The undead are quite alive in Savannah. They live in Savannah’s centuries-old tales of unsettled Native American, slave and war-battered spirits. They knock about in big beautiful mansions, popular pubs and inns, sending chills down the spines of visitors taking moonlit tours by trolley, foot, or even by hearse.
The “Hostess City” has carried dark secrets since its beginnings when it was built upon Native American burial grounds. Waves of tragic and violent events—bloody skirmishes, slavery, epidemics and hurricanes—have seemingly left an active population of apparitions, ghosts and poltergeists, and no shortage of chances to see dead people in one of America’s most haunted cities.
1. Bonaventure Cemetery
Spanish moss eerily hangs over the Gothic tombstones and mausoleums of Savannah’s well-known dead like songwriter Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken, but it’s the haunting statues of two little girls that have made Bonaventure Cemetery most famous. The first is the forlorn “Bird Girl” featured on the cover of the best-selling book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The statue, marked a family plot when it was photographed for the book cover, has since been moved to the Telfair Museum of Art because overzealous fans took pieces of the statue for posterity. The other statue is of cherubic Little Gracie Watson who died of pneumonia at the age of 6 in 1889, leaving behind a grief-stricken father. Her likeness is said to weep on occasion, crying real tears. Explore the markers on your own or join a tour likely to be packed with 1 to 2 hours of paranormal trivia.
2. Olde Pink House Restaurant and Tavern
The Olde Pink House, a Savannah dining institution that serves low country cuisine like crispy flounder with grits and collard greens, is also haunted. James Habersham Jr. built the home in the late 1700s and hung himself there, distraught over his wife’s death. Servers at the restaurant say that the ghostly Habersham is a bit of a neat freak and likes to straighten table settings and put chairs in their proper place, while his children like to lock ladies in the downstairs bathroom, despite the removal of locks. The restaurant staff is happy to dish out more haunting details while serving up fried green tomatoes and hush puppies.
3. 17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant
It stands to reason that Savannah’s oldest inn would be haunted. Guests who’ve heard the story of Anna Powers ask to see room 204, the room she lived in when she was alive in the late 1700s and 1800s. Anna fell in love with an English sailor while staying at the inn. They married, but something went terribly wrong. The details are unclear but something drove Anna to jump to her death from one of the hotel windows. Today, she still haunts room 204 and, particularly, couples staying at the inn. Guests chronicle their encounters with Anna in a small pink notebook on the bedside table. If you manage to make it through the night with heartsick Anna, you may want to celebrate with one of the Inn’s signature cocktails like a Tybee Island iced tea or a Georgia peach martini.
4. River Street
At nightfall, River Street draws all kinds of visitors with some of Savannah’s hottest bars and restaurants, and at some places the living get a chance to mingle with the undead. During the 19th century, Savannah was one of the largest exporters of cotton and its port was a major stop on the transatlantic slave trade route. Warehouses on River Street stored both cotton and slaves meeting tragic ends. Some think the voices and chants heard in the upstairs storage room of River Street’s Shrimp Factory are those of restless slave spirits. You can contemplate this and other ghost theories over any kind of shrimp dish you want, including stuffed shrimp, shrimp and grits and creole pepper shrimp.
5. Hampton Lillibridge House
Often called Savannah’s most haunted house, the quaint private residence off Washington Square is also the only home known to receive an exorcism to tame its unruly spirits. Built by Rhode Islander Hampton Lillibridge in 1796, the Cape Cod-style home survived the great fire of 1820 and passed through many hands until Jim Williams, the preservationist chronicled in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” purchased it in 1963. That’s when strange things started to happen. Workers restoring the home heard footsteps and voices on floors above them, but when they went to investigate, no one was there and the voices had moved to the floors below them. Neighbors reported seeing a man in a black suit and bow tie standing in a window and hearing a woman’s screams. A bishop from the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia reportedly performed a 45-minute exorcism that year with no affect. It was later discovered that a crypt had been found under the home during renovation.
6. Moon River Brewing Company
Before it was a trendy microbrewery, the building housing the famously haunted and often filmed Moon River Brewing Company was Savannah’s first hotel. Built in 1821, the City Hotel saw its share of violence from drunken shootings to lynch mob beatings, which may have something to do with the aggressive apparitions still lingering here. There’s “Toby,” a shadowy figure who likes to push customers around in the billiards room and the girl who suddenly appeared at the bar to seemingly order a drink. The Ghost Adventures guys have their own stories to tell from their lockdown at Moon River. Nick appeared to be possessed by one of the spirits when a strange light passes through his head.