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It all started with a Facebook post in 2013. A picture of a couple walking down the historically steep staircase that connects Williamson Street to River Street, with accompanying text that read, “Says father to wife and child: ‘Why did they make these stairs so steep?’ Because they were built almost 300 years ago, f——-. They didn’t figure on you, then.”
This was the first of hundreds of provocative posts from the satirical Facebook page, The Stone Stairs of Death. Over the past four years, the page, which first started as a way to ridicule the tourists and drunks who attempted to conquer the stairs, has now developed into an uncensored platform used to both criticize the politicians and news organizations of Savannah and report on news that those local news organizations failed to report on.
The creator of the page—who prefers to be called “Stone,” so he can remain anonymous—has lived in Savannah intermittently his entire life, but moved here permanently ten years ago. He lives in an apartment above the iconic stairs, where he witnesses every misstep and absurd comment visitors make. He originally found entertainment in the constant accidents that occurred on the stairs, he explained to me one evening when we met in the dimly lit bar in the 17 Hundred 90. He began filming the accidents in hopes that someone on Facebook would also share in the entertainment.
But as the months passed, the focus of the page began to shift to more political content, a move he never intended. He blamed it on both his growing frustrations with how things were operating in Savannah and his courage to delve into his personal interests; interests that ranged from Savannah politics to the news. Local government officials, such as former Mayor Edna Jackson, and local news outlets, such as WJCL, all became the targets of his criticisms.
The more he posted his opinions, the more he noticed he wasn’t alone and soon the page’s popularity exploded. He became inundated with tips and information regarding things going on in the city.
“I thought I was the only person who saw how f—— ridiculous this, this and that is,” Stone said. “Turns out we got quite a small army of people that agree with a lot of the s— I call out.”
If a government official acted unruly, Stone would call him out. If the Savannah Morning News printed avoidable errors, Stone would make sure his thousands of followers knew about it. He takes his news and politics seriously and expects those in charge to do the same.
His unrestrained, unapologetic candor hasn’t gotten him to more than 26,000 Facebook likes without a few enemies, most notably Savannah Alderman Tony Thomas, who was involved in an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation last year regarding claims of sexual assault against minors.
For years, Stone’s criticism of Thomas typically focused on his unconventional use of social media. He heard the rumors of Thomas’ misconduct with minors, but said nothing on his page due to a lack of evidence. Fact checking, he said, is a key element to the page, and something he takes pride in. “I don’t just take rumors and start spewing them all over the place,” he said. “I don’t want a reputation for being Savannah’s ‘National Enquirer’ or some s—.” He always ensures he has verification before he posts.
As Thomas seemingly became more frustrated with the constant criticism Stone was posting of him, the Alderman began trying to reveal Stone’s identity. He started showing up at places Stone frequented and harassing people close to Stone, asking questions about his real identity. At one point, he showed up at a bar in which one of Stone’s close friends worked. He approached the friend, Stone said, claiming that the GBI had hired him to investigate the friend because the GBI had reason to believe he was the creator of The Stone Stairs of Death page. The friend laughed in Thomas’ face because Thomas was obviously lying. “As if the GBI doesn’t have the means to identify me right now if they really wanted me,” Stone said with a laugh.
With the Alderman recently dodging the sexual misconduct with minors charges, Stone still criticizes him any chance he gets and doesn’t seem to be cutting back anytime soon.
“I never set out to p— anybody off,” Stone said. “It’s just funny to me that a lot of people are fed up with the news they get in Savannah and they want an alternative source.” And that’s exactly what some people in Savannah consider him: an alternative news source. The realization came to Stone when people began messaging him and tagging him in news tips on Facebook. “They’d say, ‘Hey, look at what I just saw in Forsyth Park,’ and tag WTOC, Savannah Morning News, Connect, JCL, SAV, Stone Stairs of Death. Whenever I see s— like that, I’m like, people really consider me a genuine news source,” he said.
But don’t expect the news you get from The Stone Stairs of Death to extend past local news. Savannah news, he said, is a microcosm for the calamities that are happening nationally and even internationally. It’s tangible. “I personally know a bunch of the players in this town. I mean, half of City Council comes into this bar [The 17 Hundred 90] for happy hour half the time. So it’s easy for me to look at them and say, ‘Yeah, you’re a liar. You’re lying. You’re full of s—.’”
As we finished our drinks, I joked about the possibility that he might start his own news periodical. “That would be bad a–,” he said. And, he admitted, it’s something he’s considered. He was offered a column for a local paper some time ago, but turned it down due to his unconventional opinions. “[Newspapers] still have to answer to the owner and their bosses. I just tend to p— too many people off.”