Ghosts never rest—especially at night. And especially in the lore-drenched lodgings and byways of Savannah, Georgia, arguably the most haunted place in the country. Here, spectral phenomena are a matter of historical record. But Savannah is a city that exists inside its own, uniquely defined space in the South as well. Its mix of cultural influences—from antebellum decorum to the black humor of Flannery O’Connor—provide its genteel exterior with a cosmopolitan polish. For instance, numerous fashionistas and skinny young men with inventive facial hair roam the streets thanks to the Savannah College of Art and Design. And during temperate months, a surprising number of awestruck Europeans snap pictures on street corners. Like New Orleans, Savannah also has a to-go cup law that allows alcohol to be consumed in public—anywhere in the downtown area, in fact—as long as the booze remains in a plastic container. But that, we promise, is as unrefined as it gets.
4 P.M. Start by checking into the Bohemian Hotel. The boutique-y accommodations are comfy and contemporary, and the downtown location puts everything at your fingertips. It also boasts the best rooftop bar in town, with a gorgeous view of the Savannah River and iconic Talmadge Bridge. The Talmadge, bewilderingly named after an unapologetic white-supremacist governor, is a blunt example of how the legacy of the Old South sometimes uncomfortably co-mingles with Savannah's more modern sensibilities.
4:34 P.M. Smack dab in the middle of town, Colonial Park Cemetery is home to one of the city's most infamous ghosts—a disfigured orphan named Rene, rumored to have stood more than seven feet tall and who was reportedly lynched for killing two girls whose bodies were found within the grounds. After the lynching, more bodies began turning up in the cemetery, which convinced everyone that Rene’s evil continued beyond the grave. As such, Colonial Park is now sometimes referred to as “Rene's Playground.”
5:09 P.M. An early dinner at the Olde Pink House offers nouveau Southern fare in a staid and elegant atmosphere. The restaurant got its name from the red bricks that made up its exterior—i.e., they would bleed from underneath the stucco, causing the building to be perpetually pink in color. (Today, they’re painted this way.) The interior oozes old-world charm, with fireplaces, white linens, wainscoting and ornate dentil moldings. Two can’t miss items on the menu: the sautéed shrimp with ham gravy, served with a cheddar grits cake and the deep fried pork chop with mac and cheese and collard greens.
7:22 P.M. After dinner, take a stroll through Forsyth Park. Thirty acres in size, it was first developed in the 1840s. The wide walkways are draped in oak trees that lead to a fountain that rivals anything in Central Park. At the south end of the park, you'll find Local 11 Ten, where sommelier and mixologist Ryan Hall has crafted a cocktail menu filled with house-infused elixirs and craft liquors. Hall revises his menu seasonally, but his signature “Local Sazerac,” made with High West Rendezvous Rye, cherry and orange bitters and Vieux Carré Absinthe, is good for all seasons. Another highlight: The universally beloved “Negroni #2,” made with Cardinal gin, Amaro Nonino, Aperol and orange bitters.
8:41 P.M. Travel just a few blocks further to Foxy Loxy Print Gallery and Cafe. Its walls feature everything from screen prints to photography to pop surrealism from area artists. Every second Thursday, Foxy hosts a vinyl appreciation night, during which patrons can bring their own records and sign up to DJ for a 15-minute set. If you don’t feel like spinning, relax on a couch near the fireplace with a deer’s head over the mantle and kick-start the night with an “Eye Opener,” a double shot of espresso (from locally roasted PERC Coffee) added to any of the dark beers on the menu.
9:55 P.M. Under the cover of night, embark on the most comprehensive ghost tours in town, hosted by Blue Orb. The company’s founder—historian, author and filmmaker Tobias McGriff —has meticulously researched Savannah’s haunted past, making the walks as informative as they are creepy. While Blue Orb offers three tours in all, go for the two-hour, adults-only “Uncensored Zombies” option—a one-mile loop of historic Savannah where you’ll learn about secret cemeteries, the occult and exorcisms.
12:09 A.M. Hit up The Jinx (formerly the Velvet Elvis Lounge) to take in the Savannah Sweet Tease. The burlesque troupe puts on a variety of acts—from traditional burlesque to the avant-garde, like Skippy Spiral, the sometimes deranged, accordion playing clown. Don’t expect to drink anything fancy alongside the tattooed regulars; instead, stick to beer and whiskey, preferably in tandem. If you prefer men dressed as women, walk down to Club One for a late-night drag show. If you're lucky, you’ll see the hilariously profane and fabulous Lady Chablis, the “Grand Empress” who was mythologized in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Just remember—as she likes to point out—there are no refunds, and nothing is off limits.
1:26 A.M. River Street, a cobblestone esplanade, features a plethora of bars, buskers, barkers, tours, souvenir shops and other assorted oddities along its half-mile stretch. True Grits, for instance, is a treasure trove of pirate paraphernalia and southern fried tchotchkes. River Street can be touristy and crowded on the weekends, but push onward anyway. The Warehouse, a literal hole in the wall that advertises the “coldest, cheapest beer in town,” is worth the trip alone.
3:11 A.M. Last call means a trip to Spudnik, a newish take-out joint that piles baked potatoes with just about any ingredient imaginable. Since many Irish immigrants settled in Savannah and St. Patrick’s Day is the city’s Mardi Gras, the menu items somehow make sense—especially the Southern flavored Sweet Mama, a sweet potato overflowing with toasted almonds, cinnamon butter and marshmallows.
4:02 A.M. Ramble through the Savannah Squares. Spaced every few blocks throughout the city, the squares each have their own monuments and statues. The eeriest is probably Wright Square, which used to serve as the site of public hangings and doubles the burial place of a famous Native American chief. At least you won’t be alone. The undead like to keep late hours, too.
Photo by Krissa Corbett Cavouras/Flickr