By James Mack Adams
October is that time of year we observe All Hallows Eve, or Halloween if you prefer that name. It is a time for pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, scary costumes, trick-or-treating, and perhaps some innocent, or maybe not-so-innocent pranks.
I don’t remember my buddies and I doing anything really bad on Halloween when we were kids. I lived in town, so there were no outhouses to turn over. Both sets of grandparents lived outside of town and had outhouses, but those were off limits needless to say.
As somewhat a fan of the supernatural during my youth, watching scary movies was a big part of my movie-going experience. In those days, there was not the blood and gore prevalent in horror movies today. Oozing blood is just not too impressive on black and white film.
I’m telling my age now but my favorites were “The Wolfman,” “The Mummy,” “Frankenstein’s Monster,” and my all-time favorite vampire, Count Dracula. “Bela Lugosi” is still the only movie Dracula I can accept.
For many years I lived in or near Savannah, Georgia, named as one of America’s most haunted cities. Savannah is the oldest city in the 13th original colony. It was settled in 1733. Savannah has survived invasion by the British, several yellow fever epidemics, Union Army occupation, devastating fires, hurricanes, and the wrecking ball. It has three old historic cemeteries. The city deserves its reputation as fertile ground for the supernatural and as a hangout for a collection of spirits. Local Savannah authors have published books on the subject. One of the earliest was “Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales” by Margaret Wayt Debolt.
Several years ago, a TV film crew from the History Channel came to Savannah to shoot an episode for a series on America’s most haunted cities. At the time, I was a part-time military history interpreter at Old Fort Jackson, the oldest standing brick fort in Georgia. Margaret Debolt, whom I valued as a fellow writer and friend, suggested to the producers that I be included in the filming to tell one of the many ghost stories concerning the old fort.
This is the story I told. A young lady was hired to clean and tidy up things at the fort after it closed to visitors for the day. Her first night on the job, she was cleaning the floor in one of the fort’s rooms when she heard footsteps behind her. When she turned, she saw a figure, dressed in Civil War Confederate uniform, staring at her from the doorway. She didn’t recognize him as one of the staff. She asked him who he was. Without replying, the figure turned and walked out of the room. She followed him but he vanished. The young lady refused to work at the fort another night.
A few years later, other TV filmmakers came to town. They were from the Travel Channel. They also were in process of producing a series on haunted places throughout America. Again, my friend Margaret Debolt recruited me for the project. The story I told on camera at that time again involved Old Fort Jackson.
One night, the site manager, whom I will call Steve, and I were overseeing a social event for a group who had rented the fort for the evening. We started the routine closing procedure after all the visitors had departed. Steve told me to extinguish the torches along the walkway from the parking lot to the fort’s entrance and wait for him in the office.
When Steve came into the office, I noticed a concerned look on his face. I asked if anything was wrong. He asked me if I had come back inside the fort for some reason after I first departed. I replied that I hadn’t. Steve then proceeded to tell what had happened.
After he completed the checkout procedure for closing, he made a final visual survey of the parade ground before he threw the main power switch to turn out the remainder of the lights. He said he saw a soldier, dressed in Confederate gray, slowly walking across the parade ground. He thought perhaps I could have come back inside the fort for some reason and called out, “Jim? Is that you?” There was no reply. The mysterious figure suddenly vanished as it neared the center of the parade ground.
I knew Steve well enough to know that he was a no-nonsense type of fellow. I could tell he was shaken by what he had seen. The experience was so real to him that he noted the instance in the fort’s daily log book. We located the log entry for the filming and the Travel Channel cameraman took a close shot of it while I read aloud the entry from the log.
I am not certain whether I believe real ghosts, spirits and monsters are out and about on Halloween night. But I am not taking any chances. I will hang some garlic on my front door. I guess coming up with a silver bullet is out of the question. Does anyone know where I might find some wolfsbane? I don’t want any vampires, werewolves or other scary creatures as house guests on Halloween.