The Haunted South
Stories of encounters with spirits are as much a part of the Coastal South as Spanish moss and iced tea, but the true chills and thrills are deeper than the retelling of famous tales. Local paranormal investigators and tours recall their profound experiences investigating haunted Savannah and Charleston and their encounters with the ghosts you have never heard of.
It remains unclear which city officially claims the crown for most haunted city in America, but the greater areas of Savannah and Charleston are certainly viable contenders in the realm of ghostly activity. Their infancy, often sordid and dark, seems to have left a lasting imprint on the area, making these regions a hot spot for the strange and unexplainable. Whether these spooky encounters are mere coincidences, captures of residual energy, or bona fide contact with those in the afterlife, paranormal researchers continue to settle here for a chance to capture such activity — occasionally getting a little more than they bargain for. One thing remains true: If you’re looking for a ghost, the coastal South is a good place to start.
The Hamilton-Turner Inn
The Johnny Mercer Room, room 202 at the Hamilton-Turner Inn frequently leaves guests with strange experiences. Prior to his investigation of the bed and breakfast, Ryan Dunn, owner of Afterlife Tours and founder of the Savannah Ghost Research Society, caught up with the inn’s concierge, Tim O’Bierne, to hear of his experiences. O’Bierne had been in room 202 one morning, and he had opened the armoire where an ironing board and iron sat inside. Upon exiting the room, Tim heard a loud thud from behind him. When he turned around and reentered the room, the ironing board and iron that had been in the closet were now set up and sitting in the middle of the floor.
A couple who had been on one of Dunn’s “Afterlife Tours’’ also later recalled to him their strange experience at the inn. “While on my tour I had explained to the couple how you could use a smart phone’s voice recording app to capture electronic voice phenomena (EVPs). They decided to turn their’s on to record and set it on the nightstand while they slept. Late into the night, all of a sudden there was the sound of a jack-in-the-box slowly cranking. As the sound of the music became louder and louder, there was the sudden sound of it popping out of the box. Afterward, there was an unexplainable male voice that whispered, ‘Shhh…it’s almost morning.’”
The Eliza Thompson House
Charleston Paranormal captured their first disembodied voice or audible capture in real time at the Eliza Thompson House.
“While making a sweep around our room, I was asking ‘Is anyone here?’” said Julie DeMoura, co-owner of Charleston Paranormal. “When I came to a closet, I asked, ‘What about in here?’ And a full two seconds after I opened it, we noticed that a couple of coat hangers began to move. I immediately tried to replicate it by opening the door quickly to create as much air current as possible but could not duplicate it. Just then a voice answered in the air behind me, ‘I am!’”
Charleston Paranormal split their time at the inn built in 1847 between the Admiral Turner Room and the Johnston Room, and although the voice was heard in the Admiral Turner Room, the Johnston room proved to be just as chilling after they caught a full-bodied apparition crossing the doorway into their room. Using a spirit box, DeMoura asked, “Who was that?” and received a response of, “It’s me,” in a woman’s voice.
The Foley House Inn
What’s hidden in the walls at the Foley House Inn? At one point, a body. In 1987, as the Foley House Inn underwent renovations, nearly 100 years after its erection in 1896 by widow Honoria Foley, male skeletal remains were uncovered. He is believed by many to have once been a boarder who snuck into Ms. Foley’s room in the night where she struck him over the head. Research-based investigator Ryan Dunn can confirm a diary entry from Ms. Foley in which she recalls this encounter, although nothing is mentioned of the events that happened after she hit him. Could this be the same man? Dunn seems to think so based on the unnerving EVPs they captured.
“We were asking about the body that was hidden in the wall for so many years when a male entity growled, ‘Who told?’ angrily into my digital audio recorder. The voice was so clear and indignant. The clip sent chills down my spine.”
Later in the investigation, as Dunn and his team investigated the very spot the body was found, they captured more disturbing evidence.
“We discovered the wall was made of ballast stone or ‘ship’s brick.’ When you replay the recording you can hear the sliding of a trowel and a man’s voice that says, ‘I need another ship’s brick.’ We think that being such a tragic event, hiding a body, this was residual.”
Dawn Martin, a tour guide with Sixth Sense World tours in Savannah, was on a tour when a couple shared their peculiar experience at the Foley House Inn. “The wife said she always kept her hair curlers and hair products in a special suitcase. The second day of their stay, the wife woke up and could not find her suitcase with her hair curlers and rollers to do her hair. They went out and when they came back that afternoon, they found the bag laying open next to the fireplace in their room. But no one had been in their room.”
1790 Inn & Restaurant
Founder of the Savannah Ghost Research Society, Ryan Dunn, claims that historical records contain nothing of the famous retelling of an Irish indentured servant named Anna leaping to her death from the window of room 204; however, based on the experience of guests and investigators alike, the room is certainly haunted by someone.
According to Dunn, “Guests, especially females, staying in this room have reported being physically shoved out of bed in the middle of the night by phantom hands. There have been reports of them having their feet tickled in the middle of the night by unseen fingers.”
The restaurant and bar downstairs also has its fair share of ghosts. The ghost of a young slave boy named Thaddeus leaves behind pennies in peculiar places. “These coins have appeared between the bricks in the old basement, on tables, and many other places in random fashion. They just seem to appear out of thin air. Guests have even lost bracelets and rings, only to find them on the nightstand the next morning surrounded by a circle of pennies or dimes,” Dunn said. In the kitchen is the spirit known to staff as “Hattie” who is believed to have been a Geechee slave. “Members of the kitchen staff have been attacked by an unseen presence here on more than one occasion, and pots and pans have been unexplainably thrown across the room.” These paranormal occurrences in the kitchen have been blamed on Hattie, who is supposedly very protective of what she feels to be her kitchen.
The Sorrel-Weed House
This 1830s era home, now a historic landmark and museum, is famously (or rather infamously) haunted and is well-known to be a source of unsettling activity. A 90-minute private investigation of the home proved to be Charleston Paranormal’s self-proclaimed “first difficult investigation,” as they felt compelled to leave the house out into the steamy August evening three times throughout the search. “In spite of all that, we captured some of the best evidence we’ve ever heard,” Kris Olson said. An EVP recorded the voice of a distressed woman, perhaps a housemaid, in the carriage house. Many have also reported spontaneous feelings of nausea in the building.
In the basement, Olson recalled, “[I felt my] guts twist in my stomach and a sick feeling came over me. I decided it was a good time to get some fresh air and proceeded out of the basement to the garden.” Feeling as though the entities didn’t want them there, they decided to ask, “Do you mind us being here?” Through their spirit box, they received a reply of, “The General doesn’t.”
Savannah’s Ryan Dunn has also investigated the Sorrel-Weed House and has certainly experienced the same unsettling feelings.
“Down in the basement area of the Sorrel-Weed House, Mr. Sorrel’s son was a doctor and physician and used to practice in the house, so I laid down on the floor and said, ‘If there’s a doctor here, I need help.’ Something grabbed my feet and pulled me. That was a little unnerving and scary.”
Dunn believes the house to be haunted by numerous spirits, some friendly and some not so much.
“I feel like there’s multiple spirits there and there is maybe a commanding and controlling spirit there that may not let the others come forward. I don’t think everything there is evil, but there are definitely some darker presences there.”
The Haunted Farmhouse
Erased by infrastructure and industry, North Charleston was once hundreds of acres of farmland that supplied food to the city. Today, the history of colonial and civil war times lies beneath modern development. But in Charleston Paranormal’s experience, this history is not so hard to reach when you have friends in spooky places. One of their investigation sites in South Carolina is a 1905 constructed farmhouse. They have found several artifacts on the land to include custom brass handles for a dresser, circa 1850. They have even played a game with the spirits by attaching a spirit box to a metal detector. “It was a super fun game for them, and whenever we got a good hit on the metal detector, they would give us encouragement like, ‘There it is!’ and ‘You got it!’ When we asked, ‘What’s buried in the backyard?’ they came through the spirit box and answered, ‘Money.’ At that moment, we got a good hit on the metal detector and pulled out a large piece of melted silver.”
The Maryville Plantation House
This is where Charleston Paranormal discovered their first spirit box response.
“We became so familiar with them that it is normal for them to respond ‘good morning,’ ‘good night’ and ‘you’re welcome’ when we greet them, leave them and thank them,” Julie DeMoura said. Charleston Paranormal has also witnessed full body apparitions, including that of a little girl looking down from the attic as Kris Olson was removing old crown molding. Based on their collected data, they have received intriguingly self-aware responses. When asking what happened to the original owners of the plantation house, they caught a reply of, “Crossed over.” “Of course, when we ask them, ‘Why haven’t you crossed over?’ There is no answer.”
Who you Gonna Call?
Afterlife Tours (Savannah)
Learn exactly how Savannah has become known as one of America’s most haunted cities through Ryan Dunn, owner of Afterlife Tours and founder of the Savannah Ghost Research Society. Offering two separate tours nightly, guests will have the chance to visit some of Savannah’s most famous locations. For the scoop on Dunn and his team’s experiences investigating these mysterious sites visit afterlifetours.net
Charleston Paranormal (Charleston)
Dare to venture into the unknown as owners Kris Olson & Julie DeMoura of Charleston Paranormal guarantee an unforgettable experience. Guests of the tour will find themselves in a legitimate paranormal investigation equipped with the latest technology. For four hours in one of the most haunted cities in America, get the chance to capture ghostly activity through night vision, thermal and SLS cameras, EMF detectors, spirit boxes and digital voice recorders. Olson and DeMoura are passionate about what they do and invite others to join them for a unique opportunity. Book an investigation at one of their three locations; the Maryville Plantation House, the Dewees House and the Haunted Farmhouse for an otherworldly time. charlestonparanormal.com
Blue Orb Tours (Savannah)
Highly rated and even globally recognized as one of the “Top 10 Ghost Tours in the World” by Tripadvisor Editorial, Blue Orb Tours takes you across the historic district for stories of the undead. Meet in Chippewa Square to begin your journey into the realm of the paranormal. blueorbtours.com
Sixth Sense World (Savannah)
Explore haunted Savannah as well as Bonaventure Cemetery, known to many as the cemetery in the classic novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” This highly rated tour will certainly raise a few goosebumps. 6thsenseworld.com
Bulldog Tours (Charleston)
Creep into the unsettling confines of the Old Charleston Jail and down into the Provost Dungeon of the Old Exchange where prisoners are rumored to still clank their chains. Or perhaps stroll through the gravestones of Magnolia Cemetery at dusk amongst the darkening tendrils of Spanish moss. Bulldog Tours visits these famously spine-chilling haunts and deliver hair-raising stories of many of the unfortunate fates of Charleston’s original townsfolk. On one of their recent additions, find yourself aboard the USS Yorktown for a chance to encounter the spirits of WWII soldiers. If you’re looking for a more intimate setting, feel free to schedule a private tour. bulldogtours.com
Ghost City Tours (Savannah & Charleston)
Offering well researched and captivating tours of our nation’s most haunted cities, Ghost City Tours brings guests to the most famous (or rather infamous) locations across each city for the chance to hear the history behind others’ chilling ghostly encounters. While standing on the grounds of these paranormal hotspots, learn more of Savannah and Charleston, and perhaps experience the strange and unexplainable for yourself. With several different packages that cater to your needs, you’ll find a tour that has you leaving with a few chills up your spine. ghostcitytours.com
Old Savannah Tours (Savannah)
On their “Boo Y’all Comedy Ghost Tour,” journey through the eerie streets of historic Savannah where tales of death, disease and disaster will have you dying of laughter. Along with stories of Savannah’s more sordid past, stop by McDonough’s for a different kind of spirit on this 21-and-up tour. Whether you’re looking for a high-spirited night out or simply enjoy the comfort of an air-conditioned party bus, book a tour for an assuredly spooky time. oldsavannahtours.com
Best Ghost Stories
Brandon Humphrey, a tour guide with Blue Orb Tours in Savannah, began investigating haunted locations as a fun surprise for his wife who was a huge fan of popular ghost hunting shows. “I used to lead a pretty normal life; 9 to 5 day job, vacations on the beach like most people do,” Humphrey said. “But my wife was obsessed with ghost shows on television. I tried to watch with her occasionally, but they just seemed so unrealistic. Seeing how into this she was, I did a little digging and found out most of these haunted places they investigate can be rented out. So, for her birthdays, anniversaries and any other special occasions, I would get us locked into abandoned prisons, asylums, etc., just like they do on the shows. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the most romantic way to spend an anniversary, but it started proving my point to her about how over sensationalized the shows were. We weren’t having any paranormal experiences, until we tried the Hamilton-Turner Inn.” On a trip to Savannah, the couple rented the famously haunted Johnny Mercer suite, room 202, at the Hamilton-Turner Inn. Here, the couple experienced a chilling EVP capture that changed the course of Humphrey’s life, so much so that he and his wife moved from Minneapolis down to Savannah. “I felt fine, but my wife, upon entering the room, began to feel very odd. The feeling made her so anxious, we had to leave the room for a little while. Upon returning to the room, the room felt different. She was less anxious, so we proceeded to relax and do some occasional EVP sessions.” After returning home to Minneapolis, the couple listened through the recordings to see if anything paranormal was captured. “After being amplified and cleaned up, one of the EVPs was my wife saying, ‘Can you come sit by us?’ and a very clear response of, ‘Get out of the room!’ At which point, I got drawn into my wife’s obsession with the paranormal and began purchasing every piece of equipment I could find. That week in Savannah also convinced us Savannah was the place we needed to call home. If you’re a paranormal investigator, you can’t beat a city built on the dead.” If you’re brave enough, rent the Johnny Mercer Suite for a possible encounter with one of the ghosts that famously haunt the bed and breakfast.
1790 Inn & Restaurant
Humphrey and his wife have also investigated the 1790 Inn & Restaurant, known for one especially spooky room; room 204. On several occasions, the couple have rented room 204 for two nights each time. According to Humphrey, guests should stay at least two nights as the second night is usually more active. “So, on one of these visits, we had set up, as usual, infrared night vision cameras pointed at the door, the bathroom and the bed. As expected, night one was fairly uneventful. Even night two was uneventful for me.” But for Humphrey’s wife, night two proved to be quite disturbing. “In the morning my wife frantically shook me awake, telling me that she had been awakened last night by something that was caressing or stroking her left arm. She said it didn’t seem to be aggressive, more like a calming act, like how a parent would caress their sleeping child. But it was still unnerving as she could feel me to the right side of her. So she knew it wasn’t me. She lay there frozen as it then moved up and softly touched her face. At this point, she rolled towards me and tried to get as close to me as possible, which is when she felt it touch the back of her leg.” In the morning, Humphrey’s wife insisted that she had tried to wake him unsuccessfully. “I am a very light sleeper. I wake up over anything and everything. So, I started telling her she had to have had just a very vivid dream, because there’s no way she wouldn’t have been able to wake me,” Humphrey said. But upon reviewing the footage a week later, Humphrey realized his wife had not simply had a bad dream. “As I watched the video of the night she had said she had the experience, this little ball of light floated across the room to our bed. As it got near my wife’s side of the bed, I could see her turn towards me at first and then sit up. Seconds later, the camera recording this incident began to malfunction and stop recording altogether and die.” Book room 204 at the 1790 Inn & Restaurant, but be sure to stay for a second night as you may have a chilling tale to tell of one of Savannah’s many spirits. •