Walking with a ghost at Fort Pulaski

October will be here tomorrow, and that means it’s time for haunted houses and ghost stories.

You may not think of Fort Pulaski as a place to checkout for something spooky, but in a spot where you can easily feel the echoes of the past, maybe you should.

Vash checks out the marks where the cannonballs.

You’ll find Fort Pulaski National Monument on Highway 80 between Savannah and Tybee Island. The spot had been used as various forts and defenses throughout Savannah’s history, but it was it’s incarnation as a Civil War fort that leaves it haunted.

It was a Confederate fort during the Civil War. In order to defeat them, Union soldiers set up a rifled cannon on Tybee Island and fired at the fort. The Confederates surrendered and were held as prisoners of war in their own fort.

If you’re not familiar with POW camps during the Civil War, it was pretty rough on both sides. It was especially hard for those at Fort Pulaski because basic supplies were in high demand but short supply. A lot of sickness and death followed.

Now the specters of those who fought and died at the fort can sometimes be spotted wandering the grounds. Some areas of the fort allegedly echo with the sounds of people dying and screaming in pain.

While that all sounds terrible, there is one story that makes me laugh. My favorite ghost story from Fort Pulaski involves extras from the film “Glory”.

Parts of “Glory,” starring Denzel Washington, were shot in and around Savannah. Before heading to set one day, a few extras dressed as Confederate soldiers decided to explore the fort. That’s when they say a Confederate officer stopped them and reprimanded them for not saluting him. After barking orders at them, they say he just disappeared.

Photo of re-enactors by the National Park Service

A different ghostly sound has been heard around the fort. It’s credited as being the site of Georgia’s first baseball game. On January 3, 1863, some Union soldiers decided to play. It was New York vs New York. (In case you’re wondering, New York won.)

Now some people claim to hear the crack of a bat and men yelling in excitement. I guess spending your afterlife playing baseball isn’t the worst thing.

Normally, Fort Pulaski offers a nighttime tour in October to talk about the history of death and the macabre, but I don’t think they’re offering that this year due to COVID restrictions. Still, you should like to fort on Facebook to keep up with events once its safe to have them again.

Storms over the past few years, left it with a lot of debris and damage. In a weird bright side to the pandemic, it’s given the NPS a chance to clean up and repair areas of the fort, making it even more accessible.

Aside from the fort itself, Fort Pulaski offers plenty of trails, a picnic area, fishing, and even a dog-friendly beach.

If you’re planning a Savannah visit, I highly recommend a day at Fort Pulaski. (And if you happen to see any ghosts, please let me know.)

Fort Pulaski National Monument
US-80
Savannah, GA 31410

Zombies & Tourists at Ft. Pulaski

Somewhere out there someone is telling a friend about their trip to Savannah in early 2012 where they got to meet zombies at a Civil War fort. One of those zombies was probably me.

In January of that year, I was sitting in Forsyth Park with a few friends. One of them said, “Hey, Eenie! You like zombies, right?”

If I’m being honest, I don’t like zombies. I’m terrified of zombies, but I also really like zombie movies. I’ve never claimed to make sense.

My friend told me that she had heard about a zombie film that would need extras and mentioned that one of our mutual friends was working on the film, so I should reach out to him.

Why not? I’ve got nothing better to do.

I showed up at Fort Pulaski National Monument one February morning right after I got off of work at the news station. I was exhausted after working overnight but excited to be on a film set.

At least I got to use that tired look to my advantage. I found out I would be one of the featured zombies.

That meant that on top of the skirt, flowy top, and bonnet to hide my short hair, I would also get to sport some sexy white contact lenses that took two people to put in because my eyes hate contacts.

Once the contacts were finally in (I swear the makeup people on this film were saints), I walked out on set and was pointed towards one of the featured actors.

“See that guy?” Only a little. I quickly realized that the contacts turned people into weird moving shapes. “You’re going to fight him.”

What?!?

Well, I guessed it was a good time to see what all stuck from my stage combat class in college.

The guy I was “fighting” was Chip Lane who was playing a Secret Service agent for Abraham Lincoln . (Before you say anything, no, that’s not historically accurate.)

The film we were making was “Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies,” a mockbuster by The Asylum to cash in on “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” The Asylum is the company behind the Sharknado films and Z Nation, so you know we had a very tiny budget.

Chip and I had our fight scene, he cuts off my head, I lie in the grass for the rest of the scene, and then I’m done…. or so I thought.

The budget on the film was so small that many people pulled double duty. Some actors were also crew members, the director played a small role in one scene, and lots of the zombies played more than one zombie.

I make seashell pillowcases look good.

You can see me at 18 minutes into the film as Bonnet Girl (a nickname from the director), and at 37 minutes with a seashell pillowcase on my head. (They had to hide my short hair somehow, and the director said I was too identifiable in another bonnet.)

My friend Perry is the first zombie you see at the fort. He’s also the zombie in a dress and bonnet at 30 minutes into the film. He makes a really terrifying lady zombie.

The small budget also mean that they couldn’t afford to close the fort to visitors while filming. Between shots, a lot of zombies would pose for pictures with tourists wandering around Fort Pulaski.

There’s a joke that working as an extra is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. That is 100% true. While I was waiting for whatever shot I was needed in, I wasn’t able to do much. The contacts meant I couldn’t read anything, and I couldn’t listen to music because my phone didn’t get any service inside the fort. Instead, I listened to stories from the other zombies about other films they had worked on. Part of Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator” had also been shot at Fort Pulaski, and there were plenty of stories about what that was like.

The things that really stuck out to me about this film was how kind and considerate everyone was. I mean everyone.

We knew we weren’t making any kind of Oscar- worthy film, but we were all having totally-historically-inaccurate fun. Some of the featured actors (actors with lines other than “grrrr”) would check on the zombies between scenes. A few even offered to bring me water since all I could do was stare straight forward like a fake-blood-covered mannequin.

I made so many new friends on the set, and we’ve kept in touch through social media. You should definitely look up the actors on IMDB and check out their recent projects. Sadly, Don McGraw, who played Stonewall Jackson, passed away in 2019.

Bill Oberst, Jr. did a stellar job as Abraham Lincoln. He was actually a last-minute replacement. Even though he only had a small amount of time to prepare, Bill gave the role a fantastic sense of importance.

The funny thing to watch for is his height. Bill is 5’8″, but Lincoln was 6’4″. There are ways to work around that in a movie, but with such a small budget and limited time to shoot, it’s not perfect. Bill’s height will magically change between shots. It’s just one of a number of things that made it into the ALvZ Drinking Game.

Drinking game? Yes, the director Richard Schenkman said we should start a drinking game of all the weird things in the movie.

Take a shot when

  1. Lincoln changes height in the same scene.
  2. An actor’s voice sounds dubbed.
  3. A gun looks historically inaccurate.
  4. Someone says “zombies.”
  5. A zombie dies and miraculously reappears later.

Finish your drink

  1. For Stonewall Jackson’s beard.
  2. “We knocked before we broke down your door!”
  3. When Agent Chamberlin screams, “Alright! Who’s next?”

Feel free to add to the game. It’s all in good fun.

My mom said this movie was better than “The Descendants”.

If you ever visit Fort Pulaski, I recommend watching this film before you go. Figuring out what scenes were shot where is entertaining.

Fort Pulaski National Monument
US 80 East
Savannah, GA

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