432 Abercorn Street
Status: Former Residence, Abandoned, Famous Haunted House; Urban Legend; Private Property
Rumored to be the most haunted house in Savannah – which, in turn, is considered to be one of the most haunted cities in North America - there are countless stories and legends about this house. A very few of them true; most of them not so much.
Construction was begun on this house in 1868 on grounds that had been a slave graveyard. Much like the burial grounds of the Aboriginal Peoples the graveyards of slaves were not given any thought much less respect by the white European settlers.
There are many burial grounds belonging to slaves and the Indigenous Peoples of North America underneath the structures and streets of Savannah. This has led to many saying the city is cursed. With the epidemics of Yellow Fever and Cholera as well as battles in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War leading to thousands of deaths here they might be right.
Many also believe Calhoun Square – where this house is located – is the soul and center of the paranormal activity and curses of the city.
The house was completed in 1869 for Benjamin Wilson – a Civil War veteran – and his family becoming one of the most expensive houses in the city. Shortly after moving into the house Wilson’s wife passed away in the Yellow Fever epidemic. It is after this that stories separate from the truth.
While Mr Wilson may have been strict with his children there is no truth to the story that he punished his daughter so severely that she died resulting in him killing himself. Wilson did not die in the house – let alone by his own hand – or even in Georgia. He passed away in Colorado in 1896.
He did have 2 daughters; but both lived long beyond childhood.
There is also no truth that 4 young girls died (3 being murdered) in the house in the 1950’s or 60’s depending on which story you believe. Then there’s the story a student of the nearby art college disappeared in the house – apparently sucked into some demonic dimension – which is nothing short of ridiculous. Finally, the head of the Church of Satan wanting to buy the house is also just another Urban Legend.
The house now sits behind a fence and completely empty – although it does have an owner and is private property – and is definitely the local haunted house.
Because, although all the urban legends are just that, the house is actually haunted.
Most commonly experienced is a powerful sense of negative energy that surrounds and emanates from the property.
People have also both seen and photographed shadow figures, as well as shadowy apparitions, in the windows of the house.
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This cemetery became famous after being featured in the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and then in Clint Eastwood’s movie based on the book.
It is probably the place you see in your mind when you think of a charming old southern cemetery.
It was founded on a bluff above the Wilmington River on the site of the Bonaventure Plantation in 1846. The 600 acres sold already had a private family cemetery on site. The son of the first owner sold the cemetery to the City of Savannah and the city made the burial grounds public. It now covers over 1000 acres.
There are a number of famous former citizens of both Savannah and the State of Georgia buried here.
There are still a number of internment plots available for sale in the cemetery. You do not need to be a citizen of Savannah or even Georgia to buy a plot.
The cemetery is open from 8am to 5 pm every day to the public.
Gracie Watson – known as Little Gracie – died when she was 6 years old from pneumonia in 1889. The death of children at young ages was far more frequent in the 19th century than it is now but that’s not to say her parents weren’t devastated.
Her parents ran a hotel and were wealthy for the time. Her father had a famous sculptor create a life sized statue of Gracie from just a photo. That statue is now in the cemetery over Gracie’s grave.
Gracie’s apparition is frequently seen in Johnson Square in the city where her father’s hotel once stood. She is very cheerful and has been known to interact with the living. She is always wearing a white dress when she plays in the Square.
This article, though, is focused on the cemetery. Many people leave Gracie flowers and toys to play with. Should anyone be, shall we say, cruel enough to remove a plaything from Gracie’s grave it is said her statue will cry tears of blood.
If stealing from a child, even a living impaired one, isn’t your thing there is another legend about Gracie you can try. Leave a quarter in her hand and circle her grave three times and the quarter will disappear. Personally, I’d rather give a little girl a quarter than steal her toys.
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Gracie’s apparition has been seen dancing between the gravestones near her own grave.
While Gracie is the most famous ghost in the cemetery, she is not responsible for all the paranormal activity within the grounds.
Many apparitions are seen in the cemetery; many of which will look up and meet the eyes of the living. Many of the statues in the grounds will smile or grimace when people stand near to them or meet their eyes.
Phantom sounds of babies crying and dogs barking are often reported.
Other Activity: cold spots and breezes; electrical issues, light anomalies, mysterious mists, feelings of being watched and not being alone.
Oatland Island was originally used as retirement settling place for men who had reached that age after working their lives for the railroads. When World War II began a large building was built as a public medical facility and hospital. It is rumored that secret Government biological experiments took place here during the War on men, women and children.
When the War ended the hospital was closed and Centers For Disease Control took over the building. The building was used to learn more about diseases and to develop new medicines.
The building is now owned by the Oakland Island Wildlife Center and the island is used a zoo and ecological preserve.
The most common activity is light anomalies – orbs – are seen here in greater levels than almost any other haunted site. They come in every size and color and have been known to follow people around the island and in the building.
Disembodied voices are also very common here (both recorded and heard by the human ear) and entire conversations between 2 individuals or groups of people have been heard.
Apparitions and shadow people are reported both on the island and in the old hospital.
Other activity: cold and hot spots, feelings of being watched, unease and not being wanted, phantom footsteps, touches by unseen presences and objects moving on their own.
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This building was originally built in 1789 by James Habersham, Jr one of the founding fathers of the city. After his death in 1799 it was converted into the first bank in Georgia in 1812.
After the Civil War it had many uses including a book store and a lawyer’s office. It was then converted into a tea room until after World War II.
Throughout the middle of the 20th century, it was restored and updated finally opening again in 1971 as a restaurant and antique shop. Many of the antiques once sold in the store now decorate the restaurant.
In 2006 the Arches Bar on the south side was added as an expansion. There are 13 dining rooms in total in the building.
There is a story that James Habersham, Jr hung himself in the basement – in which is now the Planter’s Tavern – either distraught over his wife having an affair or over her death. Being as he is buried in consecrated ground that is all but impossible; people who killed themselves were not permitted to be buried in consecrated ground at that time.
His death in 1799 was most likely from natural causes.
Either way, his apparition is seen in the restaurant.
Generally looking as solid as you or I, although, he does frequently disappear suddenly. He is also held responsible for straightening up messy tables and server’s areas. He, apparently, has like for candles and has been reported as lighting candles when staff’s back is turned.
Reportedly, he dislikes the hot humid summers and will only appear between October and March.
A Revolutionary War veteran is known for raising a glass and proposing a toast. He will disappear before you can take a drink at his invitation though.
Another man – said to be a relative of Habersham’s – will order drinks at the bar and his ghost has been seen leaving the restaurant and heading into the cemetery.
A female ghost is seen and heard crying on the second floor by both staff and customers.
Apparitions of former servants have been seen throughout the house still carrying on their duties. The children of former slaves are seen playing dice games in the basement. They are also known for teasing the staff and even going so far as to throw things.
The ghosts also liked to lock the women’s washroom trapping customers. This happened so often the owner had to remove the lock. Now the ghosts simply hold the door shut forcing female customers to pull it open with a considerable amount of strength.
This house was built in the early 1840’s by Francis Sorrel; a wealthy planation owner originally from the West Indies.
Soon after moving to the United States, he married his first wife, Lucinda Moxley, who was only 17 years old in 1822. Unfortunately, Lucinda died only 5 years into the marriage in 1827 meaning Lucinda was long in her grave before the house was built.
Lucinda came from a very rich family that Sorrel did a lot of business with so when she died, he replaced her with the next best thing – her little sister Matilda. In 1829 Francis and Matilda, aged 23, were married.
They did not live happily ever after.
Francis became one of the wealthiest men in the city and they became a 19th century celebrity couple. However, so the story goes, Francis started an affair with a slave girl, Molly, and even built an apartment over the carriage house for her.
As always eventually happens, Matilda discovered her husband in the arms of his slave girl and threw herself from a second or third storey window landing on her head on the flagstones below. A few weeks later Molly was found hanging dead from a noose in the carriage house.
So goes the story of jealousy and torrid love affairs; all very dramatic, a touch romantic and it makes a Hell of a cool story to explain one of the most famous haunted houses in America.
First of all, there is no record of Molly. But she was a slave so that’s not really damning evidence either way. Records of slaves – their births, lives and deaths – was sporadic at best. Matilda’s suicide was, however, recorded in historical letters later published in a book – she died on March 27, 1860. So far so good – right?
Small problem. Francis sold the house at 6 West Harris to one Henry D Weed on June 14, 1859 and moved into the house next door at 12 West Harris – more than 9 months before Matilda’s tragic suicide. In fact, the historical record of Matilda’s suicide says she jumped from the house at 12 West Harris.
Now Mrs Sorrel’s ghost could have decided she’d rather haunt in the original house; there is no record as to what she thought of any of the houses she lived in. After all, the house is one of the most famous haunted houses in the Country and there are literally hundreds – possible thousands – of stories of paranormal activity in the house. So, something must have happened there.
Another possibility. . .
In October of 1779 – long before there were any houses here – the south end of a horseshoe British defensive fortification was very near, or perhaps exactly on, the place where this house would be built. During that October during the Siege of Savannah, in the Revolutionary War, the American militia made a rather stupid assault on this fortification. It ended not only in defeat but in over 1,000 American causalities – it is considered the bloodiest hour in the history of the war. Yah, just one single hour.
Of course, if this is the reason for the haunting then why aren’t all the houses – not to mention Madison Square – also haunted. Maybe they are; this is Savannah after all.
Finding a ghost in Savannah is about as easy as finding a failed actor in Los Angeles.
This house has been featured on just about every single paranormal/haunted TV show past and present. As mentioned, it is considered to be one of the most haunted houses in America.
The ghosts of both Matilda and Molly are frequently seen in the house. They are most often seen as shadow figures and both ghosts have been captured in photos and videos. They are also seen reflected in mirrors when no one visible is actually there.
Their shadowy forms are seen standing in the windows of the house.
In the old slave quarters the ghost of Molly is ever present. Although, she rarely shows herself, people have reported unexplained but overwelming feelings of being drowsy or nauseous.
Also reported is a feeling of chocking and an inability to breathe; echoes of Molly’s death perhaps. One man who rented space in the building claimed to feel as if he was being watched constantly.
In the living room of the house the phantom sounds of a large party are heard. Sounds that stop immediately if anyone enters the room.
There is also a dark energy that hangs over the house – and over nearby Madison Square – and when its quiet, so usually at night, the phantom sounds of a great battle can be heard.
Other Activity: other apparitions and shadow figures from the house’s history; electrical disturbances mostly commonly manifesting as batteries draining dry within minutes or seconds; unexplained mists; disembodied voices; time slips; phantom footsteps; objects moving on their own; touches, pokes and prods from unseen entities and feelings of not being alone.