James Caskey's Blog: Chasing Phantoms

March 14, 2017

March 10, 2017

Haunted Savannah: America's Most Spectral City is entering currently its eleventh printing. The book has been a consistent local bestseller since its debut in 2005.

Haunted Savannah details over forty of Savannah’s most infamous ghost stories, resulting in a paranormal compilation unlike any other. Discover the truth about Savannah’s haunted history as you explore spine-chilling tales about the Hostess City’s shadowy “Other Side,” as told by a master storyteller. This volume combines exhaustive searches of historical archives, detailed analysis, and engaging first-hand accounts of spectral activity as experienced by eyewitnesses, even by the author!

Haunted Savannah: America’s Most Spectral City is not a collection of dry facts, dates and folklore; it is an enlightening and entertaining journey for anyone interested in the paranormal, from magical mystery tourist to serious ghost hunter. Containing over 50 photos and a detailed map of Savannah’s Historic District, this book is the perfect ‘pocket tour guide’ for the do-it-yourself ghost seeker.

If you’d like to hear more, you might consider taking one of James Caskey's Savannah walking tours.
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Published on March 10, 2017 04:59 • 42 views • Tags: ghost-stories, haunted-book, haunted-savannah, haunted-savannah-book

October 6, 2016

The paperback version of St. Augustine Ghosts just became available on Amazon!

www.amazon.com/St-Augustine-Ghosts-Ha...

St. Augustine: is it the most haunted city in America?
Take a journey with historian and tour guide James Caskey to discover the facts behind St. Augustine’s ghostly myths and legends. Unearth the truth surrounding the Ancient City’s shadowy “Other Side” as this master storyteller combines thorough searches of historical archives, compelling analysis, and bone-chilling eyewitness accounts.

St. Augustine is haunted by her turbulent, yet colorful, past. In this volume you’ll be introduced to many fascinating phantoms, such as:
•A prankish poltergeist who likes to break glasses at one of the city’s finest restaurants;
•A creepily possessive entity at a local tavern who calls himself Mr. Finkle;
•One malicious ghost that, when challenged, caused a violent explosion;
•And a female spirit determined to hold onto her birthright from beyond the grave.

St. Augustine Ghosts: Hauntings in the Ancient City contains all of these stories and more! It is an entertaining and enlightening read for anyone interested in the arcane side of America’s Oldest City. Containing street addresses and over 60 photos of all of St. Augustine’s haunted hotspots, this book is perfect for any paranormal enthusiast.
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Published on October 06, 2016 04:08 • 39 views • Tags: ghost-stories, ghostsm-haunted, history, southern, st-augustine

August 30, 2016

My latest in my exploration of haunted cities, this time examining the ghostly history and legends of St. Augustine FL, is set for an October 2016 debut.

St. Augustine Ghosts: Hauntings in the Ancient City will be available in trade paperback and Kindle formats. 208 pages, and over 60 photos of haunted locations.

You can get the Kindle HERE.

From the back cover:

Why is St. Augustine so haunted?

Take a journey with historian and tour guide James Caskey to discover the truth behind St. Augustine’s ghostly myths and legends. Unearth the truth about the Ancient City’s shadowy “Other Side” as this master storyteller combines painstaking searches of historical archives, compelling analysis, and bone-chilling eyewitness accounts.

St. Augustine is haunted by her turbulent yet colorful past. In this volume you’ll be introduced to many fascinating phantoms, such as:
• A prankish poltergeist who likes to break glasses at one of the city’s finest restaurants;
• A creepily possessive entity at a local tavern who calls himself Mr. Finkle;
• One malicious ghost that, when challenged, caused a violent explosion; and
• A female spirit who is determined to hold onto her birthright even from beyond the grave.

St. Augustine Ghosts: Hauntings in the Ancient City contains all of these stories, and more! It is an entertaining and enlightening read for anyone interested in the arcane side of America’s Oldest City. Containing street addresses and over 60 photos of all of St. Augustine’s haunted hotspots, this book is perfect for the paranormal enthusiast.
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Published on August 30, 2016 15:16 • 55 views • Tags: ghosts, haunted, hauntings, history, paranormal, st-augustine, travel

March 16, 2016

I am getting closer and closer to publishing a haunted St. Augustine book as well as a history & guide to Savannah, but one other project I've been working on for a while now is about to launch: the Savannah Culinary Tour.

It's a 2.5+ hour Savannah food tour of our city’s deep association with fine food and drink, offering you tastes along the way of the very best of the Hostess City’s delectable cuisine! Join your certified tour guide on an afternoon walking tour journey that is delicious, informative, and fun.

You’ll be guided to 5 different restaurants (along with two gourmet tasting stops), and be treated to an experience which combines elements of a historical tour with a culinary adventure. As you sample from top-ranked eateries and 'off the beaten path' foodie hot spots within the beautiful Historic District, you’ll learn how various cultures from around the world influenced famous Lowcountry recipes over the centuries.

Each venue we visit is unique with custom tastings prepared daily by top chefs using only the freshest local ingredients. We guarantee that there's simply NO better way to experience Savannah and all of its cultural flavors than the Savannah Culinary Tour. Come hungry: this tour definitely replaces a meal!

If you're visiting Savannah, it is simply the best way to explore our culinarily-diverse city! More on my writing progress later, but I'm definitely pumped to offer this food tour in Savannah! You table is ready, won't you join me?

www.SavannahCulinaryTour.com

or call (912) 604-3007
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Published on March 16, 2016 08:14 • 65 views • Tags: culinary-tourism, food-tour, savannah, savannah-culinary-tour, savannah-food-tour, savannah-history

August 16, 2015

The next offering in my series of books detailing haunted cities will be titled St. Augustine Ghosts: Hauntings in the Ancient City.'

The manuscript is about 90% completed (first draft), so this means I'll be publishing it through Manta Ray books in Winter of 2015 (late '15- early '16). It will be my fourth book.
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Published on August 16, 2015 07:22 • 89 views • Tags: florida-haunted-stories, james-caskey-author, st-augustine-ghost-book, st-augustine-haunted-book

July 7, 2014

In doing research for my Savannah ghost tour (as well as my book, Haunted Savannah), I encounter all types of ghostly stories. Every college town has a tale of a haunted dormitory building, and the Hostess City in no different. Usually these stories are completely bogus, involving messages scrawled in blood and a murdered roommate. While Oglethorpe House in Savannah has neither of these elements, the dorm's haunted reputation is incredibly persistent and undeniably creepy.

Oglethorpe House
201 West Oglethorpe Avenue

One of Savannah College of Art and Design’s main downtown dormitories is Oglethorpe House, which is affectionately called ‘O-House’ by the students housed there. Built in 1964, this six-story modern-style building was originally a hotel called the Downtowner Motor Lodge. It became a Ramada Inn during its history, and was eventually sold to Savannah College of Art and Design for use as a dorm. So now the dorm is haunted, if you’ll pardon the expression, by a group of pierced and tattooed SCAD students.

Many supernatural stories persist about the structure. Separating the folklore and myths from the real stories is difficult work—any time you have a group of young, impressionable, and creative people all living in a confined space, you will hear tall tales. Sometimes, too, the stories are fueled by more than caffeine and an over-active imagination. Dismissing the easily distinguishable urban legends (any tale involving deranged killers, messages written in blood or the like are standard fare), several stories told about the space have the ring of truth. Online forums are full of both past and present SCAD students insisting that the building is haunted.

One such tale involves the Emerald Room Bar, which is now demolished but at the time was located across the street. When Savannah entered her great decline in the 1960’s, bars such as the Emerald Room were inevitable. Several ladies of ill repute would ply their trade at the bar, and the convenient proximity of the Downtowner Motor Lodge made it a prime spot for business to be conducted. One of these ladies of the night met an awful fate at the hands of a client on the fifth floor. It has been said that her heels can still be heard clicking on the walkways, when no one is visible.

One young lady insists that it isn’t high heels she hears clicking, but marbles. She and her roommate have heard marbles being dropped and rolling outside her room on numerous occasions. Her room is located on the top floor of Oglethorpe House, so the sound definitely has to be coming from right outside their room, but nevertheless they find no one outside and nothing amiss. The legend, unverifiable but persistent, concerns a young boy who died in the old hotel while playing with marbles. Perhaps then, if the stories are true, his spirit still plays in the hallways.

Conservative Savannahians, viewing the blue hair and multiple piercings, often say that SCAD students have lost their marbles— but this is one case where the marbles were lost long before SCAD was on the scene.

This has been an excerpt of my book, Haunted Savannah: America's Most Spectral City. I hope you enjoyed it.
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June 21, 2014

May 1, 2014

142 Church Street

One famous and entertaining bit of Charleston folklore is the infamous ‘dare at St. Philip’s,’ which was already an ancient story when it was recorded in print by Margaret Rhett Martin’s wonderful book, Charleston Ghosts, first published in 1963. Above all others, it was the 'supernatural yarn' most inquired about (and requested) by Charlestonians when I revealed that I was writing a book of Charleston ghost stories. I have heard countless versions of this tale over the years, and a quick scan of the archives proves that the narrative should be taken with a heaping helping of salt. However, it is an entertaining parable, and is presented here as nothing more than an example of classic campfire storytelling.

Eleven year old Sallie lived in the spacious house nestled between St. Philip’s and the Huguenot places of worship on Church Street in the very late 19th century. A pretty, popular and engaging girl, she was also blessed with a large intellect for someone so young. Seemingly her only flaw was a stubborn refusal to concede any point when she entered a discussion. A precocious child, she loved to debate and argue with her large group of friends. Even her teachers sometimes found this hardheaded tendency of Sallie’s to be exhausting. Her immense ego made her unwilling to admit defeat on any contestable topic.

One cool October night after a heavy rain, she was entertaining a group of classmates when their after-dinner discussion turned to ghosts, specifically ones haunting the nearby St. Philip’s Churchyard. Several in the group believed in spectres. One boy in particular, Thomas, was insistent that he had seen the ghost of Boney in the nearby cemetery. Sallie made a rude noise through plumped lips, voicing her opinion on the subject. “Anyone who believes in ghosts is a fool, and anyone who says they’ve seen a ghost is a liar,” Sally spat out.

The boy persisted: “I did see Boney lounging on a tombstone! I’ll bet you’re afraid to go down and see him. Old Boneyman will get you!”

“I am not afraid because there is nothing to fear, and I’ll walk through any cemetery, day or night,” Sallie said defiantly. Very soon, the dare had been issued: Sallie was challenged to take a walking stick, alone and with no lantern, into the cemetery. She was instructed to lay the cane on a tomb in the back corner of the cemetery, to prove that she had actually gone to the stone in question. Her friends would venture into the cemetery the next morning to verify whether she had actually done so. Within a very few moments, Sallie departed the bright, joyous party, and found herself walking through the wrought-iron gates to the burial ground, clutching a cane in the deepening gloom. She had to walk all the way around the church, from the right-hand entrance on Church Street to the left hand rear corner of the burial ground. Her lovely gown trailed behind her, getting muddier and muddier with each puddle she encountered.

There’s no such thing as ghosts or goblins, she told herself as she passed the first row of tombstones. Besides, Boney had been a good person who was rewarded for saving the church. Boney was a slave who, close to a hundred years’ previously, had famously saved the church from going up in flames during the Great Fire of 1796. It had been Boney, despite his fear of heights, who had valiantly climbed the roof and swatted burning embers away from the church with his bare hands. Boney was a hero, and for his good deeds the church took up a collection and bought his freedom. From that day forward, Boney stayed near the church as if he were charged with protecting it, until his death many years later. Many people still claimed to see his spirit at St. Philip’s, saying that the old slave’s devotion to the church had survived the grave.

Visions of Boney dancing in her head, Sallie ventured deeper and deeper into the pitch-black graveyard, holding the cane in front of her like a cudgel. Her heart began to pound harder. She rounded the backside of the church. Everything still dripped from the recent rain, and the sounds of water trickling seemed to be deafening to Sallie. Even if there are ghosts, old Boney won’t hurt me, Sallie reasoned. He’s nice. But her words did nothing to ease her growing apprehension. It was much darker here, and something moved in the inky blackness within the cemetery. “H-hello? If it is you, Thomas, I am not afraid!” she called out. “I know you are there.” Her only answer was a wet rustling sound which seemed to be getting closer. Sallie stepped off of the path, still determined to complete her mission despite her faltering resolve. She ran into a row of tombstones, their cold marble biting into her shins. Tears, both from the pain and her growing terror, welled in her eyes. Finally she neared her goal.

She dashed forward, found the specified tomb, and rammed the cane down into the soft damp earth with both hands. She then turned to dash back to the safety of the house and her friends. She could picture nothing but Boney’s long fingers reaching out of the dripping blackness, ready to drag her away from the light forever. Suddenly, something grabbed the hem of her dress! She tugged feebly, but the iron grip held her captive. Some horrible thing had her in its clutches. She tried to scream in terror, but no sound could escape her throat. She sank to the ground, arms outstretched towards her house in the distance.

After an hour, her friends were forced to look for Sallie. Several of them insisted that they would find that stubborn girl sitting on the tombstone, laughing, where she would chastise them for believing in ghosts and phantoms. Armed with lanterns, they did indeed find her at that tombstone within the burial ground at St. Phillip’s, but she was in no condition to be critical of anyone, not then or ever again. Sallie had literally been scared to death: she had driven that cane down through the hem of her own skirt, pinning herself in place. Believing that something had grabbed her, she expired at that very spot.

Many Charlestonians will tell you to be cautious of poking fun of people’s ghost stories, because sometimes trying to disprove the story might just cause you to be scared to death. Local storytellers even claim that on the darkest of nights, the ghost of a little girl is sometimes seen in the cemetery, holding a cane as she walks deeper and deeper into the gloom.

The stories of Boney and the church he saved from ruin are completely true. According to a Charleston News and Courier article which appeared on June 6th, 1921: “In 1796… the steeple of St. Philip’s was afire, and was only saved by a courageous negro, who climbed up and tore off the burning shingles; for this signal service he was given his freedom…” This story is a wonderful example of how a folklore tale can perfectly complement and highlight a true historical event.
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April 30, 2014

Thoughts on Kindle & e-book format prices: I keep seeing publishers and self-publishing authors pricing their e-books between $10 and $14.99. Their reasoning is that if their physical copy is $15, why should the Kindle be priced so much lower? “But my book took me many months of hard labor to write,” they reason. “Why should I only get a small percentage of what my physical book will net me? A low price screws me out of a profit!”

This is backwards thinking. Would you rather sell a million Kindles at a dollar a pop, or a hundred a year at ten bucks? Which price point (and sales figure) would you choose? Obviously, my numbers are inflated to illustrate my point, but please believe me when I say that I would eagerly lobby my publisher to drop the price of my trade paperback to $1.99 and stick my book next to every single cash register in America if it were feasible to do so. Authors and publishers alike have to remember that the price of physical books is set where it is because they cost a lot to produce and store. If print books were cheap to make, they would be much less precious. Well, Kindle has almost none of the costs that are associated with traditional printing. This is the reason I worked so closely with Manta Ray Books to price the Kindle versions of my Haunted Savannah and Haunted History of New Orleans Kindles at $4.99, instead of the $9.99 which seems to be the ‘accepted’ price in the genre.

A historic comparison: in the 1950’s, most of the owners of major leage baseball teams were opposed to allowing their team’s games from being televised for free. If someone can watch a ballgame for free at home, they reasoned, the fans won’t come to the ballpark. I won’t sell any popcorn or beer, and I’ll lose money. These were not stupid men: each was a success in his own field of expertise. But they were dead wrong on the TV issue, though, and baseball’s popularity (and attendance numbers) soared during that decade because fans across the country suddenly had access like never before. The similarity to electronic publishing today is downright eerie: the owners of the entertainment are unwilling to give easier access to their product.

Here’s your new mantra: Making a sale is the only thing that matters. This is especially true when the capacity to sell your product has none of the drawbacks (and concrete costs) of traditional publishing. Your only concern is how you can price your product in order to get the most effective sales numbers. You need to stop thinking of a Kindle as a book, really-- it's like comparing the cost of a song download to the price of a concert ticket. Do you really think that Mick Jagger really goes to sleep worrying that if 100 million people download his 99 cent song from iTunes, he won’t sell out his next concert?

Obviously, the quality of the writing matters, and that will be the biggest factor is determining a book’s success or failure, regardless of format. But following the ‘accepted’ marketing plan of you e-book can actually hinder your chances of success. I'm not suggesting that every e-book needs to be cheaper, but I am arguing that you might want to seriously examine all the pricing alternatives.
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Chasing Phantoms

James Caskey
A place for random thoughts on writing, ghosts, historical research, all things Savannah, and tragic grisly death. You know, the usual stuff.
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