The Pirates House

My new novel is set in Savannah, GA about 10 years in the future and I’ve made use of some of the more interesting local landmarks. The Pirate’s House makes an appearance as a boarded up abandoned building not as a popular tourist spot. In the dystopian future I’m creating where famine and deadly disease grip the populace, no one is concerned with vacation so much of the local economy has collapsed.

I have a scene where my group of heroes is looking for a way to escape to the Savannah River via an underground tunnel and they make their way to The Pirates House under the assumption that there may be an entrance to a secret tunnel there. Since the famous restaurant plays such an important part in my novel I thought it would be fun to write about it’s actual history here.

So when I think of the Pirate’s House the first word that comes to mind is “seafood” because I had a delicious Sea Bass there one Valentine’s Day. Other things that come to mind are “haunted” and “historic.”

The spot where the Pirate’s House now stands was originally the Trustees Garden, the first experimental garden in America. After the garden was no longer needed in 1753 the Pirate’s House was built to be an inn to house sailors as Savannah was then a bustling port town. The Pirate’s House became a favorite haunt for seaman and pirates but more happened at the inn than just drinking and dinning.

Sailors were known to have bee drugged, or possibly whacked on the head and drug through a brick tunnel that lead down to the Savannah River where a waiting ship would take them out to sea.

Charming, spooky great place to eat!

Charming, spooky great place to eat!

 

The sprawling restaurant has now operated for the last 30 years and boasts 15 dinning rooms; some of them famous for more than just food. Savannah makes the top list in USA Today’s “Most haunted cities in America” and if you look up places in Savannah that are said to be the most active, The Pirate’s House will be one of the first mentioned. People have reported hearing laughter from an unoccupied upstairs area of the restaurant. Some have claimed to have seen a ragged looking privateer in the Captain’s Room or a gruff sailor who glares and then disappears. Employees also claim that chairs tend to rearrange themselves.

Paranormal Ghost Hunters of North Georgia investigated the restaurant twice. The investigators didn’t find anything on their first visit but the second time they captured photos of strange orbs and ghostly voices on tape. Savannah has Hearse Tours and Walking Ghost Tours and anyone who participates will find themselves either driving by or walking through The Pirates House.

With such a rich and interesting history I had to give the restaurant a cameo appearance in my novel. I wonder if my heroes will find the underground tunnel? And if they do, I wonder what might be inside?

Retrieved from http://www.thepirateshouse.com

Moore, J. (November 14, 2012). America’s 10 Most Haunted Cities. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com.

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Origin of my Nightmare

Over the course of my life I’ve had numerous recurring dreams.  There’s the one about my teeth falling out, and the one about flying over a bridge in a car and sinking into the water below. There’s the one I’m scared to talk about…  I’m always in bed and a formless shape is above me holding me flat against my mattress rendering me totally unable to move.  Sometimes it makes sounds but most of the time there is no sound only the feeling that I’m in the presence of pure evil.

When I was younger and this happened, I would do what my mother told me to do and grab a bible to place under my pillow.  The only problem was that our house had no reasonable sized bibles that could fit comfortable under a pillow. It made for an awkward sleeping situation.  My mother admitted to me that she’d experienced something similar and that it was a demon trying to enter my mind.  She said that becoming closer to God angers them and they try to scare us into turning away.  Now that I’m in my thirties I have the ability to reflect on such sage advice with a healthy dose of “WTF?”  Why would anyone say that to their child?  I’m surprised I was ever able to sleep again after being informed that Satan was trying to take over my body!

I  recently returned to this topic because I’m thinking of using the basic premise in an entry for a short story contest I’m entering for Writers Digest. A quick internet search provided me with very rational answer.  Not so spectacular for my short story, but good for my sanity.  There is an actual scientific explanation for what happened and it proved that there was no evil spirit following me around my entire life waiting for me to go to sleep at night.  Not that I’d actually thought that was a possibility…

I came across an author called Ryan Hurd who has made a career out of understanding and controlling something called “isolated sleep paralysis.”   It is something he claims has plagued him for years and he was only able to control through dream study. He explains that during REM sleep your brain shuts off all motor function so your body can’t act out the dream your brain is experiencing.  This paralysis phenomena is called “atonia.”

Okay so that part made perfect sense to me, but what comes next is the somewhat scary part. Occasionally the brain can be a little sluggish with waking up the muscles causing a person to be awake yet unable to move for a short period of time.  In this strange place between sleep and awake Hurd goes on to say that hallucinations are often experienced. The dreamer will feel fully awake paralyzed and also sense an evil presence is in the room with them, ie witch demon, etc.The dreamer might experience a feeling of being held down or suffocated as well. This is so common it has even been given the name “witch-riding” or “hag.”  I once tried to describe these dreams to some close female friends at work who referred to it as “hags.”  I had never heard anyone else use that term until reading this article by Hurd.

Henri Fuseli's

Henri Fuseli’s “Nightmare” circa 1781

Apparently this phenomena has been going on for centuries and is in fact the origin of the word “nightmare,” which literally means “a crushing sensation at night.” I feel better now that I realize how many others have had this experience and that it is a well document feeling that people have experienced for hundreds of years. I wonder what my mom would say to that? I bet she’d still advise me to sleep with the light on and keep a bible nearby.

Hurd, R. (2010). Sleep Paralysis Treatment-Stop Feelings of Being Held Down at Night.  Web article.  Retrieved from http://dreamstudies.org.