An interview with ghost show owner and magician, Jimi Gibson, to find out what this amazing ghost tour is all about!
In October 2014, I met with Jimi Gibson at a small coffee shop near Chippewa Square to learn more about his special ghost tour. The following story tells why the 'Savannah Ghost Show' is well worth the admission.
How Did the 'Savannah Ghost Show' Come About?
After sitting down and getting acquainted, owner Jimi Gibson began to tell me how he ended up in Savannah, operating a tour company. Jimi had produced and performed in magic shows as a magician. He was also a comedy-hypnotist for 12 years, performing at colleges and comedy clubs. Even though he had been more of a formal, theater-type performer, Jimi Gibson always had a desire to do street performance.
In Savannah, he noticed the city had a large amount of tours, usually either historical or ghost-themed, available to visitors. Intrigued, Gibson decided to try a couple of ghost tours to see what they were all about.
"Some presented more folklore, telling legends and tales, while other ghost tours had more of a true, historical slant," said Jimi.
It was then that Jimi Gibson realized that something was missing. He wanted to have people actually “see something, put things in their hands, maybe even borrow things from them" as part of the show. Being a magician and performer, that is exactly how Mr. Gibson likes to engage with people, his tour guide style being more of an interactive-type of learning about history.
Jimi Gibson wanted to bring the Savannah Ghost Show to life. But to do so, first, Jimi had to take the Savannah tour guide certification class, something required by the city, and study to learn all about the local history.
"They give you a study guide, but you're on your own to learn...obscure dates, people, and buildings to pass the test. You can't start a tour company, or work for a tour company, without passing the test. I opted to start my own company. It was brutal but good," Jimi said.
It sounds like the city won't let just anybody become a tour guide, and that makes it better for tourists. The mandatory history lesson gave Mr. Gibson a great background that helped him in crafting the tour; and that knowledge plays well with the way Jimi performs his unique style of story telling. That is how the ghost show began -- incorporating history, local sites and, of course, magic.
"I've been getting good reviews," Jimi told me. "People like it because it is not passive but an active tour. I engage the group, whether large or small. And if it is a small group, everybody is going to participate and learn things throughout the tour. By the end, it is just fun for all ages. The 'Savannah Ghost Show' has something for everybody: magic, history, pirates, even hoodoo legends."
Magic is popular. And, the tour certainly delivers the back story to guests of what Savannah is all about while giving them a visual, magical experience they'll not forget.
What Might Someone See in the Way of Magic?
I wanted to learn more, so I asked Mr. Gibson if he could explain what visitors might expect if they take his tour. Graciously, he obliged.
"For example, there's a rich pirate history in Savannah such as 'The Pirates' House' built in 1754 and mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island.'"
Standing only two blocks away from the building, under Spanish Moss, Jimi tells his audience the history of the house and local piracy.
"It wasn't popular to be a pirate back in those days, especially, after Blackbeard's death in 1718. And, there are all sorts of legends associated with The Pirate's House, such as its tunnels used to smuggle rum." (Rum was illegal to have in the colonies.)
Jimi teaches people a little known fact about why pirates sometimes wore an eye patch. As a pirate, if you had lost an eyeball or a finger during a skirmish, you could be paid an extra 100 pieces of silver; and, if you lost an arm or a leg, one might receive an extra 600 pieces of silver. Having learned some real pirate facts, then, Savannah Ghost Show guests hear the tale of a pirate who thought the potential to earn additional monetary compensation might present an opportunity for him to, maybe, yank out his own eyeball. The buccaneer takes his extracted eyeball to a local root doctor to have something special done to it – by this point the crowd thinks Jimi is crazy. But Jimi, through his showmanship, enlightens guests to how some old folk magic just might work. Let's just say that guests observe a card trick using the pirate's eyeball from 1754...(we don't want to give too much away). My point is that Jimi uses jokes, history, and his mastery of magic to bring the experience to life in a unique and fun way.
Houdini and the Magical Squares of Savannah
Each square in Savannah is a place for a story for Jimi Gibson and ghost show guests. Another true story he shares with audiences tells of a key shop on State Street. It is owned by William Houdini Bradley whose father opened the store back in 1883. The father was fascinated by Harry Houdini; so he named his son in honor of him, even having a picture of the famed magician hanging in the shop, signed by Houdini himself.
Legend says that after Houdini died, the elder Bradley held seances in the upper floor trying to contact Houdini's spirit. Jimi then recounts the history of Harry Houdini and how he wanted to debunk spiritualism, especially, psychic-mediums who were faking paranormal phenomena for money from grieving widows and widowers. And so, Jimi does a demonstration of what you might see if you had gone to one of those seances back in Houdini's day. With some help from his audience, Jimi demonstrates how some seance mediums, by faking communication with dead loved ones, actually fooled people out of their money.
And that is how the Savannah Ghost Show works: Guests see the landmarks, learn some history, and a watch a demonstration that makes it very real.
Jimi Gibson wanted to bring street theater to ghost tour seekers, something fun for all ages, offering them a different experience: a walking show. And I believe he has done just that.
Want to learn more? Visit the official Savannah Ghost Show website and Buy Ghost Tour Tickets!