Savannah, GA, is one of the few cities in America that boasts a history as rich and complex as the nation itself while still retaining a sweet charm and elegance all its own. From the tree-lined streets, colonial revivals, and Spanish moss blanketing the squares, the city seems to embody the very essence of Southern Gothic style. But beneath the gentility and peach-filled pies hides a past steeped in violence and death.
Critical Civil War campaigns, Yellow Fever epidemics, ravaging fires, brutal murders, and devastating heartbreak make up the backbone of what was once a young Savannah trying to keep itself alive. The consequence of such a brutal past is that the spirits of the historic city are restless and the supernatural energy only continues to build. Fanning the paranormal pyre is the fact that when the city needed to expand, it simply removed headstones and built over the graves. Most of Savannah is, quite literally, built on the backs of the dead.
While it's true that you can't go far in Savannah without tripping over a haunting, the ghost lore and urban legends only seem to endorse the notion that this isn't just a city with haunted places - it's a city haunted in it's entirety. The psychic energy seems to run through every speck of dirt and bolster every beam and brick. You can read more about these infamous ghost stories from Savannah and how it became a city ruled by the dead.
- Photo: Sabrina Ithal
The Child Murderer Who Played In Savannah's Underground Tunnels
There has never been an urban legend fought over as vehemently as that of Savannah's Rene Rondolier. According to legend, Rondolier was born with genetic mutations and grew to be a beast of a man. Clocking in at over seven feet tall, Rondolier would stalk the streets at night, dig up corpses in the cemetery, and snap the necks of small animals. After snapping the neck of a young girl in an alley, Rondolier killed two more little girls and dragged their bodies into the tunnels underneath Colonial Park Cemetery. He would then use the tunnels to hide or carry out the misdeeds of his depraved mind. A mob eventually found him in the maze of tunnels and hung him from a tree in the cemetery.
After his death, the bodies of a woman and two little girls were found not far from where Rondolier was hung. It was believed that his ghost came back to carry on his legacy of blood. Over the years, some have claimed to see the monstrous figure of a man loping through the cemetery at night. Cries of a little girl can be heard and a body can be seen hanging by its neck from the branch of a tree and swaying in the wind. When a man who was restoring the old Rondolier house found the grave of Rondolier and opened the coffin, it was completely empty.
- Photo: Sabrina Ithal
The Darkest House In Savannah Is Built On Blood
Lurking quietly on the corner of Madison Square is one of the darkest fixtures in the all of haunted Savannah. Built in the 1840's by wealthy shipping merchant, Francis Sorrel, the Sorrel-Weed house is the site of some of the most grisly moments in American history.
Rumor has it that the site's significant paranormal activity is due to the death of Frank Sorrel's wife, Matilda. Frank had been having a long-standing affair with a servant girl named Molly and had moved her into special accommodations above the carriage house. When Matilda discovered her husband's infidelity, she threw herself from the second story balcony and split her head open on the flagstone beneath. Weeks later, Molly was found hanging from a noose in the carriage house.
The house seems to harbor a vortex of dark energy that causes nausea and the sensation of being choked for those who venture into the basement. In the dining room mirror, specters are often seen staring back at shocked guests. Lights flash on and off, EVP recordings have revealed voices and screams, and many visitors find dark shadows lurking in their pictures. People have reported seeing a lone lantern light moving past the windows in the space above the carriage house, and even a face peering out and surveying the backyard.
While the house itself may seem to be the cause of such disturbances, the very plot of land it sits on is caked in blood. Over a thousand men were slaughtered on that spot during the Siege of Savannah, which is considered to be the most grisly bloodbath in the entire Revolutionary War. Whether it's due to the remnants of a family tragedy or the unrest of a thousand butchered brothers, the Sorrel-Weed house is deemed the epitome of Savannah ghost stories.
- Photo: Sabrina Ithal
Forgotten Bodies In A Mass Grave Make Their Presence Known
Savannah was ravaged by a mercilous Yellow Fever epidemic in 1820. The seaport city was no stranger to rampant bouts of this viral infection - due to its southern climate, Savannah was an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying the disease. Having no understanding of the illness or how it was spread, citizens were swept up into a panic and resorted to extreme methods of prevention such as drinking turpentine, burning tar, and firing cannons down city streets. The dead were often dumped in mass pits in hopes of keeping the fever contained.
Colonial Park Cemetery is nearly as old as Savannah itself and is known to be the resting place for Revolutionary War patriots and city founders. However, nestled in the northern corner of this historical burial ground is a mass grave containing the outbreak's 700 victims. There are no names listed - simply a plaque marking the epidemic.
Shadowy figures have been seen sloping around the area and a green mist reportedly drifts around the neighboring headstones. Dancing balls of light have been spotted and some claim to have encountered oppressive cold spots. Ghost hunters make it a point to hold EVP sessions over the mass grave hoping to give a voice to these nameless and forgotten souls.
- Photo: Sabrina Ithal
The Statue That Weeps Blood
Some of Savannah's most beautiful works of art lie in Bonaventure Cemetery on the outskirts of the city. Once a part of plantation lands, it became open to public internment in 1907 and is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in America. Among the most famous of Savannah's ghost stories is Bonaventure's very own Little Gracie.
In 1889, six-year-old Gracie Watson succumbed to pneumonia. Her father was so devastated that he commissioned a local artist to create a unique memorial for his daughter, resulting in a life-size sculpture that bore an uncanny resemblance to his little girl. As a tribute, visitors to Gracie's grave often leave stuffed animals, toys, and money near the site to this day.
Little Gracie has been seen skipping among the headstones, or laughing and playing near her plot. It's said that if you remove any of the trinkets from her memorial, the statue's eyes will cry tears of blood. Sounds of a small child weeping have also been heard breaking through the stillness of Bonaventure Cemetery.