah character.

I’ve always loved old theatres, and the 1921 Lucas Theatre has some magnificent details inside. This was the first place in Savannah to feature air conditioning, and this was a main selling point to attract customers. Sort of a “We have air conditioning. Oh yeah, and if you come in we’ll be showing a movie too.” The Lucas closed in 1976. The last movie shown was The Exorcist. A series of businesses occupied the space until the building was saved in 1986 by Savannahians and some help from the Forrest Gump celebrities. Kevin Spacey has box seats to this day (reserved for those who donate in excess of $250,000). A $14 million restoration project spanned fourteen years.

Check out the ceiling fixture and the wall plaster that shows gryphons.
ceiling gryphons

ceiling fixture lucas
I went back and forth debating with myself whether it was a gryphon or a liger, getting my mythological creatures mixed up.

I loved spotting the cameo-ish wall décor.
wall cameo
I hear in the 1980’s the place was a nightclub, and pieces of red velvet were used to cover up all of these columns. What is pictured, is said to be the only original one left when the theatre was saved in 1986.

Details on the ceiling:

Ceiling Lucas Theatre

Counterweights backstage:

And my favorite shot of the moulding at the top of one wall, because it looks like a painting:

looks like a painting
Further reading:


Surviving Yellow Fever: A Night Out at the Davenport House

Last night Bob and his significant Savannah freelance writer saw the 7:30 Dreadful Pestilence performance at the Davenport House Museum. Variations of the program have been running for ten years now, but being new to the city, this was my first time seeing it.

We began in the courtyard and walked across the street to the old Kennedy Pharmacy to observe an 1820 town hall meeting that covered the events of sickly season (May – October) from the perspective of two dueling newspaper editors. During the meeting, we heard from the mayor and several townspeople as well. It is a story as old as any city, I imagine. One editor wanted to report freely on the deaths because he believed that health officials were hiding the extent of the disease, and the other editor accused him of over-reacting and inciting panic in the city. This storyline is very much relatable to our time.

The people blamed foreigners, mostly the poor Irish families who were accused of living in filth and spreading disease. It was not until the very end of sickly season when the mayor had suffered the death of his own wife that he realized Yellow Fever was not a disease limited to the poverty-stricken population of Savannah. It could happen to anyone, and he advised his citizens to flee immediately if they had the means to do so.

Once dismissed from the town hall meeting, we entered the candlelit house where we observed the doctor treating a young girl, and then we climbed the cantilever stairs all the way up to Yamacraw (staged in the authentic haint-blue, peeling paint attic, which is generally off-limits to the public). In Yamacraw, a slave told us that the Africans had to bury all of the city’s dead, while their own population remained uncounted in the death toll.

The night ended at a wake. A young girl had passed. A few days before, her mother saw the corpse candle in the girl’s bedroom (a single floating flame in the room, but without a candle to ground it) which was a sure sign of impending death.

In the end, we gambled and drew slips of paper to let fate determine our chances. After four days of suffering, I fought hard and rallied. I survived the deadly pestilence. Bob was not so lucky.

passed away

Oglethorpe Trolley Tours

Last Sunday evening, I found myself boarding a blue trolley outside of the Pirate’s House and embarking on a haunted tour. Off we went, and the Savannah freelance writer strikes again. Currently, I am working on my second book (this one will cover haunted hotels), and the Kehoe House recommended this tour company.

Joan Altmeyer was our guide, and she was a perfect mix of Southern Lady, Comedian, and Storyteller. She started giving the tours in spring of 1999. She made the tour a lot of fun! Joan said she hasn’t had any personal paranormal experiences, but she is a believer because of some of the things that have happened to her mother and grandmother. I asked her what her favorite Savannah ghost story was and she said she enjoys the Alice Reilly story, which focuses on Wright Square. “I think that things that really happen, history-wise, are much more fascinating than fiction. Alice Reilly was actually the first woman to be executed in Georgia, because of the murder.” Joan was recorded several years ago telling the story, and you can listen to it here:

For further reading about Savannah’s ghosts, Joan recommended Margaret DeBolt’s Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales.

Some of the highlights of the tour for me were getting to drive past the infamous Hampton Lillibridge House on  East St. Julian St., seeing the old Savannah Women’s Asylum (actually an orphanage for girls) that is currently a private residence, and hearing about the Marshall House Hotel (a former union hospital).

As for the Kehoe House? Joan believes this former mortuary is a happy place, and there are stories of the Kehoe children returning to their childhood home after they have lived to old age elsewhere. Children are heard running around the third floor playing.

At dusk, reigning supreme over Columbia Square in downtown Savannah, the Kehoe House appears like a beautiful, happy home. Surely if it is haunted, it must be full of boundless, childlike energy, just like Joan’s version of the tale.

Exterior Kehoe House
The Kehoe House – Savannah, GA

Stay tuned for when Oglethorpe Tours is allowed back into the Old Candler Hospital’s Morgue Tunnel! Access is currently denied due to the construction on the new law school. A sneak peek at what has been going on over there can be accessed here:

One of the great things for out of town guests is that the trolley will pick you up from your hotel in the historic district and drop you anywhere else downtown if you would like.

Wormsloe Plantation

Road to Wormsloe Plantation
Road to Wormsloe Plantation
Ruins of Wormsloe Plantation
Ruins of Wormsloe Plantation

About a mile and a half up this road, arguably one of the most beautiful roads in Savannah, you will find the Colonial ruins of the oldest structure in Savannah.

Wormsloe has a nature trail that will take you by the marsh, and behind the ruins you will find the old family cemetery plot. The reason you came, though, is to walk oak alley and imagine you have stepped back in time, all the way back to 1733.  It is easy enough to do.

Further Reading:

Goose Feathers

I thought I would have a nice stroll through the squares in historic downtown Savannah this morning, but I got caught in a bit of rain. Luckily, I happened upon Goose Feathers Express Café & Bakery while walking near City Market. Boy, was I glad I found them!

Eggs Benedict-Savannah Style
Eggs Benedict-Savannah Style at Goose Feathers

A cozy spot with a good mix of tourists and locals. They caught me when I was famished, so I thought I better try a little taste of everything. Bob and I ordered two cups of coffee (you get free refills), a fruit cup, eggs benedict-Savannah style, a slice of tomato, onion, basil & avocado quiche, and a starter appetizer of one cream cheese filled croissant. Everything was delicious, and the total bill was right at $20!

Tomato Onion quiche and cream cheese croissant
Tomato, onion quiche and cream cheese croissant at Goose Feathers

It has been entirely too long since I enjoyed the pleasures of a fresh croissant. The last one I had was about nine months ago on a flight out to Phoenix. It was cold and all I had was one of those little pats of butter to try to rub on it, but I did it anyway because it was, after all, still a croissant (you know how it is).

These croissants were made of nothing but flaky deliciousness, and I fully suspect that we will be there next Sunday morning to try out some more croissants. I think it would only be fair to try the plain butter one, the spinach & feta filled one, and the ham & swiss croissant. How am I supposed to know what the best one is if I don’t have all of them?!

What a great spontaneous breakfast this morning. You never know what the day will bring.

Ghost Talk Ghost Walk – Savannah Walking Tour

Savannah has been voted one of America’s Most Haunted Cities according to USA Today. Being a Savannah freelance writer and being paranormally inclined myself, I have made it a personal goal to enjoy many of Savannah’s offered ghost tours. Upon selecting my very first outing, I became overwhelmed with the sheer variety of tours offered. Did I want to walk, ride a hearse, or jump on a trolley? I almost became catatonic, much like how I can sometimes get in the DSW Shoe Warehouse when faced with too many options. Just pick a shoe/ghost already and get on with it!

I opted for the Ghost Talk Ghost Walk tour because they are the original, real deal tour that started it all. Margaret Wayt DeBolt wrote Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales in 1984, and the tour began because of her and her fantastic book. As an aside, my favorite story in the book (and about haunted Savannah so far) is the one about Nellie and William Washington Gordon, II, who seemed to have a love that even death couldn’t interfere with. As Nellie lay dying, her children who were in attendance were reported to say “when she died, her face took on the radiance of a bride, going to meet her bridegroom.” The family butler was said to report, through a face streaming tears, that he saw the General appear, and that he came to fetch her himself.

Our tour guide was Jeffery, and he was perfect. I believe he said he was a fifth generation Savannahian! The tour struck a balance of both ghostly and historic tales.

We learned that much of downtown Savannah is built upon the dead! Colonial Park Cemetery was a particular highlight of the tour. I am including some photos from a previous visit during the daytime.

The headstones on the back wall are from unmarked graves. Apparently some Yankee soldiers used the cemetery as a camp during the Civil War and really mucked things up, to say the very least.

Colonial Park Cemetery - Savannah, GA
Colonial Park Cemetery – Savannah, GA
Colonial Park Cemetery - Savannah, GA
Colonial Park Cemetery – Savannah, GA
Colonial Park Cemetery - Savannah, GA
Colonial Park Cemetery – Savannah, GA

Further reading:

Fort Pulaski National Monument

One of the best things about moving to a new city is that you have the opportunity to be a permanent tourist.

I so enjoyed getting to explore Fort Pulaski. Generally speaking, forts are a lot of fun to poke around in anyway, but this one has several perks. First of all, you must drive across a bridge to reach the fort. Once on site, you get to walk over a drawbridge to enter the fort. Upon entering, you discover that you have the run of the entire place. You will love weaving in and out of the rooms and stumbling upon unexpected bits of history. For instance, the prison area is particularly compelling.

Make sure to check the website to find out when the cannon firings will be held, and if there will be a guided tour that you can take advantage of during your visit. If you ask me, the only thing Fort Pulaski is missing is a ghost tour or a ghost hunt!

Inside Fort Pulaski  - Tybee Island, GA
Inside Fort Pulaski – Tybee Island, GA

There are three shorter nature trails that are offered on site. If you are looking for a more strenuous workout, you should hop on the McQueens Island Rails to Trails. This is a six mile path that winds right between salt marshes and the Savannah River. The road is nothing but gravel now, but where you are walking used to be the railroad tracks that carried train passengers back and forth from Savannah to Tybee Island.

Further reading:

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