John Grey John Grey

Since it first appeared on the paranormal radar, many ghost hunters have tried in vain to discover the dark secrets of the Ryokan Hiei. Paranormal Author Savannah Woodham has come closest with the chilling, unparalleled investigation of the Ryokan Hiei she outlined in her bestselling book Unveiling Ghosts.

I caught up with Savannah in the International lounge of the Schipohl airport as she was on her way to Kyoto, Japan to cover the Technology of Tomorrow Expo. Even though she's since moved on from the supernatural community to greener pastures in the mainstream press, she was kind enough to sit for a brief interview, and share some pictures she took during her brief stay at the Ryokan Hiei.

JG: I'm a huge fan of your work, for our readers who may not be familiar with what you do, can you explain what a ghost hunting author does?

SW: Well now, that ain't exactly a tough one to answer. A ghost hunter hunts ghosts, and an author writes. So I do one, then the other.

JG: Well, there's more to it than that.

SW: More details sure, but basically that's it. You go out and look for ghosts, and try not to scare yourself half to death in the process. Afterwards, you try to type things up like they really happened, and hopefully you put all those fussy little commas and periods in the right places – that's it.

JG: So I hear you're going back to Japan, any chance you're going to do any ghost hunting while you're there?

SW: No. That's…I'm no longer pursuing that part of my career.

JG: I remember reading your book, and to me it seemed like there was more to investigate at the Ryokan Hiei. You really have no plans of going back?

SW: Ryokan Hiei…no. Not tomorrow, not ten years from now. Anyone who's ever spent time searching for ghosts has got one place they don't want to see again, the Ryokan Hiei is mine. Besides, I've got the Technology of Tomorrow expo to cover, that'll keep me busy enough.

JG: For my readers who haven't had a chance to read your book, the Ryokan Hiei is a small inn you visited in Kyoto, Japan. During your stay there you encountered what appeared to be a ghost – but you had to leave before you could finish your investigation. What caused you to leave early?

SW: Lots of things, but the short story is – I got kicked out.

JG: Why?

SW: The inn is run by the Shimizu family. Takae, and her granddaughters Yumi, and Miwako keep the place in order with a little help from the neighbor boy, Rentaro. A little while before I visited there was a death in the family. In the wake of that tragedy, guests at the ryokan began reporting strange and startling occurrences during their visits. These stories were so consistently terrible and frightening that I booked myself a room and jumped on the first eastbound jet.

JG: What did you find when you got there?

SW: At first it seemed just like a perfectly cute ryokan. I could tell that the family was really having a tough time of things, which is expected if you think about the circumstances. Once I found my way to my room though, I saw why the ryokan had become a magnet for ghost hunters.

JG: What do you mean?

SW: I still don't know how to put it in words, and you can ask my editor - I spent a long time trying. It was quiet. Like the whole world was holdin' its breath. You just knew that there was something awful just around the next corner.

JG: I know that feeling…

SW: Exactly. Well, not exactly. This place was a little different. I could tell that Miwako, Takae's younger granddaughter, who ran the desk - I could tell that she knew something terrible was going on at the inn but much as I tried, I couldn't get a word out of her about what was happening.

JG: So, you set up your equipment and got to work…

SW: Of course. But I didn't need my gear to tell me things weren't right. When I showed up, Miwako's sister Yumi was refusing to even set foot in the place, and their grandmother Takae seemed completely spooked and was jumping at shadows. The neighbor boy, Rentaro, a sort of handyman who would could talk the ears off of a cornfield, even he got quiet when I mentioned the ghost sightings.

JG: Then, before you were able to finish up your investigation you were asked to leave.

SW: (laughs) That's a polite way to put it. I guess you could say I was "asked" to leave. Fine by me though. That place gave me a certified case of the shivers.

JG: Now you're heading back to Kyoto, but you're not going back to the ryokan – aren't you at least a little curious about what's really going on at the Ryokan Hiei?

SW: Sure, I'm a little curious about what's really going on at the Ryokan Hiei, but I'm more curious about what's it's gonna be like to live a nice long life. I get the feeling this is a one or the other situation.

JG: As a longtime fan of yours, I know you're not one to walk away from a challenge. What's different about the Ryokan Hiei?

SW: Some people might see the Ryokan Hiei as a challenge, but not the people who've been there. That little inn is like the worst kind of quicksand, the second you check in you start to sink – trust me, it's best to get out before you get too deep.

JG: You're going to get that close to the Ryokan, and you're not going to at least drop in?

SW: No. I'm sorry, my plane's about to board. Always good to see you, John. BACK TO TOP