Paige Stewart shivered. A line of thick grey clouds streaked across the sky, hiding most of the full moon and casting eerie shadows across the old graveyard. Perfect, a brewing storm to usher in her solitary slumber party in Colonial Park Cemetery! Her editor couldn't have asked for a better atmosphere to accompany the jaunt had he planned it himself, and knowing Clayton Moore, he’d tried.
She rolled her eyes. Clayton Moore was a pain in the rear. The man lived and breathed solely for the sake of the Paranormal Post. It never ceased to amaze her how anyone that good looking could be so gullible. For Paige, researching and writing about ghost stories and paranormal experiences was just a job; a way to pay the bills without relying on her trust fund. She no more believed in the stuff than she believed the porcine population would take to the sky.
She stretched her legs out across the blanket and then scooped up the file that had been awaiting her arrival at the inn. Bold, two inch high letters spelled out ‘Confidential’ across the top of the fax cover sheet. Paige shook her head. What must the hotel staff be thinking?
The Seventeen Hundred and Ninety Inn was the oldest inn in Savannah and promoted itself as having several resident ghosts and a haunted guest room. With people waiting months to stay in the room, it was safe to assume they were used to seeing odd characters in their establishment. Paige snorted. She was staying the night in a cemetery with the hopes of catching a glimpse of reputed paranormal activity so what did that make her?
Paige glanced at the thickening clouds, resigned herself to getting wet at some point during the night, and then clicked on her pen light. She flipped open the folder and skimmed the history of Colonial Park Cemetery. Her own research had revealed basic facts like the cemetery was Savannah’s oldest, established in 1750, and that Union soldiers had used the graveyard as their camp when Sherman occupied the city. She’d also read how the Yankees had opened the strange bed shaped crypts, thrown out the bodies, and used them for makeshift tents and that they’d defiled the headstones to alleviate boredom. According to the file, she’d find a row of broken headstones hanging along the cemetery’s back wall and all of them had altered engravings, courtesy of the Yankees.
Nothing paranormal to report and not many options for pictures; how scary could a picture of a headstone claiming a man lived for seventeen hundred years be?
Paige lowered the file and peered into the growing darkness. Nestled beneath a stand of cedar trees dripping with Spanish moss, she could just make out a group of crypts. That’d make a decent shot, if it weren’t so dark
She pursed her lips and debated. With so little light she’d need to set up the tripod and keep the shutter open longer, but … She sighed. The effort would have to be made because it was highly doubtful any ghosts would volunteer to pose, for posterity or the Paranormal Post’s article.
She assembled the tri-pod, set the shutter speed, and then gave the dossier one last look. Please let there be something paranormal worth writing about. Seven hundred people were interred during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1820, several duels were fought on the grounds …
Oh yeah, that’ll make a great article. She continued reading, desperate for something, anything, remotely ‘ghostly’ to write about.
She rolled her eyes at the story of frugal colonial Savannahians disinterring their relatives to avoid the cost of another grave. Great! The custom of stacking bodies like cord wood inside a single crypt was old news.
She continued reading and then frowned. Now this was new. Citizens had opened coffins and found deep gouge marks. They assumed someone had been buried alive, or come back …. Perhaps she could ‘spin’ the facts. Hmmm, Zombies walk in old Savannah or Colonial Savannah inhabited by Vampires.
It was well known that the practice of attaching a bell to a string, tying it to the dead body’s big toe, and then employing a person to listen for the bell all through the night had brought about the terms dead ringer and working the graveyard shift. Shoot, no story there! Well, if that was all the place had to offer she’d have to make do and employ some of those literary skills her English degree said she had.
Paige tossed the file onto the blanket and reached for her camera. She glanced down at the stack of papers and then stopped as her eyes focused on the words ‘Ape-Like man, seven feet tall, hanged for murder’. Now, this might be interesting.
She sat back, engrossed in the story. Renee Asche Rondolier, born in 1777. Reported to be over seven feet tall and covered in thick, animal like hair. Hmmm, wonder if he had that disease Abe Lincoln was supposed to have had? A flash of lightening lit the sky, followed by a rumble of thunder. The trees overhead began to creek and bend with the strengthening wind, but, absorbed in the story, Paige ignored it.
The people of Savannah were afraid of Renee and slaves called him a demon. From the underworld or no, he did have a penchant for torturing small animals. People demanded the family confine him to their property, which bordered Colonial Park Cemetery. An eight foot wall was constructed. Not comforted, the townspeople added broken bottles along the wall’s top to assure themselves Renee could not escape; However, two months after the wall’s completion the mutilated bodies of two young girls were found in the cemetery. The town assumed Renee was the perpetrator. They dragged him from his home and hanged him in a nearby swamp. He was buried on the Rondolier property and everyone breathed a sigh of relief; until three more bodies were found.
A Live Oak branch crashed to the ground making Paige jump. This is not good. Wind howled through the tree tops and lightening flashed, followed by ground shaking thunder. A downpour was imminent, and she’d walked from the inn. She needed shelter, fast. The door of a crypt dancing in the gusting winds caught her eye.
Oh, no way in -- a crack of lightening propelled Paige to her feet. She scooped up the blanket and camera, shoved the file into her backpack, and ran.
Within feet of the crypt, the wind died. An eerie hush settled over the graveyard and a thick fog began to roll in. What the…? She drew a deep breath and tried to calm her racing heart. The storm had blown over and the fog was the result of the sudden change in temperature. She laughed, and ignored how weak it sounded. Don’t be stupid, Paige, it’s all easily explainable. Just get on with the job, and get the heck outta dodge!
She set the blanket down and fished out her camera. Hands shaking, she assembled the tripod and snapped several pictures of the crypts. A couple more pics and I’m gone. The defamed headstones would have to do but they stood about sixty feet away, which meant walking through the thickest area of fog.
Nope, not going there. She looked around. There had to be something else of interest, something not requiring a walk through the mists of Hell!
She turned the camera and focused on a path lined with old fashioned street lamps. A cluster of Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss formed a canopy overhead. Shrouded in mist, the path made a fairly spooky picture. It’d have to do. She decided to program the camera to snap ten pictures; surely one of them would be usable. With the camera on auto, Paige removed her backpack and settled down to wait. The papers crunched, reminding her that she hadn’t finished the story.
Leaning against the old bricks of the crypt, Paige read the rest of Renee’s tale. No person was ever convicted of the deaths in the cemetery so the townspeople laid the blame upon Rene’s ghost. He’d played in the cemetery as a child, so Colonial Park became known as “Rene’s Playground” and many people reported they’d caught a glimpse of a massive man amongst the headstones on foggy nights.
The whirl of the camera ended. Paige laid the file aside and started to pack her equipment. From the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of movement. She stiffened. Rustling that had nothing to do with leaves reached her ears.
Paige gulped and turned toward the path. Something, something large, darted through the fog. Her mouth went dry and her heart began to pound. Someone is out there!
She finished packing in record time and ran for the gates.
Back at the inn, Paige managed to laugh at her mad dash; after she’d locked the hotel room door. A quick shower and she was ready for bed; but sleep wouldn’t come. She pulled out the file and read the last paragraph of Renee’s story.
In 1900, workers on the Rondolier property unearthed Renee’s grave and found it empty. It was assumed his mother had the body moved to an unmarked grave on their Hutchison Island property. Years later, when the Westin Hotel and Convention center was under construction on Hutchison Island, workers unearthed the skeletal remains of a man at least seven feet tall. The developers chose not to disturb it and what is thought to be Renee, is now part of the Westin’s foundation.
Paige closed the file and tossed it toward the end of the bed. She looked around the cozy little room filled with antiques. The panic during her frantic two block flight from creepy Colonial Park Cemetery was fading, lulled by the homey comfort of the Seventeen Hundred and Ninety’s lovely room. Even the name, Anna’s room, was serene. Paige’s glance fell on the bundle of papers lying by her feet. The towering silhouette she’d glimpsed in the fog flashed before her eyes. She shivered and pulled the covers closer. Glad I’m not staying at the Westin!
Rachel, thank you so much for allowing me, er Paige, to launch the Paranormal Post on your blog! Intrepid reporter Paige Stewart may be fictitious but the legends and lore of Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery are all true … to one degree or another. Paige’s next adventure is closer than she thinks. I hear Anna Powers does not take kindly to women staying in her room!
You can find me, and my books, at my website www.rachellynneauthor.com.
If you want to see what happens to Paige at the Seventeen Hundred and Ninety Inn, visit my Blog; the link and date of the next adventure will be posted in the News column. http://wwwrachellynneauthor.blogspot.com/
And, if you can’t wait for another suspenseful tale set amidst the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, may I suggest my romantic suspense novel Ring of Lies? http://www.thewildrosepress.com/ring-of-lies-p-4350.html
Secrets, Lies, and Murder surround Ivy Michaels amidst the backdrop of Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities!
Book Trailer for Ring of Lies (http://www.youtube.com/user/rachellynne1?feature=mhum)
A café owner and an ex-cop must solve the mystery of a hot blue diamond to catch a stone cold killer!
One lucky commenter will win a pdf of Ring of Lies. Want to increase your odds of winning? You’ll get an extra entry in the prize drawing if you indicate in your comment that you’ve joined my newsletter. (link to newsletter subscription http://groups.yahoo.com/subscribe/RachelLynneAuthor?user=enter+email+address&Click+to+join+RachelLynneAuthor.x=56&Click+to+join+RachelLynneAuthor.y=27
(No worries about email overload, I’ve yet to send out an issue! What can I say, I live a boring life. But … Paige might be persuaded to give my newsletter readers the inside scoop on some of her wilder assignments!)
Thank you so much for this great story and for being here with me for the next couple of days, Rachel! I consider you my newest WRP friend and wish you all the luck in the world with sales and success. Rachel is clearly too modest to say but Ring of Lies is earning four and five star reviews all over the place. Go buy it - NOW!