Whether it’s campy ghost tours complete with costumes, or scientific investigations including sophisticated equipment, Savannah’s ghost stories attract tourists and natives alike.

Louis Clausi, of Savannah Hearse Tours, theorizes on the popularity of ghostly tales, “…it’s a little bit of everything. The history of the place, the mystery, the unknown, the stories that are unexplainable…the stories that have been told with such passion that you really have to question, ‘Is that real?’”

Clausi speculates the origin of so many stories is in the city’s history. “Savannah is built on top of a graveyard. The whole city is one big desecration of burial grounds, whether intentional or unintentional. It really makes you wonder what’s going on here. Savannah is built on top of the dead, and you start to wonder, what’s the connection?”

The Pirates’ House

When Kristi and Jamie Carver took over The Pirates’ House in July, they didn’t know they were inheriting more than just a well-known Savannah restaurant and a landmark dating back to the earliest days of Savannah history. One night when Jamie was working by himself in his office, a movement on one of the security cameras caught his eye. He looked up, and the security camera showed an animal ambling through the bar area. When he went into the bar to investigate, he saw the white animal, “like it was albino,” Jamie recalls, walking on the floor next to the bar. It was the size and shape of a possum, and as it moved slowly across the floor, Jamie could hear the sound of a chain dragging, although he couldn’t see one on the animal. He was beginning to get spooked, and as he climbed onto the bar for a closer look, the animal disappeared. He climbed back down to the floor, looked under tables, and searched the whole room. The mysterious white animal had completely vanished.

When he went back to his office, he reviewed the digital recording from the security camera. He saw himself in the bar area, saw himself up on the bar, saw himself climb down from the bar and look under tables. And on the recording, the mysterious white animal was standing next to his leg the entire time.

Moon River Brewing Company

“Well, sure,” responds manager Chris Lewis matter-of-factly when asked if Moon River is haunted The Moon River Brewing Company opened its doors as a micro-brewery and restaurant in 1999, but the building that houses the brewery has been around for the better part of two centuries. Originally the First City Hotel, the four-story structure was built in 1826 during the city’s cotton boom. It was the finest hotel of its time, and dignitaries from James Audubon to the Marquis de Lafayette stayed there. The hotel closed prior to the Civil War, and although it was used as a make-shift hospital at one time, and later as a warehouse, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the building underwent a major renovation.

Today, the restaurant operates on the ground floor, and the basement level is used as a space for private functions. The second floor houses offices and storage space. The expansive third and fourth floors remain largely unchanged since the structure was built: birds fly from one rafter to another through shafts of daylight; a century of dust lays thick over ancient furnishings; a long-abandoned satchel sits in the middle of one room, with someone’s diploma in plain view inside. “This place is frozen in time,” observes Lewis, “people as well as things.”

A building with so much history and mystery has more than one ghost story to its name. One concerns a little boy who frequents the lower level and enjoys playing pranks on patrons and employees. “We call him Toby; one of the regulars named him,” Lewis explains. “He’s a little shadowy figure, definitely a child; he giggles as he runs past you.”

Another playful ghost appears in the kitchen, revealing herself most often to the head chef, Karen Chapman. “She looks like a little girl with pigtails, and she likes to sneak up on Karen,” Lewis says, smiling.

One of the more mischievous ghosts enjoys pulling silverware on napkins across smooth tabletops, until it drops to the floor with a clatter.

Not all the ghosts are playful. Lewis recalls a night when he was working late at his desk on the second floor. He was alone in his office when a bottle of vodka suddenly smashed on his desk beside him. It had come from the shelf behind his desk—five feet behind his desk.

While he never feels unsafe, “I’ve felt really uncomfortable,” Lewis admits. But the ghosts can

come in handy. At night, when Lewis is the last to leave his office, he’ll often just announce, “Okay, have a good night,” and walk out the door, knowing that the lights will switch off behind him.


This beautiful landmark on Broughton Street is known as a high-end boutique hotel but it also has a colorful history. Named for Mary Marshall, a Savannah native and philanthropist, The Marshall House once served as a hospital for both Union and Confederate Soldiers. According to David Rousseau, author of Savannah Ghosts, a recent hotel guest complained that a ghost tour was allowed to walk through the upper hallways late at night. The guest described the particulars of the conversation he heard: a long dialogue, something about a hanging, apparently between two men with period accents. The guest assumed it was a re- enactment of some kind, and was not happy that it was allowed to take place right outside his door while he was trying to sleep. The employee at the front desk assured the man that no tours, and in fact no one except guests were allowed upstairs at night. While the man and the employee went over the puzzling incident, another guest overheard them. This second guest proceeded to describe the same conversation, in exact detail, that the first guest had heard right outside his door. He was able to describe it because he had heard the same conversation outside his door during the night.

Only, this second guest was staying in a room on a different floor, on the other side of the hotel.

There’s another ghostly figure roaming the halls of The Marshall House, and those who have seen her describe her as a little girl. According to hotel manager Russ Mitchell, sleeping guests are often roused when they feel someone tickling their feet, and wake up to see a little girl, giggling, standing at the foot of their bed.


Employees at 17 Hundred 90 Inn and Restaurant know the sad story of Anna. According to the legend, Anna was a young girl who lived in the house that is now the inn. She fell madly in love with and was engaged to a young soldier from Savannah. He was called away for far off duty, and later Anna received word that he had died in battle. Distraught, she threw herself from her second floor bedroom window and was killed instantly on the brick courtyard below.

The room that once belonged to Anna is now Room 204 at the inn. Guests who stay in the room frequently complain of disturbances, especially if the guests are young couples.

According to Troy Espy, a hotel employee, young husbands will come to him complaining that their wedding ring has been stolen. “We tell them to look in the fireplace,” Espy explains. The missing rings are always found hidden in the ashes of the fireplace.

Espy recalls another recent incident involving a young couple on their honeymoon. “In the middle of the night, in their pajamas, they came down to the front desk and refused to stay in the room any longer.” Apparently the couple had enough of the room when their bed sheet was pulled completely off the bed as they slept.

The strange activities aren’t isolated to Room 204. John Nielsen, a server in the 17 Hundred 90 dining room, was prepping for breakfast in the restaurant’s kitchen. He went to the walk-in refrigerator, grabbed the butter, latched the heavy metal door behind him, and was walking away when he heard a clatter. He turned and watched as a metal bowl rattled on the floor where it had fallen from a nearby shelf. As he tried to figure out what had caused the bowl to fall, the metal door from the walk-in suddenly flew open, and just as quickly slammed shut again. He was alone in the kitchen at the time.

The kitchen was the scene of another strange incident, this one witnessed by Head Chef Val Domingo. “I was prepping for our new dinner menu, which was set to debut that night,” Domingo says. He was anxiously preparing for that evening’s dinner, alone at one end of the small kitchen. Suddenly, a metal strainer, hanging in its place on a hook on the opposite wall, fell and landed on the floor. Only, this strainer didn’t fall straight down. It fell sideways, and landed six feet across the room.


Louis Clausi remembers the day he led a ghost tour through Wright Square. The square has a long history in Savannah. Originally a cemetery where some of the city’s first settlers are buried, the square has become a site for several buildings, including private homes. As Clausi explains the significance of the square, someone took a photo of the house at 12 W. Oglethorpe. When the photo was developed, Clausi was surprised to see the initials “EWC” on a glass panel in the front door.

Clausi was even more surprised when he went back to the house and didn’t see the initials that appeared in the photograph. When Clausi was giving a different tour in Wright Square and pointed out a sign marking the burial place for one of Savannah’s original settlers, Dr. Edward William Cox, he remembered the ghostly initials in the home across the square.


The Olde Pink House is known as a prominent Savannah restaurant but long before it was a place to get a good meal, it was the home of James Habersham Jr. One of the Sons of Liberty, Habersham offered his home as a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty as they made their plans and plotted the upcoming revolution. Today, guests at the Olde Pink House might question whether the man they see in the period costume is part of a tour, only to see his image disappear before their very eyes. Startled employees have seen bottles of wine slide out of their moorings in the wine rack, hover for an instant, then crash to the ground and shatter.

Besides the great churches and monuments, some of the most significant stone structures in Savannah are its gravestones, monuments and tombs. Symbols of its dramatic past and responsible for some present-day allure they are the dark highlights of Savannah’s historic cemeteries.

One needn’t be a ghost hunter, Civil War buff, or follower of all things Midnight to find themselves fascinated with these hallowed grounds of eternal rest. At Colonial Park, Laurel Grove, and Bonaventure cemeteries, one simply needs to enter the gates and let the place cast its spell.


Nestled in the heart of downtown, Colonial Park Cemetery is relatively small, and is surrounded by the noise and bustle of everyday life. This makes for a less imposing atmosphere for those who find cemeteries inherently spooky and unsettling. On the other hand, the superstitious will have a hard time of it. To read some of the markers noting the resting places of Savannah’s more historically significant populace, of which there are several spread about the cemetery, one must leave the paved path and walk among the graves. War and disease were dominant themes in the lives of Colonial Savannah’s residents, who were buried here from 1750 until 1853, when the park’s six acres could take in no more. Yet there remains an underlying sense of optimism, a narrative thread of pioneer and patriot spirit.

Still, the place keeps its share of the macabre. The far wall, once part of a complete surrounding wall that was demolished by the city, holds gravestones that have been displaced over the years. The markers, standing flat in fairly neat rows, resemble the backdrop of a theater in which a particularly ghoulish play might be showing. Near the northeast corner stands a tree with enveloping branches so knotted and gnarled that it appears to want to scare the other trees away. Across the park, in the southwest corner, sits an empty park bench that is all but grown over with the surrounding brush, as if the caretakers would rather nobody sat there for fear of what they might see. Various tales of hauntings center around this final home of some 9,000 lives. The stories usually involve a mysterious stranger with whom someone becomes spellbound and then secretly follows, only to find their pursuit reaching its end at the gates of Colonial Cemetery.


Those who deem ghost stories amusing nonsense will still find themselves shivering at their own thoughts, even in the thick heat of summer, should they venture into a certain section of Laurel Grove North Cemetery on the west side of Savannah. More expansive than Colonial, Laurel Grove has many twists and turns, and holds an extensive number of headstones and monuments in all varieties of shapes, sizes, and ornamentation. But the most harrowing memorials belong to a space known simply as “Baby Land.” Multiple rows of flat stones line the grass, each with the name of a soul that never lived past infancy. Despite the innocent (though in context, fairly eerie) tone of its name, “Baby Land” is a sobering, all-too-real reminder of our fragile existence.

Not far away in distance but in stark contrast to “Baby Land” is the final resting place of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.

Several other important historical and cultural figures are buried in Laurel Grove North, as the Civil War and Yellow Fever kept business piling up in the same way it did for the smaller Colonial cemetery. Here, notably, only white people were buried. A second cemetery, Laurel Grove South, was developed for Savannah’s African-American population.

Separated today by the 37th Street Connection to Highway 204, Laurel Grove South is miles away from its northern counterpart in terms of atmosphere. Visitors at the main gate are greeted by a marker that reads “here are buried many of Savannah's prominent black leaders—educators, civic/community leaders, Masons, politicians, entrepreneurs, and religious leaders.” On the surface, this cemetery is not unlike the other famously beautiful cemeteries of Savannah. Yet as one walks to the monument built for the Reverends Andrew Bryan, Henry Cunningham, and Andrew Cox Marshall (three early Baptist ministers who gave hope and inspiration to their congregations during the hardest of times), thoughts of ghosts and goblins simply don’t transpire. Even being completely alone, in the silence of early morning, and surrounded by 90 acres of graves, one does not feel fear or any inkling of creepiness, but simply a mournful reverence for those who lived through struggles that today can only be meagerly imagined.


That same lack of eeriness cannot be attributed to the legendary Bonaventure Cemetery. Yes, it is beautiful, reverential, and peaceful, and not really a place to be feared. But for daunting Victorian imagery and haunted atmosphere, Bonaventure has no equal. On foot, one could find himself lost within the massive grounds quite easily, having to choose between similar looking paths, each one seeming to stretch to the horizon, and canopied by magnificently elegant but imposing oak trees.

Bonaventure is further removed from the city than Colonial or Laurel Grove, and its place on the Wilmington River assures it a consistent level of solitude that can be comforting to some and foreboding to others, particularly those who don’t take their ghost stories with a grain of salt. One of the more famous and more threatening legends is of the dogs that protect the grounds. People have reported to have heard barking and growling, and though nobody has claimed to have actually seen these phantom animals, their ominous warnings apparently have caused some victims to flee the cemetery.

Visitors also may notice the collective eye-rolling of the staff of the Bonaventure Historical Society when stories like that of the ghost dogs are ecounted. The Society is a group of volunteers who have an office at the entrance of the cemetery, and their mission is to “participate in the restoration and preservation of historic Bonaventure Cemetery,” not to discuss which of the many unintentionally frightening statues among the graves have been said to cry actual tears.

They happily provide visitors with a map to the sites of Savannah legends including songwriter Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken, and they even direct the curious to the “beautiful” sculpture and headstone for Gracie Watson, a young girl who died of pneumonia at the age of 6. Though not considered historically significant, “Little Gracie” is one of the most popular monuments in

The peace of Laurel Grove. photo: AK

Bonaventure. This life-size sculpture was created from a photograph by sculptor John Walz with exquisite detail. In a way, “Little Gracie” represents the dichotomous lure of all of Savannah’s cemeteries. For some, it’s learning the sometimes tragic but always colorful life stories that inspired touching memorials or great works of sculptural art. For others, it’s the slightly morbid but natural curiosity about the afterlife and all its possibilities.

For more information on Savannah’s ghost tours, visit the city’s website at:
www. savannahga. gov/cityweb/cemeteriesweb. nsf.

see more photos at