The Six Pence Pub
32.08° N, 81.09° W
An English pub with Irish stouts and Scotch whisky. It bleeds familiarity. This whole town reads like a map of personal past follies. When I press my thumb against The Six Pence Pub, it has the feel of old scar tissue. A barmaid uses a dishrag to wipe away beer-rings and spilt malt-vinegar, scrubbing the memory of the patron who sat here last. She asks if I’ve been to the Six before. Yes. Does she recognize me? Nah, she bleats like a goat, adding a head-shake to confirm her denial. I was here, I say, seven years ago, but I was with a woman; a woman alive with radiance, like the bioluminescence of Georgia fireflies on a midsummer’s twilight, but her warm glow was all show, a parlor trick, a spectacle, the light distracting from her darkness, like a lipsticked anglerfish blinding her prey before raw consumption.
The barmaid nods, right, I remember you now, she says.
No, you toothsome twat, I’m taking the piss. What’ll you have, she asks. I order a Guinness.
The barmaid’s name is Edith, she goes by Edi. She lived the first half of her life in Suffolk and the second half in this pub. She cuts her hair short because of the swamp humidity and she says she only wears makeup in order to not frighten children or be burned at the stake as a witch. Mondays are slow and she’s not impressed with the crowd. With a sigh of resignation, she hands me my properly poured pint and suggests I go on.
My ex-wife is most alive when faced with mortality, I tell Edi. We’d break into cemeteries in the dead of night and afterwards, she’d be overwhelmed with passion. She loved me most by moonlight. She said the dead spoke to her, invigorated her. She said she could pull back the veil and see things no one else could see. I am not sure I believe she spoke to the dead, but her faith in herself was infectious. I guess, I tell Edi with a shrug, her necromancy was a bit of a red-flag. Vic, love, Edi says, you couldn’t see the tree for a forest of red-flags.
We had stayed, my wife-at-the-time and I, at the 17-Hundred-90 Inn, one of the innumerable haunted lodgings available in Savannah. Let me just say, I do not necessarily believe in ghosts, but when we were checking in, something grabbed me. We were at the front desk when the door opened, another pair of tourists were approaching and someone cupped my elbow from behind to pull me out of their way. I stepped back, allowing them to pass then turned to look at whatever bellhop or clerk had grabbed me, finding no one. I was physically grabbed by something I could not see.
Edi, behind the bar, is not impressed with my story. Vic, she says, this city is a series of mass graves. There’s more bodies beneath these streets than above. You know how many tourists drink away their shivers after getting their bollocks groped by a phantom? Every bloody last one of them. You must work for the Savannah Tourism Board, I tell her.
One of the legends of the 17-Hundred-90 Inn is around a widow who waited for her sailor to return to harbor. He never did and she still haunts the upper floors of the building. My ex… my wife-at-the-time actually saw her. It was after midnight and we had been drinking mason jar margaritas down at Treylor Park off Bay Street when we decided to explore our hotel. We walked all through those quiet halls, lined with more mirrors per-square-inch than Versailles. My wife, I mean, my wife-at-the-time, climbed a flight of stairs and rounded the corner. I came up behind her when I heard her scream,“Jesus Christ, holy-fucking-shit!” Every room was booked at the 17-Hundred-90 Inn; who knows how many guests were woken by her screaming. She turned and rushed down the stairs, crashing into me. She pushed me upwards, urging, “go look and tell me it is not real!” I didn’t want to confront whatever ghost she had found, but I certainly was not going to let her think I lacked the courage. I climbed the stairs to turn the corner. There was a mannequin in a wedding dress looking out the window. It was a gimmick setup by the hotel staff; it was fake, but gave us hell of a scare.
Eli is incredulous. For a woman who normally speaks with the dead, she says, your temporary wife got quite the fright finding a dummy, eh? You’d think she’d know better.
Hmm, I humpf. I guess I didn’t think about it. Could I get a Glenfiddich with just a hint of ice?
She is theater, my ex-wife; I’m unsure where her stage begins or if it ends. Calhoun Square, though, she couldn’t have faked. The square, on its surface, is similar to many parks within the Savannah: live oaks and Forrest Gump benches surrounded by ancient Greek Revival homes. But beneath Calhoun Square is a cemetery where as many as a thousand slaves were unceremoniously buried in unhallowed ground. And there is one house on the periphery, which has laid empty and in disrepair for years, 432 Abercorn. There are many urban myths about this damned house, none of which can be corroborated, but the place has the most negative vibe of anything I had ever been near. Looking into those windows… the darkness rippled like spilt ink. My knees wobbled before this house. I turned to look at my wife-at-the-time and tears were running down her cheeks. We returned to the hotel, but after some contemplation, she insisted we go back to Calhoun Square after midnight and explore closer when there would be fewer passersby to report our trespasses to the police. For the love of all that is holy, I forbade it. We did not go, much to her disappointment.
Edi brings me my whisky. You’re right to not trifle where you’re not wanted, Edi says. The bird formerly-known-as your wife sounds nutter, love. What’s it you’re not telling me then, she asks, assuming more.
I take a deep breath before admitting to my confessor, I went back to Calhoun Square tonight. Seven years later, it is still empty and despairing. I got as close as the house as I dared. I looked deep into those windows. Nothing looked back. I felt nothing. No wobbly legs, no absolute sense of dread, none of the hollow pain I felt seven years ago beside my wife… at-the-time.
Do you know why this time felt different, Edi asks. You are no longer the haunted. You are the spook. You’re haunting these grounds before you’re even dead. In fifty years, they’ll do a haunted pub tour of the Six Pence and point to your bar stool, “this is where the ghost of a longwinded Gen-X hipster sniffs his whisky and wails about what’s-her-tits”.
I’m unamused. Who’s wailing? I am not wailing. Nor am I a hipster. Edi shrugs.
Okay, suppose you’re right, I say to Edi. Suppose you’re right and I am the spook… how do I break the cycle?
Where: The Six Pence Pub
When: Sometime Around Midnight
What to Order: Glenfiddich Scotch… it’ll settle your bones
What not to Do: become romantically involved with necromancers