Looking for a long weekend destination that combines southern hospitality, historic charm, outstanding food and a chance to run into a ghost? You’re in luck – Savannah offers all of this and more! Settled in 1733 Savannah is Georgia’s oldest city and is still it’s most important port. Savannah has played an important role throughout the nation’s history. Once home of the Shawnee tribe, Savannah has survived epidemics, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. The cast of characters in the city’s history includes pirates, slaves, deranged murderers, eccentric characters and plenty of ordinary people who, some say are still around trying to share their stories.
A fun way to start planning your Savannah sojourn is start by reading or watching Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Even the title, a voodoo reference to the time that falls between “good” and “bad” magic, is a little spooky. The book is based on real life events centered around the Mercer-Williams House, its eccentric art dealer owner and his murdered lover. The cover of the book features a picture of “Bird Girl,” a statue originally located in the Bonaventure Cemetery. The girl is Gracie, a child who died during a Yellow Fever epidemic in 1899. Gracie is still said to visit the cemetery even after her statue was moved to the Jepson Center for the Arts in 2014.
Now that you’ve whetted your appetite, you’re ready to start some serious planning. Consider booking a stay at one of the “haunted” bed and breakfasts or hotels in the heart of Savannah. At the Marshall House Hotel, you’ll be staying in a beautifully restored historic building with modern amenities and a strong connection to the past. The hotel has served as a hospital three different times since 1851. Guests and staff often report the noise of children running through the halls, faucets going on independently and more. Other haunted lodgings to consider include: the Olde Harbor Inn, the East Bay Inn, the Eliza Thompson House, and the Foley House Inn.
No matter where you stay, you’ll want to have a plan for visiting some of the must-see haunted spots in Savannah. A good way to start is by taking one of the many available “ghost tours” or “haunted pub crawls” offered by a host of companies. The tours feature knowledgeable guides who can answer questions and provide background. Additionally, if either you or your companion are easily spooked, there is safety and comfort in being with a group. You never know what you’ll see. Once you’ve completed a tour, you will have a better idea of which places you’d like to go back to on your own to explore in more detail.
Once your on your own, there are some sights you’ll want to see. Among the top spooky locations in Savannah, Bonaventure and Colonial Park Cemeteries are worth your time. If you’re not comfortable visiting a cemetery on your own at twilight, look into one the numerous segue tours. Yes, you will feel and look ridiculous at first. But once you get the hang of it, you won’t care! Segues are fun and you can cover a lot of ground. Taking one of these tours also saves you time looking for specific graves or statues – the guides really know their way around.
Of course, you will need to eat and/or have a stiff drink to settle your nerves. Don’t stop your ghost hunt for mere sustenance. Clary’s Cafe is worth a visit for the food and a look at its beautiful stained glass window depicting “The Bird Girl.” Stop by the Old Pink House Restaurant for some shrimp and grits and ask the staff about James Habersham, the original owner of the house. He’s know for coming around to straighten out table settings. Ladies, beware, Mr. Habersham’s daughters have been accused, more than once, of locking women in the restroom. Another option for haunted dining is a trip to the River Street Shrimp Factory. The building, once a storehouse for cotton awaiting export, is said to be haunted by the slaves who once toiled there. Looking for a pub experience? Try Churchill’s Pub where patrons often claim to see the hanging body of a former resident. The pub also has video footage of the taps mysteriously turning on and draining the kegs after hours – no one was in the building at the time! Check your calendar, Lady Chablis (of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame) still performs occasionally at Club One.
Savannah is famous for its beautifully preserved/restored architecture. With age, comes history and hauntings. 432 Abercorn St. is a popular destination. It is said you can see a little girl’s face in the front window. Her father’s face can be seen in the plaster of the wall. The house is also the site of the unsolved murder of three teenage girls in 1959. Weston and Oglethorpe Houses are currently dorms at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Students have reported hauntings in both buildings. The birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low is a worthwhile stop for the history of the Girl Scouts. As an added bonus, her mother and grandmother occasionally treat guests to piano playing and random furniture moving. The Sorrel-Weed House, built on the site of the Siege of Savannah (Revolutionary War) and the 1500 soldiers who died in the battle, is another popular haunted house.
This is just the tip of the iceberg! You won’t regret a long weekend in Savannah – even if you do find yourself sleeping with a light on for a week or so after.