What better way to spend Halloween than among the tombstones of The Spectral City? Martha Teichner is our guide:
Savannah -- stately, sensual, sultry … and slightly spooky, as the city gets in the mood for Halloween. Savannah, Ga., claims to be the "Most Haunted City" in the United States.
Among Savannah's ghosts, real or imagined: Little Gracie, who died at the age of six in 1889. Legend has it that in the cold of winter, when the moon is full, her cheeks are warm.
But the real story here isn't Gracie's ghost; it's her historic surroundings in Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by John Berendt's 1994 love letter to Savannah's eccentricities, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" -- a title that encapsulates four wonderfully evocative words.
"The beauty of the place overcame me immediately," Berendt said.
Once a plantation, Bonaventure became a cemetery in 1846. Because of its beauty, Savannahians used it as a park for Sunday strolls and picnics.
The monuments here tell stories, of Confederate soldiers, of disappointed lovers, of Nazi persecution, of tragedy, of wealth.
If a cemetery could have a soundtrack, Bonaventure's would be the music of its most famous occupant, songwriter Johnny Mercer. His marker reads, "And the angels sing."
Past other graves in this spectral city, is where a Bonaventure superstar used to be. When "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" came out, "Bird Girl," as the statuary birdbath on the cover is known, was so overrun with visitors she was being loved to death.
She's now in a local museum, for her own protection.
Teichner asked Berendt, "How do you feel about that?"
"I love it. It's now part of the art history of Savannah. And really nobody knew about it until 'Midnight.'"
Before the book, five million tourists visited Savannah annually. Now it's nearly 14 million. Bonaventure Cemetery gets 250,000 visitors, not all of them for tours. This year, 80 couples will have tied the knot among the tombstones.
But if you want to be buried at Bonaventure, bad news -- it's sold out.
And speaking of bad news, the place closes at 5 p.m., so no one will be here in the dark of Halloween night to see whether the dead walk.
For more info:
- Bonaventure Historical Society
- "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt (Random House)
- Savannah Heritage Tours
- Telfair Museums
- Tour guide Shannon Scott
- Visit Savannah
- Davenport House Museum, Savannah, Ga.
- Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, Savannah, Ga.
- The Historic Savannah Theatre, Savannah, Ga.