March – May 2007 – Like any proper Southern lady, Savannah takes pride in herself and her place in our country’s history. I knew I could happily spent a few months here exploring some of its charms while working to support my travel habit. See my main Savannah page for that story.
Some of the info below is from my 2007 article in MotorHome Magazine, “Supernatural Savannah” with some extra pics and info.
“Not long after arriving in Savannah, I discovered a side of her I had not heard much of before. After being named “America’s Most Haunted City” by the American Institute of Parapsychology in 2002, many TV crews have tried with ghost buster detectors in hand to catch a glimpse of Savannah’s supernatural residents. It’s said that every square inch of the city is sitting square on top of innumerable grave sites, so if it’s true that ghosts are unhappy about their final resting places being built upon, we’ve got lots of peeved paranormals here. As one local resident quipped, “There are so many ghosts in Savannah houses, they have a union. It sets up what houses they can haunt and what hours. Out in the country, though, they are still on their own.”
“The spooky side of Savannah was certainly helped to the forefront by the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Some of the characters sound stranger than fiction, but are actual accounts of murder and voodoo curses among the elite and eccentric society of Savannah in the 1980’s. Bonaventure Cemetery is another stop made a “must-see” in Savannah by the book. You’ll see images of the “Bird Girl” statute featured on the cover almost everywhere you go. So many visitors came to see her at Bonaventure that it was disturbing to both the living and the dead, so she was relocated to the downtown Telfair Museum.
A life sized statue to her memory is at Bonaventure where she is forever dressed in her Easter best. The statute is so beloved by locals that there are always offers to have her cleaned when the oak drippings discolor her in any way. Totally made of marble, there is worry of the weather’s impact as well as man-made concerns. The fence that now surrounds her was placed just a few years ago because so many people were rubbing her for good luck it was wearing her down. Supposedly the chip on her nose came from kids shooting her with slingshots! So there is talk of moving her to the safety of Telfair, also. For now if you visit her at Bonaventure, listen for her giggling in the morning, but sobbing in the evening for her parents. Many locals who walk past her swear to this and say if you leave her a penny, you can hear a chuckle of delight. Guess she still hasn’t heard of inflation where she is if pennies still please her.”
Savannah’s Haunted Squares:
One of my favorite things about my time in Savannah was having the chance to explore its beautiful historic squares in the downtown area. There were certainly enough tales there to feed the fascination with Savannah having the reputation of being a very haunted place.
The Ghosts of Wright Square – Beneath the large oaks that now dominate Wright Square, blood has been spilled and anguish has been felt since the founding of Savannah in 1733. Wright Square was one of the original four squares to be laid out in Savannah’s Historic District, but while the other three squares have a much tamer history, the same cannot be said for slice of land which is bracketed by E. York and E. State Streets. The first white burial ground was located at Wright Square. At the southwest corner of the square, extending underneath some of the buildings, is where the bodies of those first buried in Savannah rest—but not all of them are at peace. A common theme that you will find throughout Savannah hauntings is that buildings, and roadways were often built on top of burial grounds.
In 1739, The Yamacraw Chief, Tomo-Chi-Chi, who offered peace and cooperation with the early Georgia colonists, was buried in the center of the square, and the stone pyramid that the settlers built to honor Tomo-Chi-Chi was marked as Savannah’s first monument. Over 100 years later, following the death of William Washington Gordon (1796-1842), a prominent and well respected politician and businessman who was also the founder and president of the Central Railroad and Banking Company (and who brought great wealth to Savannah’s economy) was given the honor of a memorial in Wright Square.
To make way for Gordon’s new memorial, the city desecrated Tomo-Chi-Chi’s grave. They unceremoniously removed his remains, reportedly scattering his bones around the plot of land. Preservationists, knowing just how unacceptable this act was handled, created a new memorial for Tomo-Chi-Chi. This new monument was made of granite stone, and now stands at the southeast corner of Wright Square.
The ghost of Tomo-Chi-Chi allegedly still resides in Wright Square. If you visit his monument on the southeast corner of the square, and run around it three times while saying “Tomo-Chi-Chi,” his ghost might actually appear.
Savannah’s Haunted Squares (Ghost City): It isn’t just the houses in Savannah that are haunted. Savannah is known for a lot of different things. Its haunted mansions, for one, are a major highlight to visitors of the city. But perhaps one aesthetic feature that is broadcasted from photograph to photograph is the city’s beloved squares. These green spaces have become the preferred places in the city for picnics, hanging out with friends, people-watching…and ghosts.
Haunted Squares in Savannah – (Savannah.com): Unsettling stories of torture, suicide and war sulk in the shadows of homes and historic squares all around the Georgia’s First City. Though much of the landscape has changed, a few things have not. Some say these things are spirits who won’t leave their places of tragedy, while other still say it’s just people’s minds playing tricks on them. Find out for yourself and visit these supposedly supernatural squares of Savannah.
For a glimpse of the spookier side of Savannah, hop on the “Trolley of the Doomed” on the Ghosts & Gravestones tour. A guy cloaked in black in his best gravedigger voice entertains you with tales of local terror and tragedy. I don’t know why, but there’s just something fascinating hearing of things that go beyond our usual daily experiences and standing where they took place.
Your guide tells tales of local mysteries and mayhem, and then escorts you into the Sorrel Weed house, featured on the Sci Fi channel as one of the spookiest in Savannah. Fun tour!
I didn’t get any spooked out feelings here, but after I got home and looked at these pictures, I see 3 orbs. Can you find them?
I, with my brother John, and sister-in-heart Lois, enjoyed one of the “Creepy Crawl” tours when they visited me in Savannah. We weren’t disappointed in the “spirits” of this kind as we were escorted into some of the spookiest pubs on an evening walking tour in the downtown district.
We started here at the Six Pence Pub. Do you recognize it? It was featured in the Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid movie “Something to Talk About” during the “nightgown scene,” in which Roberts’ character “Grace” catches her husband, “Eddie,” played by Quaid, with another woman.
But besides that claim to fame, according to Ghost City Tours: “At this British-style Pub, the “victims” of the paranormal activity most frequently are the pub’s employees. The kitchen staff have experienced all sorts of strange things happening behind the dining room area. Pans and pots have been known to go flying off the countertops, as though an invisible force has taken a sweeping hand and sent them sailing to the ground. But that’s not all. In one bizarre paranormal happenstance, a former manager of Six Pence watched an office chair turn in a circle and then slide across the floor untouched. Creepy? We think so, as well.”
This is the only one in a pub that came out with an “orb.” Some say these are ghostly globules and others insist they’re earthly dust particles. Who knows, but I got a kick out of actually seeing one hanging out at Churchill’s Pub!
If you have an appetite for treachery, have a meal at the Pirate’s House and check out the site said to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Look for the underground passage where unwary drunken sailors were dragged through when shanghaied. Maybe you’ll have a run-in with the famous pirate brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte, who docked here. In fact, Jean married a Savannah girl and said that he “was redeemed through the love of a noble woman.”
From their sign: “According to Legend…This stairway at one time led to the entrance of a tunnel which ran from the old rum cellar beneath the Pirates’ House to the banks of the Savannah River – a short block away. ‘Tis said that many able-bodied men, drinking in carefree abandon in what is now our Captain’s Room, were carried, drugged & unconscious, thru the tunnel to sailing ships anchored in the harbor & were shanghaied by short-handed ships’ masters to complete their crews.”
Tales of being shanghaied and other nefarious deeds abound in the downtown River Street area.
From The Most Haunted Places in Savannah: Nestled between Bay Street and River Street, Factor’s Walk was once a bustling center of commerce for Savannah’s cotton industry. It was home to the original Cotton Exchange, where the prices of cotton were determined for the entire industry worldwide. These brick, two and three storied buildings contained offices and warehouses and were connected by iron and concrete walkways. Today, thousands of people visit Factor’s Walk to frequent the pubs, restaurants, antique stores and specialty shops that are now housed inside the buildings. But there’s another aspect to this charming historic area, the one that includes the ghosts of those that lived, died and passed through here. The heartbreaking tales of murder, accidental deaths and slavery are real accounts of Factor’s Walk’s past and present. Many who visit have seen the shadows of slaves that were brought into the city by boat and others have heard the tormented moans coming from the tunnels, secret passageways and catacombs that still exist. Still others say that they felt as if someone with cold hands was touching them. A must see for ghost hunters, Factor’s Walk offers more than its share of mysterious experiences.
I could have sworn I saw ghosts walking around the grounds of Fort McAllister Historic State Park, but they turned out to be only flesh and blood.
Even in the kinda spooky feeling bunkers, I didn’t really experience anything that felt supernatural. I read reports where people entering the bunkers have met with transparent figures, and even the fort’s beloved “Tom Cat” is still seen darting around the ramparts. Some swear they feel a cat’s arched back rubbing against their legs when nothing can be seen. Here’s Tom’s story:
“The sole Confederate fatality after seven hours of intensive bombardment on March 3, 1863 by [several monitors] was the garrison mascot. The death of the cat was deeply regretted by the men, and news of the fatality was communicated to General Beauregard in the official report of the action.”
The fort holds battle reenactments every December and many visitors claim to have seen the half-headed body of Major Gallie pacing at night, still trying his best to protect the confederacy. On the grounds is a recreation of the building used for officer’s quarters back then. In such a peaceful setting now it’s hard to imagine the chaos of war taking place here. But I had a fascinating conversation with the campground hosts, Norman & Sylvia, about this house. Visiting friends stayed in the upstairs apartment and at 4:00 a.m. Norman got a call saying “We’re outta here!” They said they heard footsteps on the stairs all night and saw the doorknob to the bedroom turning even though they were the only ones there.
Beloved by many, Juliette Low is best known as the founder of the girl scouts. She was born in the historic district in 1860. Her childhood home became Savannah’s first National Historic Landmark and is one of the most popular tourist attractions to this day. Even though she was born on Halloween night, certainly her name does not usually conjure up images of anything spookier than roasting marshmallows. But the enduring love story of her parents, Willie and Nellie, led to Juliette writing to her brother about their mother, “She never pretended for a moment that he was not her first and last love, and we as nothing in comparison. I believe Papa thought that the triumph of his life! Maternal love is the inheritance of the ages, but love such as Mamma gave him, was a personal tribute.” Willie died in 1912 and upon Nellie’s final illness in 1917, she told her family not to cry or wear mourning. “I shall be so happy to be with my Willie again, everyone should celebrate.” Her family witnessed his promise to come for her when she died, and some swear that they saw his ghost coming out of his wife’s bedroom on the night she passed. Her children said “her face took on the radiance of a bride, going to meet her bridegroom.” Although they don’t tell the girl scouts who visit so as not to scare them, guides at the house today report seeing the ghost of Juliette’s grandmother, Sarah, and hearing the faint sounds of the pianoforte playing. One said “Sometimes I feel as though the whole family were present, just watching me, and then continues ‘life as usual’ when we all go home.”
Spooky but beautiful sites and cemeteries I visited: