Updated: Mar 11, 2020
Savannah is a beautiful city with a rich history that stretches all the way back to 1733. It’s been named as one of the top 10 most beautiful places in America by USA Weekend Magazine and is the childhood home of Flannery O’ Connor. But Savannah also has a darker history as one of the most haunted cities in the country.
Savannah has certainly had its fair share of death and destruction. 10 separate yellow fever epidemics killed tens of thousands of people, and numerous fires and murders have only contributed to the city’s tragic past. So it’s no wonder so many buildings in Savannah have some sort of paranormal story behind them. Let’s look at 10 of the many haunted places in Savannah, Georgia.
1. the Foley House Inn
Built by a wealthy widow named Honoria Foley back in 1896, the Foley House Inn boasts 19 beautiful guest rooms and has been named Best Inn in the South by Southern Living magazine. But underneath that beauty is a pretty crazy story.
The inn was built over a house that had been destroyed by the Great Savannah Fire in 1889. But despite these dark beginnings, the first 100 or so years of the inn’s operation went relatively smoothly. Mrs. Foley and later, her son and grandchildren, all lived at the inn with nothing too bizarre happening. But all this turned on its head in 1987, when human remains were found behind a wall in the building.
To this day, the remains have never been identified, though most people seem to believe the body belonged to a guest at the inn. There is a “theory” behind who the person is and what happened, though I’d say it’s more of a legend.
As the story goes, the body belonged to a man in town who was romantically interested in Mrs. Foley and booked a room at the inn to get close and woo her. But when he got her alone and made his move, she wasn’t having it. He attacked her and she hit him over the head with a candlestick, killing him. Although the killing was clearly done in self defense, Mrs. Foley was afraid she’d be implicated in the murder. So she somehow convinced another boarder to help her hide the body, where it remained for decades.
At some point, the dead person was given the nickname “Wally” — get it? Because he was found in a wall…Wally…look I didn’t name the guy, okay?
Anyway, I’m not sure if the ghost stories started before or after Wally’s body was found. But people have reported seeing a man in a top hat in the inn’s garden late at night. In another account, one guest said she saw a man enter in the front of the building and disappear into the wall. She found out the next day that the spot he disappeared into was the same spot the body had been pulled from the wall years earlier.
The story of who Wally really is is probably just that — a story. But regardless of its authenticity — or lack thereof — the Foley House Inn doesn’t shy away from its paranormal past. It offers a ‘haunted Savannah’ package that includes a haunted pub tour, placement in a supposedly haunted room and lunch at another famous haunted location, Moon River Brewing.
2. Factor's Walk
On a bluff close to the Savannah River is an area known as Factor’s Walk. The buildings that line it used to be cotton warehouses, though they’ve since been converted into various shops and offices and connected by iron and concrete walkways. But one of the more interesting aspects of this area is the tunnels.
The tunnels supposedly go all over Savannah, and at least one of the entrances is in Factor’s Walk. They’re thought to have been used to transport slaves, who were led through the buildings and into the tunnels. On an even darker note, there are also stories of people being bricked up in the walls.
Between the Poe-esque stories and slave tunnels, it’s easy to see why people experience paranormal activity in this area. The ghosts of slaves, disembodied moans from the tunnels and shadow people have all been reported. These particular ghosts are also pretty touchy feely, as quite a bit of physical contact has been reported, including people who felt cold hands touching them. A now-closed store called Melonie’s also had a ‘woman in blue.’ Witnesses would hear disembodied footsteps and see a blue-clad woman who would promptly vanish. Small objects would break, seemingly on their own — though to be fair, that could have been the work of a careless employee.
3. the Savannah Theatre
Opened in 1818, the Savannah Theatre was one of the many locations damaged by the fires that ravaged Savannah. As a result, it’s been rebuilt multiple times — and paranormal activity has been reported there as far back as 1895.
All the ghosts who haunt the theatre are thought to have died there — and there are quite a few of them. Among them are a ghost actress who will appear on stage, and a ghost director whose disembodied voice shouts from an empty seat in the audience. Both a little boy and a little girl have been spotted as well as heard from the balcony. The boy is said to be named ‘Ben’ and he loves harassing the spotlight operator. There’s also a projectionist ghost who’s been seen on the balcony and in the projection room, I guess left over from when the theatre used to be an actual movie theatre.
According to one popular story concerning the theatre, a group of female dancers was getting ready for a show one night. They were in the middle of changing costumes when they felt like something was watching them — presumably all at once, which is interesting all on its own. So they freaked and ran out of the dressing rooms, even though they weren’t done changing. I’m sure that was quite a sight for all the theatergoers and staff.
There’s one more thing about the Savannah Theatre that I found interesting. Several well known actors have performed there, including Oscar Wilde and Lillian Russell. Also among those names is Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth, who, of course, assassinated Abraham Lincoln back in 1865. I wonder if this dark connection made the theatre more susceptible to hauntings?
4. Colonial Park Cemetery
These days, if you have a problem with someone and want to confront them, you’ll probably just end up yelling at them on Facebook. It’s pretty unlikely that you’d resort to meeting them at a dueling ground and pulling a weapon on them — at least not without someone calling 911. But for a pretty large portion of American history, dueling was perfectly legal. One of these dueling grounds was just outside Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah.
Established in 1750, the 6 acre cemetery holds over 9,000 graves and was the city’s main public cemetery until it was closed to burials in 1853. But the ghosts of people who died in duels probably aren’t the only spirits here.
Remember those yellow fever epidemics I talked about earlier? As it turns out, quite a few yellow fever victims were buried in Colonial Park. How many, exactly? Well…that’s a great question. A plaque at the cemetery says “nearly 700” Savannah residents succumbed to the disease that year. But how many is “nearly” 700? Some people believe there were actually 666 victims, and whoever wrote the plaque rounded up to avoid references to the so-called “devil’s number.”
After the cemetery was closed to burials, Union soldiers occupied Savannah during the Civil War. These soldiers reportedly vandalized graves, changing death dates and digging up graves and moving them. Many people believe that the boundaries of the cemetery have shifted and people are actually buried on the street outside cemetery rather than inside the actual grounds. If this did happen, it’s not necessarily the fault of Union soldiers — the graves were probably moved to make room for new ones. But if I were a ghost and someone vandalized my grave, I’d be pretty upset…just putting it out there.
5. the old Candler Hospital
Georgia’s first hospital was originally named Savannah Poor House and Hospital and chartered in 1804 for sick seamen. Go ahead and make your jokes; I don’t even care.
The building was eventually acquired by the Georgia Hospital Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and renamed in honor of Bishop Warren A. Candler. It moved locations in 1980 and merged with St. Joseph’s Hospital, where it still is today. As of 2016, the old building is up for sale, but sits abandoned.
Just like Factor’s Walk, this old hospital building has tunnel entrances. There are rumors that the tunnels here were used to store bodies of the many yellow fever victims that died there — and that said bodies were used for illegal autopsies. One witness who claims to have been there said they went with a group, and as soon as the group started to discuss the illegal autopsies, all their flashlights suddenly shut off.
But believe it or not, the building’s other notable “attraction” might be even darker. On the property sits an old oak tree, often called “the hanging tree.” Witnesses have reported seeing apparitions hanging from the tree at night. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you might just hear the phrase “hanging tree” and immediately think of Mockingjay. Admit it: you just started singing the song. It’s okay — I did too.
6. the Sorrel-Weed House
Arguably one of the more well-known places on this list, the Sorrel-Weed House has been featured on shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and Buzzfeed Unsolved. Considering that it’s been called one of the most haunted houses in the country, this probably isn’t a shock.
But before there was a house, the land was the setting for the Siege of Savannah in 1779. It was the middle of the Revolutionary War, and the British had taken Savannah the previous December. So the American troops recruited the French to help retake it. The siege lasted from September 16 to October 18, but the French and Americans failed to retake the city, and the British remained in control of it until the end of the war. The siege ended with nearly 300 soldiers dead and over 600 wounded. So the land already had some bad vibes going for it from the start.
In the early 1840’s, Francis Sorrel built the house as a private residence for he and his wife, Lucinda. Lucinda died a few years later, and Francis married her younger sister, Matilda. But when Matilda found her husband in bed with a slave girl named Molly, she jumped to her death off the balcony. Molly also died a few weeks later, presumably by her own hand — or perhaps at the hands of Matilda’s vengeful spirit.
Needless to say, there’s no shortage of reports of strange activity in the house. Guests have claimed to take orb photos and audio recordings of screams. One author captured a person on camera who they didn’t believe was part of their tour group, and thinks it might have been the ghost of a solider. A “lady in black” has also been spotted on the premises, though it’s not clear exactly who she is.
The house offers all sorts of tours — both paranormal and historical. Guests can participate in their own investigations three times a week as well as an “after hours paranormal lock-in” which sounds like a paranormal investigation that lasts all night. Personally, I think I’m getting a bit old to stay up all night. But if you’re unwilling or unable to make it to the house yourself, there are tons of investigations that have been filmed and posted all over the internet. So give them a watch for yourself and see if you believe the legends.
7. Wright Square
Named for James Wright, Georgia’s last Loyal Governor, Wright Square was laid out in 1733, making it one of the city’s oldest squares. In that time, it’s amassed quite a few terrible stories which, understandably, have led to some ghostly legends.
The first one doesn’t seem to have any real life story attached to it, so I thought I’d go ahead and tell it first, and that is the story of the racist ghost. Witnesses have reported the ghost of a white woman who carries around a stick and swings it at any black person who walks by. You know, I’ve heard a lot of strange things since starting this channel…but racist ghost is a new one.
Technically, there’s only one person buried in the square. Tomochichi was chief of the Yamacraw tribe as well as an English ally. He always wanted to be buried close to his English friends in Savannah and, when he died in 1737, his request was honored. His body was buried in the center of the square and marked by rocks.
But 1882 brought the death of another prominent Savannah figure — Georgia Railroad found William Washington Gordon. He’s not actually buried in the square, but the rocks marking Tomochichi’s grave were strewn about to make room for a monument to Gordon. Some sources say his body was exhumed as well and his bones scattered, but I’m not sure if this is true. A full monument to Tomochichi was eventually erected, and now sits in the southeast corner of the square. As the legend goes, if you run around his memorial three times while saying ‘Tomochici,’ his ghost may appear.
But the square’s most famous ghost is that of a woman named Alice Riley. Alice and a man named Richard White were Irish immigrants who came to Savannah in the early 1730’s. Some sources say they were husband and wife, but most say they were lovers. Regardless, Alice and Richard became indentured servants to a man named William Wise. William was a cruel master, and Alice and Richard soon made a plan to escape together. It was Alice’s job to bathe William, so one day while he was being bathed, she strangled him with a neckerchief and dunked his head underwater until he died.
The couple tried to run away but was quickly caught and almost immediately taken to the gallows. Richard was hanged pretty quickly, but Alice’s life was spared for a few months because she was pregnant. It’s assumed the baby was Richard’s, but some people believe William Wise was actually the father, and was even more cruel than we could have imagined.
Alice gave birth to a baby boy named James some time in late 1734. In January 1735, six weeks after giving birth, she was hanged as well. James died two weeks after his mother, and they were buried together in a grave just outside the square.
But did the police have the wrong culprits all along? Alice always maintained her innocence, and there is speculation that she and Richard were framed because they were Irish Catholics, who weren’t looked on too well back then. There were also rumors that Alice was a witch who cursed the town before she died, but these rumors are thought to have been perpetrated by the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiments of the day. Well, there’s still plenty of anti-Catholic sentiment even today, but that’s a different video. And whether Alice’s spirit is angry that she was killed for a crime she didn’t commit, or if she’s just sorry she got caught, she has pretty good motive to stick around and mess with the living.
Alice is said to still roam the square, approaching pregnant women or women with babies, trying to take the babies away. Others say she cries out for her own son, but promptly disappears when anyone volunteers to help. Her story reminds me a lot of La Llorona, though she’s clearly a much more sympathetic ghost.
8. the 17hundred90 Inn
Contrary to what it may seem like, the 17hundred90 restaurant and inn wasn’t founded in 1790. It actually used to be three separate buildings, all built in the 1800’s. 1790 is a reference to the year Savannah had their first mayoral election and formed a city government.
The first two ghosts that supposedly call this place home don’t really have backstories. The first is a boy named Thaddeus who’s been spotted on the first floor of the hotel, specifically in the restaurant. He likes to leave pennies lying around and guests sometimes feel a warm presence, presumably due to him. I’ve never heard of a ghost that hands out money, but he’s more than welcome to come to my house and leave me coins.
The next ghost isn’t quite as nice. This one was supposedly a voodoo priestess and likes to hang out in the kitchen, throwing pots and pans and spice jars at workers. She’s said to target women quite a bit, even though she herself is a woman. Ghosts are weird.
But the inn’s most famous ghost has so many stories attached to her, most sources can’t even agree on her name. She was either named Anna or Anne. She was either in an arranged marriage to a sailor, or was in an arranged marriage with someone else and fell in love with a sailor. She may or may not have been a bar maid at the hotel. In most versions, her story ends the same: Her sailor boyfriend left her and, in her distress, she jumped to her death from a third floor window of the hotel. In some versions, she’s killed by her husband. The husband she cheated on with the sailor, not the sailor she was in an arranged marriage with. I know, it’s confusing.
Anna is said to haunt room 204, presumably the room where she fell to her death. Guests have reported small items like wallets and jewelry being moved as well as tugging on their sheets. Some even say they’ve seen a strange girl in the room, standing by the bed and crying. I’ve also read that Miley Cyrus stayed here while filming The Last Song in 2009 and tweeted a picture of a handprint on her boots, supposedly from Anna. I could never find the original tweet, but The Last Song was filmed on nearby Tybee Island, so an encounter like this is certainly possible.
9. Calhoun Square
The supposed “most haunted square in old Savannah” isn’t just the home of schools, churches and private residences. It’s also a burial ground for slaves. Bones exhumed from the square in the early 2000’s were later found to be the 200-year-old bones of slaves. Countless people have reported feeling a heavy weight on their chests or had shadows pass through them while walking through Calhoun Square.
But most of the legends surrounding the square are centered on one house: 432 Abercorn Street. There are multiple stories about what might have happened here, and none of them have much evidence to back them up — but they’re still told today, and it probably won’t be hard for you to figure out why.
The first story concerns a former owner named Benjamin Wilson. Benjamin reportedly wasn’t too happy about his daughters playing with kids at the nearby Massie School, where most of the students were lower class. So as punishment, he tied her to a chair and left her there for several days until she died. Another story tells of a family who left four of their daughters at home and three of them were dead when they came back. The stories never specify exactly how the girls died.
But in my opinion, the most fascinating story associated with 432 Abercorn Street concerns another former resident named Wesley Espy. Wesley’s father was Carl Espy, a judge who was secretly involved with bootleggers. Wesley fell in love with a girl who was also dating a bootlegger who had ties to Carl Espy. (I’m staring to realize how much this whole thing sounds like a bad soap opera.) Carl found out about the relationship between Wesley and the bootlegger’s girlfriend and begged him to stop seeing her, not wanting his son to have to bear the wrath of the bootleggers. But Wesley didn’t listen. Soon after this conversation, Wesley was found dead outside the home. People thought he jumped from the balcony, or perhaps fell in some sort of freak accident. Others are skeptical of this, and believe it was murder, either at the hands of Carl or one of the bootleggers. To add evidence to this theory, Wesley had a very specific injury to his lower body that couldn’t easily be done by a simple fall off the balcony. I won’t go into any more detail because I’d like to not get demonetized — although the way this video is going, that might happen anyway.
Wesley’s ghost has been seen on the porch in the early mornings, supposedly coming home after a late night out with his girlfriend. (Or maybe he just wants to watch the sunrise.) People have also reported shadowy figures, strange noises, camera failure outside the house, crying and giggling. The current owners don’t actually live inside the house, but in the carriage house behind it — make of that what you will.
10. the Gribble House
The building at 401 West Perry Street is now a warehouse. But until 1941, it was a boarding house — and the site of what the press would later call “the most diabolical crime in the history of Savannah.”
On December 8, 1909, Maggie Hunter moved into the boarding house, then owned by Eliza Gribble and her daughter, Carrie Ohlander. Maggie was newly separated from her husband, J.C. Hunter, and no doubt looking for a fresh start. But it wouldn’t last long at all. The very next afternoon, a passerby found Maggie in the doorway of the home. She was barely alive; her skull had been crushed by an ax. Eliza Gribble and Carrie Ohlander were found inside; they had suffered the same fate, but already succumbed to their wounds. Maggie died three days later, but right before she died, she implicated her estranged husband in the crime.
But the police — and the press — took the case in a different direction. Warring newspapers of the day insisted the culprit was black, and police questioned over 150 black men. There was fear that the murders and subsequent suspicions of black men would prompt race riots, and at least one was reported. But finally, on February 10, J.C. Hunter and two other men were indicted in the murders. J.C. was convicted and sentenced to death, but was pardoned by then-governor Clifford Walker in 1923. It’s largely believed that he killed his wife due to anger over her infidelity, and that his other two victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Even though the Gribble House is now a warehouse, it has no shortage of hauntings. The grounds apparently used to be slave quarters as well — just like many of these places — which no doubt contributes. Local paranormal investigators have gotten plenty of EVP’s in the area, and one of them was even physically scratched. People have reported being touched and hearing voices telling them to get out. A ‘lady in white’ appears in a wedding dress, as well as a ‘shadow man.’ (Well, I don’t think the shadow man wears a wedding dress…but you know what I mean.)
At one point, people could tour the warehouse and even conduct their own paranormal investigations. I don’t think you can do that anymore, but I’m pretty sure you can still at least see the grounds and hear the legends through the Ghost and Gravestones Trolley Tour. Come to think of it, you can probably see a lot of these locations and more on this tour — or one of the many others that Savannah offers.
So those are just 10 of Savannah’s haunted locations. There are TONS more that I had to leave out, but I might delve into some of them deeper later on. So, have you ever visited Savannah, or experienced paranormal activity there? Let me know in the comments. I was in Atlanta last year and thought about stopping in Savannah, but ultimately it was just too far out of the way to justify a detour. Now that I’ve learned some more about all the hauntings there, I’m starting to regret it.