Believe them or not, Savannah's ghosts entertaining By AMY LAUGHINGHOUSE FOR COX NEWS SERVICE Savannah - Darkness descends upon Savannah's Johnson Square with silent stealth as shadows lengthen and eventually surrender to a deep blue twilight. It's a warm Sunday evening, untouched by autumn breezes, but a chill runs up my spine as Tristan MacLlyr, a "ghost host" with Savannah Walks' Lowcountry Ghost Tour, tells the sad tale of a young pneumonia victim named Gracie. It's not that Gracie's carved likeness, with its serene Mona Lisa smile, supposedly glows atop her grave in nearby Bonaventure Cemetery on cold winter evenings. At that eerie resting ground, where Spanish moss hangs as gray and limp as hags' hair from ancient, twisted oaks, spooks ought to be as common as pierced bellybuttons at a Britney Spears concert. But Gracie's ghost has also been spotted across Johnson Square in the Piccadilly cafeteria. What kind of place is this, I wonder, where the dead wander even among meatloaf and mashed potatoes? "Savannah is supposedly the most haunted city in North America," intones MacLlyr, a wild-haired young man with a gift for telling even wilder tales. "Other cities claim this distinction, but they all have one thing in common: They're lying." If even half of what MacLlyr says is true, Savannah must be as packed with specters as Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras, making Georgia's oldest city a ghoulishly good Halloween destination. Threading through Savannah's verdant squares, MacLlyr seems to have a story about every stately mansion and restaurant that flanks the lamp-lit streets. Here, we pause before a gray clapboard house on East St. Julian, once haunted by the ghost of a pirate and countless yellow fever victims buried beneath it in a mass grave. There, he shows us the Olde Pink House Restaurant and Tavern, where a former owner, rumored to have hanged himself in the cellar, reportedly strolls the halls in 18th-century attire. "Most sightings occur on Sunday evenings," says MacLlyr. "So if you really want to see this ghost, you should be in there dining. Or more importantly, drinking." But my husband, Scott, and I have already feasted at another Savannah haunt, the Pirates' House. Now a popular family restaurant, this rambling clapboard structure dates back to the 1750s and was once an inn for sailors and swashbucklers. In the Robert Louis Stevenson classic "Treasure Island," Captain Flint died here in an upstairs room, and his ghost is said to still tread its boards - a literary figure who has taken on an (after)life of his own. Restaurant employees have also reported laughter in empty rooms and poltergeist-like activity in the Herb House, one of the restaurant's dining rooms. This comes as no surprise to Chris Maham, John Olivier and Jan and Joe Marquez, all Civil War re- enactors from Texas. "When we walked into this room, we just knew it was haunted," says Jan Marquez, seated with her friends at the Herb House's sole table. Not only were they intrigued by the old brick fireplace and darkened staircase leading to nowhere, but Maham notes that a print on the wall mysteriously became crooked during the course of their meal. The only spirits Scott and I encounter are those in our glass. Thus fortified, we hope to have better luck when we check into the 17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant, reportedly home to two ghosts: Kissee, a slave who makes her presence known by jangling bracelets and hurling kitchenware, and Anna Powers, a lovelorn young woman who threw herself out a window of what is now Room 204 when her lover sailed away. Anna Branch, one of the innkeepers, confesses that she doesn't believe in ghosts, but she has heard of the water faucet and television mysteriously turning themselves on in Room 204. "One woman woke up in the middle of the night and heard bells ringing," reports Branch. "Then she heard the toilet flush - twice. She called me later and said that in one of the pictures she took in the room, there is an apparition." The room's four-poster bed, tucked against a curtain that we later find covers the window Powers jumped from (yikes!), is so comfortable that the only sound I hear that night is Scott's snoring. In the morning, I do awake to a woman's ethereal voice singing in my ear, but it's only the clock radio. Yet later I'm forced to ponder whether we may have been in Powers' presence after all. In one of several photographs we took of the inn's exterior, a gray mist has settled over the frame. "Overexposed," Scott says with a shrug. I say this ghost just can't resist a camera.