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Drinking with Savannah’s Dead

14 Oct 2016
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By Stephanie Velez Portilla

Across the world, the belief of paranormal still exists. Whether it’s on Halloween or Dia de los muertos or a boring Monday night, ghosts tend to make unexpected appearances or at the very least initiate a conversation. And wouldn’t you agree that it’s more fun seeing the dead when you’re having a drink? After all, who doesn’t enjoy drinking with the dead?

Holding the title of one of the oldest cities in the U.S. comes with great haunting responsibilities. While attracting millions of visitors, Savannah is not just a place for adventurous elders and bohemian youths. Savannah’s cobblestone streets offer more than churches and a variety of bus tours. And these new offerings have the Gen X’ers and Millennials in mind. A recent study by Microsoft Corp. discovered that due to an increasingly digitalized lifestyle, people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish. It is for this reason that new measures have been taken in order for tourism to become much more exciting.

As written on their web page, the Savannah Haunted Pub Crawl will get you to “enjoy our strange history and both types of local ‘spirits’ as we explore two types of Savannah’s time- honored traditions: ghost stories and alcohol.” This mix has become very popular among both Savannahians and tourists, as it allows people to be entertained by ghost stories while getting drunk—thus ratcheting up the entertainment value. The tour works just as well for those who don’t believe in ghosts and would rather get smashed as they brush their friend’s arm with a branch or pretend they’ve been possessed by the spirit of James Oglethorpe.

When I arrived at Moon River Brewing Company a little after 8 p.m., a large group of people already gathered outside the local pub for the Crawl. At first sight, we looked like a strange group. There was a family of southerners who came for a wedding of a cousin they didn’t know, a young group of girls who were excited at doing their first pub crawl, a bachelorette party that had already started to party hours before, and couples who were ready to mess with some spirits. After a while, a short brunette woman wearing glasses and a dress from the 1800s approached us. Maria Finocchiaro introduced herself, her voice reverberating throughout the busy street. Her youthful look and energetic personality got everyone excited about the tour, not to mention people had already started drinking long before she showed up. I knew this tour was going to be a great one when a kind man, Seth Alan, printed a coupon and let everyone else get a $5.00 discount on the tour. Everyone “woo’d” in excitement. The first of many “woos” we’d encounter that night.

The tour started on the abandoned second floor of Moon River. The air was chilly and the floor creaked noisily; I could see my breath in the air. With nothing other than a candle lighting up the room, we listened as Maria told us of strange sightings and accidents that had occurred on that very floor we stood on. The atmosphere was tense and chilling, everyone hypersensitive of foreign noises and shadows slithering behind corners. The silence became deafening as Maria’s voice faded in the background, everyone waiting and expecting the voice of a woman or child crying for help.

Yet, nothing happened. In fact, that was the only truly frightening part of the tour. As Finocchiaro took us to the next pubs, people got drunker and louder, not to mention that the woo girls infectious “woos” spread to the others, leading to the group joining their chants and celebrating the dead. It wasn’t hard to join in and drink alongside everyone, their friendly attitudes making you feel as if you had known each other for a very long time. “Pub crawls are kind of like, you meet up with a group of people who you don’t necessarily know in a town that maybe you’re not from, and you get to go out with a group of people without, you know, having to have a bunch of friends to go out with,” said Finocchiaro as she watched the group wooing in harmony.

As the night went by, the shots and woos increased, everyone cheering at the mention of someone dying or calling. The most excited group was, of course, the party of Alisha Vorges, the bachelorette who came down with her friends from Charleston, South Carolina, to celebrate her impending marriage. “I came here to do a bachelorette weekend because you can walk around with alcohol and then, we were looking at pub crawls, and a ghost tour pub crawl is a f*#king awesome idea for a bachelorette weekend,” she enthused.

The night ended with a couple more woos and hugs. While the evening was two-hours long, time went by fast. By the end, the night didn’t seem as cold and the drinks tasted much better. Though there may not have been an encounter with the paranormal, the experience was still unforgettable, or as fellow tour member Alan said, “pretty f*#king awesome.”