The Pirates’ House
Ghostly laughter, footsteps and objects that move—It all seems pretty standard at first glance at The Pirates’ House in Old Fort, Savannah. But the name of the location reflects a lot of the spirit—or spirits—of the place. Yes, The Pirates’ House is haunted by sailors, seadogs, privateers and perhaps even real (and, of cousre, very dead) pirates.
Not far from the Savannah River in Old Fort, Savannah, Georgia is The Pirates’ House. Built in 1753 and joined with the oldest house in the entire state, the brick and wood structure even looks like it should be haunted by the seadogs of yesteryear. The American Museum Society even credits it as a “house museum” because of ongoing and continual efforts to restore it faithfully.
Over time the original house became a tavern and additional buildings merged into it, giving its first floor more than a dozen separate dining areas today. Traditionally, the eating and drinking was done on the first floor and men slept in the rooms comprising the second floor. For a while (much more recently) a jazz bar took up several rooms upstairs, but now the 2nd story is mainly used for storage. In the basement, a long brick-lined tunnel ran from The Pirates’ House all the way to the water’s edge and was supposedly used for aiding impressment, a common practice in The Pirates’ House’s early years.
Sailing was dangerous work, and there were many times when crews had spots to be filled—and not many willing volunteers. So in spots like The Pirate’s House’s Captain’s Room, captains and crewmen got creative and would either get able-bodied men drunk, drugged, or (occasionally) whacked over the head, and then drag him down the long brick tunnel to a waiting ship. By the time a man had regained his senses he was out at sea, and firmly stuck aboard ship at the mercy of the captain and supporting crew. A popular local story is told of a Savannah police officer who happened by for a drink on his way home and wound up taking a two-year forced tour of the Far East before he could get back home.
Although pirates had been a real menace up and down the eastern coast, by the time The Pirates’ House was originally constructed most of the pirates had been run out of town. But the privateers—men who had a “letter of marque” granting them the legal right to raid ships belonging to other nations—rivaled the danger of pirates any day. The famous French privateer, Jean Lafitte, stayed at The Pirates’ House many times between dates aboard ship.
Supposedly it was, in part, The Pirates’ House that helped inspire Robert Louis Stevenson and the characters of his popular “Treasure Island.”
Laughter is often heard coming from the unoccupied upstairs, and many people have reported seeing a scarred and ragged looking privateer (nicknamed “Captain Flint” now) in the upstairs and basement area. The first floor also hosts a spectre—seemingly a gruff sailor—hangs around the stairs, and another equally charming spirit has supposedly appeared long enough to cast a baleful glare at the cook before disappearing again. Chairs get rearranged nearly nightly in one particular dining area on the first floor and some people have reported feeling physically sick when they report to work at The Pirates’ House.
The site has been investigated twice by the Paranormal Ghost Hunters of North Georgia. The first investigation yielded nothing of great value, but the second investigation did yield photos of orbs as well as some recordings of ghostly voices via EVP.
The Pirates’ House is open to visitors interested in having a meal or a drink and an unobtrusive glance around. If you are more serious about doing an investigation or asking questions about something other than their menu, look them up and call for permission.