Southern Concierge: I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghost

I was born into a traveling family, so in many ways it was always inevitable that I’d end up a concierge. Savannah is, for me, a final campfire to settle around. A warm bed I can creep into, ignoring my forlorn and forgotten gypsy cart and accoutrements. The donkey can bray, the multicolored scarves can snap accusingly in the wind, and I’ll just scowl at them and snuggle deeper into Lowcountry dozing, muttering something about finally buying my own oyster knife. Work as a concierge allows me to show other people Savannah’s food, culture, and beautiful eccentrics. I don’t speak French, but I can only assume “concierge” translates to “let me set that dinner reservation up for you.”

Visitors come with their own expectations of what to expect out of the city. Some expect the streets to flow with Chatham Artillery Punch, others hope for locals who were never informed that the hoop skirt has gone out of style. Even more expect ghosts.

This last one has always been somewhat problematic for me.

I am hardly a jaded man. I appreciate mystery and intrigue, and have a hearty awe for the world around me and the beauties contained therein. I insist, no, I am capable of childlike wonder. However, as far as the ghostly realm is concerned, I am one spooky reality show away from not believing in anything that doesn’t plug into a wall and light up.

Part of this is the visitor’s fault. There’s nothing that’ll make you want to put your toys away quite like seeing a grown woman with crystals glued to her face sigh and shake as she scans the room for spirits. Watch a couple of college students adjust esoteric knobs and electromagnetic buzzers in the hopes of recording a ghost and you’ll feel pretty grounded—secure in the fact that in a world of Bavarian cuckoo clocks, you are sane. A warm, shining beacon of mental health in the aggressive fog of pseudo-science and middle-aged men named “Ghost Fox”.

It’s important to note here that I don’t automatically feel any level of disrespect or distaste for people who believe in ghosts.  It strikes me as inherently silly, yes, but I myself am a man given to silly hobbies.  A frightened first date who got a look at my collection of insects and invertebrates can attest to that. 

Perhaps the problem comes from the fact that I find the idea of a world with ghosts to be pretty awful.  Chris Soucy, one of Savannah’s favorite storytellers, once offered up the idea that ghost-hunting is a largely Northern European fixation.  That all other cultures of the world have “bad places” that they’ll point out to others.

“That is a bad place,” they say.  “We don’t go there.”

And then white people come along with a jolly smile and say, “I just downloaded a Ghost Hunter app on my phone. Let’s go check it out!”

I have no interest in going to bad places—it’s one of the reasons I stay away from states where it snows over half of the year.  Perhaps it’s this that keeps me from delving too deep into the foggy quagmire of Savannah’s paranormal world: if I’m wrong, who knows what I’ve gotten myself into?  Will a spirit attach itself to me like a Word document in an email?  Some people say they will.  But if I’m right, then I just spent four hours fending off Brown Recluses in an abandoned house in order to take pictures of dust particles and lens flares. 

Either way, I do not win.

If the spirit world is indeed real, then it occurs to me that searching for it is a lot like searching for love: if you make a concerted effort to possess this mysterious thing that’s just out of grasp, you’ll find something.  I’m just not sure it’ll be of the highest quality.  Because ghosts are very similar to love: if they’re real, then they’ll probably come find you when you’re not looking for them.  Perhaps you’ll be in the bathtub, shaving your legs. And then the ghost of a Confederate widow will spill out of the faucet, filling your shaving creamed water with ectoplasm. She’ll offer an impeccable mint julep recipe and you’ll laugh and laugh and laugh.

Meanwhile, I’ll be across town, on my third gin & tonic, muttering, “Spectre? I hardly know her!”


Phil Keeling is the Chief Concierge of the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Club and Resort and a stand up comedian. You can read more of Phil's geekier habits and musings at his blog Notes From The Conquistadork. Follow him on Twitter at @SouthConcierge or "like" Phil Keeling Comedy on Facebook.