The Paranormal at Home: Hauntings in 50 States – Georgia’s Moon River Brewing Company

Please click here if you would like to read the first article in the series.

Normally, the end of summer also means the end of personal commitments. For some reason this year has been different, with picnics and parties ebbing into early autumn. That and extra freelance work has managed to shove me off the blog wagon. Now that the road is a little smoother, this seems like a good time to hoist myself back up with more Paranormal at Home posts. Today I’ll be covering the Moon River Brewing Company in Georgia. Apparently if you want to have a pint with the dead, this is the place to do it.

Haunted Georgia: The Moon River Brewing Company

Savannah, GA
Downtown Savannah, GA
Possibly the most haunted city in the United States

The Moon River Brewing Company has been welcoming guests in Savannah, Georgia since 1999. This popular venue combines a bar, restaurant and brewing facility all under one roof. I suppose if I was a ghost, this would be a good place to relax and see what the living is up to. While the business is relatively new, the building it’s located in is not.

Elazer Early from Charleston, South Carolina constructed the City Hotel in Savannah in 1821. This was a significant development in the area because the building would serve as both the city’s first hotel and first post office. Many well-known names signed the guest book at the City Hotel, including the Marquis de Lafayette, Winfield Scott and James Audubon. The hotel was sold in 1851 with the last guest departing in 1864. It was then used as a lumber and coal warehouse. It became vacant as the coal industry began to diminish and was eventually renovated for use as an office and supply store in the 1960s until a hurricane blew the roof off in 1979. There are two violent events that are believed to have happened in the former City Hotel, including one that ended in murder.

In 1832, a feud was heating up  between unpopular local man James Stark and city physician Philip Minis. The pair played quoits, a traditional game that involves throwing rings. The good doctor beat his disagreeable opponent, which motivated Stark to head to the bar and start trash talking. Minis did not react at first, brushing it aside as the response of a sore loser who would eventually get over it.

Unfortunately Stark did not get over it. He continued harassing the doctor through spring and summer. He called Minis a “damn Jew who ought to be pissed upon.” Tired of the insults and poor sportsmanship, the doctor wrote a letter asking for a formal apology from Stark. Friends of Minis, including the future mayor of Savannah Dr. Richard Arnold, pushed the doctor to respond and stop Stark’s berating. They believed it would eat away at his good name and was degrading to his Jewish ancestry.

Instead of a gentlemanly apology, Stark decided to challenge Dr. Minis to an old fashion duel. The challenger traditionally would choose the time, place and weapon however their opponent could request modifications to the terms until they came to an agreement. Since Georgia law did not allow duels, they planned to meet at Screven’s Ferry in South Carolina. Stark chose rifles, but Minis was not pleased with such a clumsy choice. He did not have his rifle at the time because it was being repaired, so he asked Stark to switch to pistols and he wanted to postpone the duel to the following day.

Stark decided he didn’t want to honor the requests and, in his usual impulsive nature, went to confront Minis in Savannah. He fired volleys into the air then declared himself victorious. He encountered Dr. Minis soon after on Bull Street but the doctor’s companions pulled him away to prevent any possible violence.

Everything finally erupted when Dr. Minis discovered that Stark was staying at the City Hotel. He went inside and asked to see Stark. As Stark descended the stairs, Minis unbuttoned his jacket and pulled out a pistol. He shouted, “I declare the, James Jones Stark, a coward!”. Stark went for his weapon, but Minis caught him off guard and managed to fire off a fatal shot. The bullet tore through Stark before embedding itself in the kitchen door. Minis was later tried for murder but acquitted.

In a second, unrelated incident, New York City resident James Sinclair traveled to Savannah to find work in 1860. The locals did not like the idea of a Yankee in the City Hotel, and urged Sinclair to leave quietly. He refused to go and wound up stirring a lynch mob which forced him out. They stripped him down and beat him within an inch of his life. He was lucky to barely survive the incident.

Paranormal Activity at the Moon River Brewing Company

The Moon River Brewing Company has seen a significant increase in popularity due in large part to the paranormal activity that allegedly occurs there. Savannah earned the title of “most haunted city in America” by the American Institute of Paranormal Psychology in 2003. Some believe that the Moon River Brewing Company may be the most haunted building in the area, which really says something about the activity reported there.

Many believe that the hot-tempered James Stark may still linger in the Moon River Brewing Company. There have been reports of people being violently shoved down the stairs as they descend. One woman claimed to have been pushed down from the 3rd story in the 1990s. Other indications of Stark’s presence include audio phenomena in the form of a pistol crack and rattling glasses. A visual element is also reported related to Stark. People have described seeing figures that seem to be carrying a man lying on a kitchen door. They hurry into the night and disappear.

The pub’s operations manager Christopher Lewis has had his own personal experiences while working at the Moon River Brewing Company.  He told a Savannah Morning News reporter that:

“I’ve been sitting in my office before and had bottles thrown at me off the shelf. I’ve seen shadows walking by and heard little kids playing that aren’t really there.” (see below for full interview video)

A second entity, named Toby, is also reported at the former City Hotel. He is usually seen as a shadow lurking in the billiard room. He seems to favor the back of the banquet cellar and has actually pushed people out of his way or blown past them.

Witnesses also describe a lady in white. Her likeness was allegedly captured on the paranormal reality TV show Ghost Hunters during their 2005 Halloween special episode. Ghost Adventures also investigated the Moon River Brewing Company for their July 17th, 2009 episode.

The Moon River Brewing Company Today

The Moon River Brewing Company continues to serve living guests. Visitors can enjoy a meal, a brew and good company or hang around to see if anything paranormal decides to join them. The business’ official website seems to embrace the ghostly aspect of the building with a short page dedicated to the Moon River Brewing Company’s haunted legacy.

Have you been to the Moon River Brewing Company (or would you like to go)? Share your personal experiences or investigative approach to this location in the comments.

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