This place is still the much loved hang-out of English
and French privateers, now in spirit form.
Their past violent activities and rowdy personal habits
have caused some of the paranormal activity.
This 1753 house and tavern is the oldest building in Savannah. Though it has been modernized to meet modern kitchen and restaurant standards, it still has the feel of an 1800s eatery and tavern. Its authentic restoration efforts through the years have earned it the approval of the American Museum Society, which lists it as a “House Museum”.
Sometime during its long history, the Herb House and perhaps another small building were added onto the original tavern and house. There are currently 15 separate dining rooms on the first floor.
The first floor of this brick and wood structure was the tavern, a place for eating and drinking. The second floor was the inn where men spent the night. There is a stairway which leads down to the first floor tavern and restaurant. For many years during the 20th century, a jazz bar called Hard Hearted Hannah’s made its home in the upstairs rooms, probably starting in the 1920s. Today, just the first floor is used by the public. The upstairs area is used for storage, and is the main stomping grounds of the restaurant’s long time entity residents.
In the basement, there was a brick tunnel big enough to drive a bus through which ran underground to the sea front. It is now bricked over at both ends.
While pirates were a menace from 1680 to 1730 in the colonial (mostly southern) coastal areas, The Pirates’ House should be called, “The Privateers’ House,” because by the time the building was constructed, pirates had either been hunted down or chased out of the area by the British Navy. The Pirates wisely moved their operations to less civilized waters around India, and less traveled areas of the Pacific Ocean.
The Pirates’ House first opened in 1753, as an inn and tavern for merchant marines, sailors, and for the less than stellar Savannah citizens, English and French privateers, who were worse than pirates. Privateers, with the blessings of the English government, would raid enemy shipping, kill the crew and sell the ship, and give a portion of what was taken to the British government.
French Privateer Jean Lafitte had such a deal with the British, and could often be found at this tavern and inn. Others like him stayed here between their ship-hunting activities, enjoying the food and drink, and conducting the business of reluctant crew recruitment among other dealings. He did so well that he had a home in New Orleans and visited his friends at Destrehan Manor.
Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have been inspired by this house, and wrote a segment of his 1881 novel, Treasure Island, basing some of the characters on the privateers’ less than stellar ways of life. Captain Flint was a fictional character in the book, but was probably based on a typical lowlife charmer who ran his business there in between kill and plunder voyages.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Both English and French privateers, violent men, felt they were above the law.
Feeling their power, they preyed on other sailors and the citizens of Savannah, who suffered from the wicked ways of their trade, kidnapping and murder. It goes to reason that Privateer Captains may have had trouble getting a crew together because of their line of work, so the practice of “crew impressment” was commonly done in the 1800s. They would get targeted seafaring men drunk at the tavern, or drug them or even bop them over the head, all with ulterior motives in mind. The basement tunnel was used to transport these shanghaied men to waiting privateer ships in need of sailors, who were forced to join.
A Savannah policeman suffered such a fate, and it took him two years to return home to Savannah.
Both sailors and privateers hung out at this establishment for many years from the 17th into the early 19th century.
It is quite possible that some privateers/sailors died in the upper floor bedrooms of the Pirate’s House from alcohol poisoning, or from other hazards of their trade. Perhaps some also died on the first floor as well.
By 1811, the practice of crew impressment was outlawed and made a punishable offense, but privateer ships still came to Savannah to rest, regroup and legitimately recruit young men to join them, though they were resented by many people of Savannah.
On one occasion, French privateers from the schooners LaVengeance,and LaFrancise came to port, on their way to ply their trade in South America. While they came to rest and prepare, they also came to refit and recruit new crew members, which angered American sailors and Savannah citizens. A series of disturbances broke out between the two groups, which eventually escalated into the total destruction of both French ships.
A group of six American seamen were attacked by knife wielding French Privateers in a upper Savannah tavern and whore house, which could’ve been this building, or one close to it.
Among the sailors who died was an American, eighteen-year-old second mate Jacob Taylor, of the brig Betty out of Philadelphia. His shipmate, John Collins also lost his life. French privateer,Pierre Scipion, 23, was also mortally wounded.
The upstairs area is apparition central!
Laughter has been heard coming from the second floor.
Employees have seen fleeting apparitions of entities out of the corners of their eyes.
When the upstairs area was used as a jazz club, the coffee pot in the preparation area was known to throw itself against the wall.
The scar-faced apparition of a rough privateer, apparently a bit of a party animal in life known as Captain Flint by the living, has made himself at home on the second floor and in the basement.
Flint’s apparition has been seen upstairs in the rooms, and roaming around the basement area, near the walled-off tunnel.
The First floor has its own ghost.
A strong unseen presence has been felt on the stairs between the first and second floors.
A surly male apparition, dressed like an 18th or early 19th-century seaman, has been seen.
This bullying presence has walked through the kitchen and given menacing glares to the cook before strolling out.
In one of the dining rooms, the chairs and place settings are always rearranged during the night after the restaurant closes.
Some entities must get together to talk about old times. Perhaps the sailors killed in brawls chose this place to haunt because of all the good times they had here, even if they died violently somewhere else.
The Basement Area Manifestations.
A present day Savannah policeman once went down to the basement out of curiosity. He witnessed apparitions of men carrying a very drunk companion through the basement area, right past the blocked up wall. Perhaps some entities are looking for justice and have told their tales in front of a policeman.
A waitress once went down to the restaurant’s basement to check it out. She became very dizzy and felt sick to her stomach, so she quickly went back up the stairs. Whenever she went in to work, she again felt sick. She got the message that the entities in the house were punishing her for entering the tunnel area, so she quit.
This building was a favorite spot for sailors and privateers for many years. The beer and food was terrific as it is now. It is no wonder that they hang around a place which they so enjoyed while alive.
The Paranormal Ghost Hunters of North Georgia investigated the Pirate’s House during a Ghoststock event. One investigator felt something trying to take his flashlight out of his pocket. When the investigator held the flashlight in his hand, his hand became colder and colder until he had to drop it on the floor! Some bullying presence was determined to get his way!
Spirit Investigations has done a formal inspection with equipment and cameras. It should be interesting to see their report.
The pilot episode of Turner South’s new series “Haunted South” was shot at the Pirate’s House Restaurant.
20 East Broad Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401
The Pirate’s House can be found 1 block from the Savannah River on East Broad Street, in the part of the city called Old Fort.
Tom and I ate here and loved the buffet! Terrific food and great beer.
- Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour
by James Caskey
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr