Friday, September 20, 2013

Violence Continues: James Jones Stark

Savannah Georgia’s first brick hotel was built in 1821. The four-story City Hotel quickly became the home for gamblers and wheeler-dealers. 

The first floor housed a bar and the second floor had a ballroom--which scandalized the locals. The upper two floors were used for paid “female company.” 

One gambler that frequented the City Hotel was James Jones Stark. He was a hard-drinking loudmouth who always wore a specially made bowler hat where he hid extra cards. 

Stark’s ghost is one of several who still haunt this downtown Savannah building which today is the Moon River Brewing Company. In a city that has many ghosts this building is considered one of its most haunted. 

Stark stands out because he is an angry and sometimes violent ghost. 

When Ghost Adventures investigated this building they were advised by one former manager “not to 'taunt' the ghosts because there have been some violent incidents.”

Stark frequented the City Hotel in 1932. In the spring of this year, he lost a game of Quoits * to a local Jewish doctor named Phillip Minis. Stark angry at his loss, later announced that Minis “wasn’t worth the gunpowder it would take to kill him.” 

When Minus heard about this, he calmly replied Stark was just a sore loser. After this, Stark slandered Minis’ name when anyone would listen. His racial slurs and insults became more and more hate-filled as the months passed.

Minis requested a written apology, which Stark didn’t provide. Ironically, Stark a card cheater challenged Dr. Minis to a gentleman's duel. 

But there was confusion about the date and time and the weapon that should be used. Stark wanted to use rifles, Minis stated his rife was being repaired. As a result, Stark showed up Minis didn’t. 

Stark now added the word “coward” to his loud-mouthed slurs. Soon after this, these two men bumped into each other on the street. Stark pulled a knife ** but friends of both men pulled them apart.

One of these friends, a Dr. Richard Arnold who later became Savannah’s mayor-- convinced Minis that Stark was a “real threat” and that he must take action. 

So in August of 1932 Minis entered the City Hotel in search of Stark. He had a gun just in case diplomacy didn't work. 

The hotel manager was sent upstairs to inform Stark that Dr. Minis was waiting for him in the bar below. He was told that Minis wanted to buy him a drink. 

But as Stark swaggered down the stairs to collect this drink Dr. Minis holding his gun ready to shoot declared to everyone in the room that Stark was the real coward, not he. 

As Stark reached into his jacket *** Minis then pulled out his gun and fired. Stark fell to the ground mortally wounded.

Minis was tried for the murder of Stark, but he was acquitted. Most felt it was an act of self-defense. They believed Stark was responsible for his own death because he had taunted and threated Minis relentlessly. 

Minis later became a prominent surgeon in the US Army and a well-respected family man.

Stark's anger and violence in life appear to be the same in death. His ghost still haunts the building where he died. Several people claim you can even sense his anger. 

He is known to touch and shove people as they walk down the stairs, because of this people do not even mention Stark's name.

In the 1990s, this former hotel was being renovated after hurricane David had taken its roof off. The building had remained empty for 16 years. 

The Oglethorpe Brewery planned to move in, but they never finished this work. They claimed, “It was one particular active spirit that scared them off.”

In recent years, Moon River Brewing Company occupies the space. A former bar manager at Moon River, Chris Lewis was in his office after hours when a liquor bottle flew off a shelf, it passed him and smashed onto his desk. 

He then heard footsteps coming down the stairs near his office. Knowing he was the only one in the building he understandably became rattled. He quickly locked his office set the alarm and left. Since Stark’s ghost often moves items, it was felt he probably was the one who did this.

After this incident, a psychic, Lynne Olson confirmed that it was Stark’s ghost who threw this bottle. While communicating with Stark, he told her he felt Lewis was a “pansy” for leaving so quickly. But Lewis reacted like most would in a similar situation.

In a future post, I will share other encounters employees of the Moon River Brewing Company have had with the ghosts that haunt this building.

* Quoits is a game where the players throw metal, rope or rubber rings over a set distance usually to land over a spike--called a hob, mott, or pin. 

** Stark was known to often flash his knife or pig-sticker.

*** No gun was found on Stark.

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