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USA: Savannah

The Pirate House

by Thomas McGovern Jnr

Eat where pirates used to dine? Or, did they…  

When you stop in to The Pirate House Restaurant, you will step back in time to Savannah’s  golden age of piracy. Eat where famed swashbucklers used to dine. Hear tales of their and the  victims they Shanghaied.  

Imagine eating in a place where visitors used to be kidnapped and forced to work as pirates.  Where these rogues would conspire to get young men intoxicated then used the tunnels  beneath the city to get them aboard ships, usually destined for the Orient. These men were  abducted and usually transformed into pirates themselves. But, how factually accurate is this?  

The Pirates House, constructed in 1794 in the poor Irish section of town . It sits on land once  established for a Botanical Garden, which ultimately failed The restaurant is opened in 1953 by  Jim Casey, a visionary and historian. Casey immediately capitalized on the myths of the golden  years of piracy. The house began telling tales of shanghaied sailors, ghosts of pirates and  underground tunnels leading to the Savannah River.  

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Ultimately, the truth will prevail however. Pirates probably did not frequent the famed pirate  house; but privateers most likely did. Privateers were legalized pirates. In other words, the  former were hired by a government while pirates were outlaws. Many of these swashbucklers  became fierce sea dogs after 1714, the end of Queen Ann’s War (War of Spanish Succession).  Many sailors, who had been in the employ of England entered the world of piracy. Men,  suddenly unemployed and wanting revenge against the nation they once worked began the  illegal seizure of British assets. On a downward swing by the time of The Pirate House  construction, it is unlikely famous pirates walked its floors. And… 

Concerning those underground tunnels, they were most likely used as a storage space for  nearby Fort Wayne. Sailors probably were Shanghaied but by privateers, not pirates. The latter  would have no need to kidnap young men because those in the piracy realm were treated  much better (given an equal share of the treasure, had a vote in the days activities , etc.) than  privateers. In fact, some claim privateers were the real pirates. Nevertheless, The Pirate House Restaurant is a great place to dine. There are guided tour but,  please remember fiction is always stranger (and stronger) than the truth. The truth is not  important, it’s how the story is told.