On a Pembroke night while the moon hung bright, the stories told were of frights and spooky sights.
The result was a delight.
The Pembroke Downtown Development Authority’s first ever "ghost tour," on Oct. 5, was such a hit it almost seemed to startle city officials.
The mayor, Judy Cook, a North Bryan native who took the tour herself, said she thought maybe 30 people might attend.
But 150 folks showed up instead, paying $5 a head or $2 for kids under 10 to get a tour of the most notorious events in the city’s 100-year history. They spilled out onto roads. They surrounded speakers, flashlights in hands as they strolled down gravel paths and the night grew later.
"Surprised is not the word I would use to describe my reaction to this," Cook said. "I don’t know what the word is. This is just a much bigger crowd than I thought would attend."
The man behind the tour, PDDA Director Alex Floyd, led the tour from one stop to another, eight in all.
He too, hadn’t thought his idea would be that popular.
"We’ve had fewer people show up to Christmas parades," said Floyd as he led the 150 tour takers across Highway 280 to a stop by the Pembroke Police Department, where Cook’s husband, former Pembroke Fire Chief Jimmy Cook, told the story of James Strickland’s fight with former Sheriff E.W. Miles many years in the past.
Before that, Willie Butler explained the long ago shooting of Dr. Abbott and how the press got the facts wrong. Butler, like Cook, knew the details because both men were eyewitnesses.
"But that’s all I can tell you about that, and now you know as much as I do," Butler said, as he pointed at the spot where the doctor fell.
After that, former Pembroke Police Chief Jeff Simmons spoke of tragedies on Camellia Street that included four deaths — two who died in a vehicle crash while running from police, followed later by both a suicide and a stabbing.
In between were stops at the Old City Jail, the Mincey Funeral Home, the haunted J.O. Bacon house, and other spots across the downtown area.
It’s that kind of history that makes Pembroke’s downtown unique in Bryan County, Floyd said. He himself recently spent a night in the Old City Jail after he posted a bet on Facebook that if the DDA could get more than 1,000 likes by the end of Georgia Cities Week he’d go there.
Floyd got 1,300 likes and camped out not far from where an ancestor of his owned a used mule lot. He shared those stories with the crowd, not all of whom lived in Pembroke.
"We had people come from surrounding communities," Floyd said later, adding that the event raised $800 for the city’s Spooktacular on Oct. 28.
It might draw another crowd like the first one. Julie Howard, who grew up in Pembroke and now works as a curriculum coordinator for Bryan County Schools, said the city’s people and its history are what make it "a great place to be from, and to live."
"It’s nice seeing all these people out here enjoying the night and learning about our history," Howard said. "This sense of community is a part of what makes Pembroke so special."