Getting to Know the Ghosts of Savannah

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Savannah, Georgia, is often touted as being “the most haunted city in America.” During the day, the city is big and old and beautiful, with aging Victorian houses and ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss. Millions of people come to Savannah each year to drink in its history, devour some of its food, and bask in its distinct Southern charm.

Savannah

But at dusk, they also come to Savannah to explore the city's darker aspects.

Savannah's dark history

Savannah has a long, long history. Established in 1733, this port city was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia, and was also the state's first capital once it was granted statehood in 1788. It served as a battleground during the American Revolution, and again during the Civil War. Much of the present-day city is actually built on top of old gravesites that were the final resting places of not only soldiers and aristocrats, but also slaves and victims of disease like those who died in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1820.

Add to this a population that over the centuries has included everyone from voodooists to pirates, and Savannah becomes the perfect backdrop for spooky ghost tales and unexplained events.

Savannah

Today, Savannah's downtown area is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States, and there are plenty of ghost tours that will mix the history of the area with some of those spectral stories.

Savannah ghost tours

There are walking tours, cemetery tours, haunted pub tours, and even one ghost tour that takes place in an old converted hearse. (Yup, the reality is just like it sounds. Tourists are put in the back of a converted hearse (a REAL hearse) and driven through the darkening streets of Savannah.)

I've taken a couple different ghost tours in Savannah, including a spooky walking tour and, yes, one of those hearse tours. Many of these tours are meant to be more educational than frightening, and are basically just an awesome, unconventional way to learn more about Savannah and its history.

Savannah
Hearse tour

Are all the ghost stories you hear on a Savannah ghost tour true? Probably not. In fact, doing a bit of poking around on the Internet suggests that many I've heard have been completely fabricated, such as the ones that include a “giant” child strangler in Colonial Park Cemetery, Jack the Ripper-type murders of little girls in a house on Abercorn street, and the legend of Captain Flint (of “Treasure Island” fame) dying at the Pirate House pub.

But you know what? The stories sure seemed creepy enough at the time.

Bonaventure Cemetery

Check out these ghost tours

Savannah ghost stories

In all honesty, though, who doesn't like a good ghost story?

Some famous Savannah ghost stories include:

  • The story of the outcast “giant” Rene Ache Rondolier, who is said to have lived in Colonial Park Cemetery in the early 1800s. Rene was accused of murdering two girls and was hung for his offenses. Afterward, though, more bodies turned up in Colonial Park, and the townspeople blamed Rene's ghost.
  • The story of an old abandoned hospital/sanitarium where brave souls on ghost tours can go down into a dark and supposedly haunted tunnel. One guide told us that victims of plague/fever/disease were often removed from the hospital and placed in the tunnel — sometimes still alive. (Needless to say, I did NOT go in…)
  • The story of the 17Hundred90 house, now a bar and inn which is rumored to have as many as three ghosts-in-residence.
  • The story of the Mercer House (birthplace of John Mercer), where mysterious murders inspired the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (pretty much required reading before a trip to Savannah!).
  • The story of one of the 22 city squares where most of Savannah's lynchings used to take place. A guide told us that, because of all the death that happened in this square, Spanish Moss won't grow on the old oak tree where the ropes used to be tied. A bunch of BS? Perhaps. But there was an obvious lack of moss on the tree he pointed out…
  • And, of course, the unsubstantiated creepy stories associated with the old mansion at 432 Abercorn Street, where it's said that multiple children have been killed in the past, including 2 or 3 little girls killed in a fashion similar to London prostitutes killed by Jack the Ripper.

I realize most of these stories are made up. I know it is silly to believe that Jack the Ripper traded in British prostitutes for Savannah children. But it didn't stop me from getting goosebumps at that site, half-expecting to see the spectral figure of a little girl in the window or hear some disembodied giggling.

Savannah

And that's the whole point of a touristy ghost tour, right? To learn some real history, and then hear some spooky stories.

Just like the embellished stories you heard around the campfire as a kid, whether the Savannah ghost stories are real are not aren't really a concern as you're walking Savannah's streets after dark or being chauffeured around in your hearse.

Bonaventure Cemetery

Whether you believe the stories or not, taking a ghost tour is pretty much required in Savannah, Georgia.

Have you been to Savannah and gotten familiar with any of its ghosts?

 

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Savannah ghost tours and ghost stories

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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29 Comments on “Getting to Know the Ghosts of Savannah

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  1. I love ghost tours. I did a night tour of the old Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, it was very creepy, especially when we got to the hanging room. Savannah sounds like a cool place.

      I’ve heard the Fremantle Prison is pretty cool! I’ve been to Fremantle, but didn’t go anywhere near the prison. Sounds creepy though!

      And yes, Savannah is a very cool place!

    When you’re in UK, do go for a ghost tour in Edinburgh. And would especially recommend ‘The Real Mary King’s Close’ which is less a ghost tour, more a tour through history – it takes you to the underground tunnels and living apartments beneath the city.

      Oooh, that sounds really cool! I really like history and hearing stories about cities. And if there are some creepy ones thrown in, even better! I’ll keep this suggestion in mind. Thanks!

    We have ghost tours in San Antonio, too, but these sound pretty amazing. The prison sounds scariest. Thanks for the post!

      Savannah has probably 20-30 companies that offer ghost tours around the city. They take their spooky history very seriously!

      I’d love to do a ghost tour in San Antonio, though. That sounds fun! I’ve heard great things about that city.

        If you ever get a chance to visit, definitely let me know, and we’ll find some cool stuff for you to see.

    The south is FULL of ghosts!!

      Sure seems like it!! What sorts of ghost stories have you heard down South?

    Savannah is so cool, and so spooky also. The cemetery tour is outstanding.

      I only spent one day in Savannah, but it definitely made an impression on me. I can’t wait to go back someday and really delve into the city!

    Hi Amanda, thanks for the write-up on our rather haunted city. Pretty much everywhere you go someone has a ghost story to tell you. If you ever come back send me a message on my website, I will send you to some pretty neat haunted ‘hot-spots’! Quite honestly, most of the ghost tours here in town border on the extremely corny.

      Yes, it certainly seems like everyone in Savannah has a ghost story to tell. But I think that’s part of what makes it such an interesting city!

      I’ll definitely keep your offer in mind if I ever return to Savannah (which I certainly hope to!). I realize most of the “ghost tours” are more corny than anything. But I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy a little corniness in my life every now and then!

    Savannah is certainly spooky. Did your tour take you to the Sorell-Weed House? I toured the home and it has several ghost stories including the owner couldn’t live it any more due to all of the activity. The present owner has also said the same thing. I guess there are some many ghost stories in Savannah it would be difficult to fit them in all in one tour!

      No, we didn’t tour the Sorell-Weed house, but I read your post about it! Savannah certainly does have enough ghost stories to go around…

    I’d to take a walk through that cemetery at night. It looks too eerie for words! Does anyone remember the 90s soap Savannah? There was everything “ghastly” about that…

      Hahaha, I don’t remember that soap… but I can only imagine…

      The cemeteries were really creepy at night, especially as we were being told ghost stories about them as we drove by!

    We also too the hearse tour and LOVED it .. we are normally not the tour kind of guys but sitting in that hearse with a drink = Priceless!

      Haha, it’s so random that it’s awesome! I would definitely do it again.

    The hauntedness only makes me want to see Savannah more.

    I took a different kind of hearse tour here in New York. It’s called Dead Apple Tours, and you do ride in an actual hearse; but instead of haunted locations, they take you to places around the city where notable deaths occurred (so I guess some of those spots could theoretically become haunted). 🙂 Anyway, the looks on the faces of some people in other cars, when they looked through the back window of the hearse and saw us tour group members sitting in there, were pretty hilarious. 🙂

      Haha, yeah, if you want to see some funny looks on people’s faces, a hearse tour is definitely the way to go! I think I’ve heard of Dead Apple Tours before… sounds kind of cool!

    I am leary to say this because I really do not believe in this stuff. But in the past two weeks I have had two events that happened in my office that really concern me. There may be
    merit to these ghost forces.

    Ghost tours creep me out haha! Me and my friends went on a trip to an old haunted hospital in Orlando. Terrifying! Got to make sure to stop by when I’m in Georgia in a couple months.

      They creep me out, too, but as long as I’m not by myself I think they’re kinda fun!

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