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A Night with the haints
Exterior of the Olde Pink House - photo by Jessica Leigh Lebos

It’s close to midnight, and something evil’s lurking in the dark. Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart. You try to scream…

Yes, these may seem to be the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s "Thriller," but it’s pretty dang close to how it all went down.

See, when I pulled up to the Olde Pink House late last Monday night to meet Ryan Dunn and Guieneverre Cutlip of the local paranormal investigative team 3–D Ghosthunters, I wasn’t scared at all.

Mostly I was annoyed that this expedition had to take place at an hour when I’d have been horizontal for at least two hours, earplugs snugly in place. Stupid specters. Why can’t ghosts socialize at five in the afternoon like normal people? So inconsiderate, the undead.

Turns out it’s the live folk that are the problem.

“It needs to be as quiet as possible for us to collect data,” explained Dunn as we sat on worn leather couches waiting for the downstairs Tavern bar to clear out. “During the day, there are all kinds of noises that cover up any unusual activity.”

Dunn founded 3–D Ghosthunters two years ago with his wife, Kim, after spending an unusual date night in Colonial Cemetery that yielded a bizarre recording of mysterious voices. They began investigating purported local haunted hotspots like the Savannah Theatre and The Foley House and they’ve collected a library of enigmatic EVFs (“electronic voice phenomenon”) that reveal whispers and phrases when analyzed with audio software. In this Most Haunted City in America, their hobby is flourishing into a business.

Unfortunately on this night the babysitter cancelled, so Kim was home with the couple’s two little girls, presumably reading them Edgar Allen Poe.

Joined by marketing director Cutlip and photographer/resident skeptic Ryan Reese, the small team does an exhaustive historical timeline of each location and is careful not to promise proof of otherworldly entities.

As the barflies toasted another round, Dunn educated me on the two types of ghosts: “Residual” phantoms are imprints repeat the same action over and over, and “intelligent” spirits interact with the living, sometimes dropping things on heads or speaking through television static (Carol Anne…Carol Anne?)

Often when either kind passes through a room, he said, a density in the air can be detected and the temperature drops.

 I felt sudden chill and shrieked.

“We try to offer rational explanations of why something is happening,” Dunn laughed, pointing to a vent over my head. “Really, paranormal is our last conclusion.”

Finally, the last of the port–soused patrons stumbled into the night and the ghost hunters got to work. Digital recorders received fresh batteries and cameras were set up in the dining rooms of the Olde Pink House, which you may have gleaned is old and pink and incredibly creepy in the wee hours of the morning.

Built in 1789 for Revolutionary patriot James Habersham, Jr., this mansion–turned–restaurant has for decades spawned reports of locked bathrooms, disembodied faces in mirrors and on several occasions, old Mrs. Habersham drifting past to play with patrons’ hair. Dunn chose to begin the investigation in the tavern hallway, where a smoky apparition was captured on a security camera last year (it’s on YouTube.)

Pink House manager Meghan Littlefield, who spotted the ghost on camera while working in the back storeroom (and can be seen running down the hall at 33 seconds into the video), didn’t seem to mind being charged with staying late. “I get all the ghost stuff now,” she grinned.

Restaurant people are always up late anyway, and sommelier Jason Restivo also stuck around to tell tales of eerie shadows and a stack of bowls that broke themselves. When I asked maitre d’ Sean Dempsey if he’d ever experienced anything supernatural at work, he reluctantly answered, “No. Well, yeaaah…” and shared stories of candles that relit themselves and brought out a framed photo taken by a customer of a strange cloudy figure standing in front of the bar.

At this point, Dunn announced we should split up and beckoned me to follow him to the very dark third floor. He placed playing cards on tables along the way—“trigger objects” that can attract movement from the Other Side.

The hair on my neck did a little dance as we passed by a portrait of Mr. Habersham giving us the Stinkeye from over the hostess station—I swear his eyes followed me as we wound our way up the spiral staircase. I crept along with my back to the wall in case anything tried to pet my hair. We had just tiptoed into the low–ceilinged Brown Room when Dunn asked loudly, “Are you here? Can you make a noise to let us know?”

Oh hell no, I thought, he’s talking to the ghosts? I was told we were OBSERVING.

I stepped away from my guide, trying to make myself as small as possible. How well can ghosts see anyway?

“Does it bother you that we’re in your house?” he boomed, recorder held high. I scrunched into a fetal position in the corner. Suddenly I felt a buzz in my back pocket. OH MY GOD it’s touching my butt! I almost screamed, then realized it was just a text from my insomniac son.

After a few more questions, Dunn sighed. “I don’t feel much up here, let’s go back down to the tavern.”

There we sat quietly again in the hallway with Cutlip, Reese and the rest of the gang, watching the EMF sensors light oscillate, a possible indication that ghosts were disrupting the magnetic field. I had just decided that 3am was late enough for a school night when Dunn asked the empty space in front of us “Are you lonely?”

And there it was, a distinct skreeeeek rustle that seemed to come from the chair right next to me. We all jumped and turned wide–eyed to each other.

“Everyone heard that, right?” chirped Dunn.

That was enough paranormal activity for this girl. I don’t care whether you believe in ghosts or not: When the air speaks, it’s time to go home.

The 3–D Ghosthunters stayed until dawn and are still analyzing the recordings from the Pink House to share on their Facebook page, but Dunn sent me the cleaned–up clip of the rustle the very next day.

I’ve listened to the whispered “Help, help” about a hundred times now, and all I can say is I hope the poor soul trapped near one of the finest wine cellars in town with no way to partake finds some solace soon.

As for the happy ghosts, they say Halloween is when they really come out to play—bring your cards, if you dare.