Savannah, the city of ghosts
his city is the ultimate ghost hunter’s paradise. Savannah (Georgia), in America’s Deep South, is notorious for having practically a 1:1 ghost-to-house ratio, and many places maintain that more than one bloody event took place on their grounds.
The city’s history is hardly one of peace and love. A port of entry for slaves and then a key battleground during the American Revolution, Savannah was ravished by several fires and in 1820 suffered a devastating outbreak of yellow fever… So much misfortune seems to explain the dozens of ghosts who roam these streets. Added to this, a handful of mysterious murders and a thriving Voodoo culture add the cherry on top in a city where the dead are as important as the living.
Visitors to the city are spoilt for choice, with more than 30 tours that explore all the ghostly legends and phenomena. Most are done by foot at night, but some companies, like Hearse Ghost Tours, pull out all the stops and offer a spine-tingling (but very fun) ride in a hearse. Actor James McAvoy and the band Kings of Leon have ridden in it.
America’s most haunted city...
In 2003, the American Institute of Paranormal Psychology named Savannah “America’s Most Haunted City.” Jason Hawes, founder of The Atlantic Paranormal Society and host of the show ‘Ghost Hunters’ said, “Savannah is literally built on its dead.”
Colonial Park Cemetery is the epicentre of all paranormal activity in the city. Opened in 1750, it is the final resting place for more than 10,000 souls, including Rene Rondolier. The story goes that Rene murdered two young girls and was later lynched. Rondolier’s ghost has often been reported walking through the cemetery, or hanging from a tree. It is also rumoured that Voodoo ceremonies took place in these grounds, as did many duels.
Mercer Williams House is another must-see of any ghost tour. Now a museum, the building was featured in Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. Designed in an Italian style, with 18th century furniture and Chinese porcelain, the mansion is supposedly ‘inhabited’ by the ghost of Jim Williams, a wealthy antiques dealer who organised lavish parties and whose lover was murdered in strange circumstances.
Meanwhile, Davenport House, built in 1820 is a fine example of Federal-style architecture. Facing demolition in 1955, it was the first building to be saved by the Historic Savannah Foundation (merely hours before demolition) in their attempt to preserve the city’s oldest buildings. Not one, but two different ghost stories surround this house. One involves a little girl in period dress playing in the attic and the other is about a cat.
The house on 432 Abercorn Street was built on top of slave burial grounds, hence the spirits that inhabit the building. Many slaves reached the city by means of an underground tunnel (Factors’ Walk) used to smuggle them through before they were transported elsewhere. Pirates used to shanghai people through the alleyway and onto their ships, and the spirits of those unfortunates now linger to scare the tourists.
The Pirate’s House Restaurant is also ripe with sightings of ghosts who join patrons now and again. When it comes to food-loving ghosts, there’s also James Habersham, former owner of The Olde Pink House, who hung himself in the kitchen. His ghost is said to still walk the floors, welcoming guests and making sure everything runs smoothly.
If dining with ghosts isn’t enough, you can always share a room with them too at The Marshall House, a former army hospital that has its fair share of ghosts of bloody soldiers. Or stay at Kehoe House, where the spirits of children are said to be trapped in the chimney. Be warned, however: getting a good night’s sleep is far from guaranteed.