Haunted Savannah: The Top 13 Scariest Places
Savannah truly is a charming city. It’s also a place where the undead roam the streets beside you, join you for dinner, and watch you drift off to sleep. Depending on your constitution, the near-constant ghostly company in good ‘ol haunted Savannah may reassure you. Or it might scare you more than an anxiety-ridden axe murder hiding in your closet. Just know this: While Savannah’s ghosts can be disconcerting, they’re never boring.
Why is Savannah so haunted, you ask? Perhaps because it was literally built upon scores of the dead and oft-forgotten Native Americans, slaves, and colonists. Or because Savannah was the site of bloody Civil War battles, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and countless other tragedies that left their mark. A mark that bound the dead in mysterious ways to our earthly realm for eternity.
Ready to learn why Savannah is dubbed one of America’s Most Haunted Cities? Just head to any of these spooky haunted Savannah locations and check out the ghosts in residence.
Note: These are in no particular order. There are countless creepy stories from ALL of these places. Enjoy! Or not.
Haunted Savannah Hotels, Museums, Restaurants & More
In the 1840s, a wealthy plantation owner from the West Indies named Francis Sorrel built the Sorrel-Weed House. The story goes that Mr. Sorrel was having an affair with a slave girl named Molly. Because he wanted to enjoy their trysts in private, he set Molly up in the carriage house. However, his wife Matilda eventually discovered the affair and jumped to her death from the second-story balcony in a fit of jealousy. This seems like a bit of an overreaction, but hey…. Two weeks later, poor Molly hung herself out in the carriage house, although many speculate she was murdered to cover up the scandal.
So, the wars and transgressions ended but the spirits live on; including Matilda, who wanders around a lot.
What’s not to love about the Marshall House? It’s an award-winning boutique hotel with amazing customizable room and tour packages and luxury amenities. But we’re talking spooks here and the Marshall House earns an A+ in that department too, making it one of our favorite haunted Savannah hotels. This property was a hospital during the Civil War, and given the state of healthcare back then there was more than plenty of agony to go around. Sadly, it seems many of the poor patients never checked out. The hospital also cared for patients during two yellow fever epidemics, and many visitors report symptoms of nausea and dizziness. And because this is a kid-friendly hotel, you might spot phantom children running in the hallways too, so be on the lookout.
Colonial Park Cemetery
Colonial Park is one of the most haunted cemeteries in Savannah. It’s also the oldest intact municipal cemetery in the U.S. (1750). Moreover, it’s the final resting place of the famous, the infamous, and many who will never truly be at rest; making it the perfect haunted Savannah spot for spirit watching. The grounds span about 6 acres and estimates place the number of dead into the thousands. Nevertheless, there are less than 1,000 headstones. Yellow fever epidemics forced residents to dig mass graves for thousands of victims. Federal troops and graverobbers destroyed the headstones of countless others. Sorting truth from myth is difficult here, but ask anyone who’s seen misty beings or shadow figures what’s true and what’s not and they’ll likely say it won’t matter much.
Mercer-Williams House Museum
The bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil described a shocking murder and made this ornate house famous. However, the house’s history goes way back to 1860, when construction began on what was to be the home of Confederate General Hugh W. Mercer. Unfortunately, Mercer never finished it because he was accused of murdering two army deserters.
In 1913, a former owner tripped over a banister and died three days later. Then, in the 1960s, Jim Williams bought the home and restored it. But before we get into that, in 1969 a boy named Tommy Downs was chasing pigeons on the roof when he fell to his death and became impaled on the iron fence below. A friend says an unseen force threw him off, and that he didn’t simply fall. The tip of the iron spike that lodged in the boy’s skull is still broken for all to see. So that part of this creepy haunted Savannah story is proof something bad happened there.
Still keeping up? Ok, back to Jim Williams: In 1981 Jim Williams (supposedly) shot and killed his assistant (and supposed lover) Danny Hansford. Eight years and four trials later Mr. Williams was acquitted but died in the home just six months later. Note that the staff at the Mercer-Williams House is very tight-lipped about the book and subsequent movie, as well as about Danny Hansford.
Staff and visitors alike claim to see Jim Williams and the “guests” of his grand parties at the house. Add to that reports of a ghost-like child on the roof and you have a full-fledged haunted house.
Moon River Brewing Company
Haunted Savannah might be known for spooks, but it crafts some tasty beers, too. Moon River Brewing Company serves up award-winning beers but their “spirits” are also to die for. Constructed in 1821, the location was Savannah’s first hotel–the City Hotel. And while its reputation was swanky, the Southern locals often clashed with the Yankees and violence soon became the norm: fights, murders, a lynch mob… all part of a classy establishment, right?
In 1864 the hotel closed when General Sherman led the Union army through Georgia. For the most part, the building sat largely unused until the 1990s when Moon River Brewing Company opened its doors.
Visitors and staff report being touched, slapped, pushed, and otherwise scared senseless. One ghost is such a frequent guest that staff named him Toby. If you visit Moon River, ask Toby – or another staff member – to get you an Apparition Ale to calm your nerves.
We’re crazy about the Kehoe House. This luxury boutique bed and breakfast is not only one of Savannah’s best hotels, but also one of the most romantic in the U.S. And if you love the idea of a nightly turndown service as well as having a “mystery guest” accompany you during your slumber, you’ve found your perfect stay.
This majestic property was built in 1892 for William Kehoe, a prominent businessman, his wife, Anne, and their ten (yes, 10) children. Mr. Kehoe’s heirs sold the home in 1930. During the next few decades it served as a boarding house and funeral home. Then football great Joe Namath owned it for a stint before selling it in the 1990s. It soon became The William Kehoe House and has kept that name despite changing owners.
Rumor has it that two of the Kehoe’s children died in the house, although that is unsubstantiated. However, many visitors and guests have reported seeing and hearing children. Yet other sightings seem to involve Mr. Kehoe turning lights on and off and locking or unlocking doors. Also, the missus is said to sit on guests’ beds and touch them while they sleep. Whether you believe it or not, the Kehoe House is a one of the best places to stay in good ole haunted Savannah. Consider avoiding rooms 201 and 203 if you’re easily spooked, though.
Another location made famous in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the Hamilton-Turner Inn is currently a charming bed and breakfast. So charming, in fact, that many people believe some of the former residents have chosen to stick around in the afterlife.
In 1873, a prominent Savannah businessman named Samuel Pugh Hamilton built a magnificent home that soon became a grand gathering spot for the city’s elite. The house was also the first in town to have electricity. At dusk crowds would gather to stare in awe and wonder if it was about to explode!
In 1915, Dr. Francis Turner purchased the home and rumor has it that he not only saw patients there, but also performed autopsies in the basement. Later, the home was used as boarding house for the Marine Hospital Nurses. It wasn’t until a few decades ago that the scandalous parties detailed in Berendt’s book ruffled more than a few feathers in Savannah.
Today, some guests say they’ve heard rolling billiard balls and children laughing. Some think the noises are the phantom Hamilton children who were left to entertain themselves during their family’s social events. Oh, non-smokers beware: You might see a cigar-smoking dude on the rooftop. Add to that sounds of footsteps of Civil War soldiers and random spots of cold air in certain rooms and you have a great haunted Savannah ghost story to take home.
17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant
This establishment’s website proudly declares: “Voted Savannah’s Most Haunted Inn.” There’s also a section on the inn’s ghosts, so the paranormal is definitely an integral part of this place.
The inn and restaurant were originally three separate private residences. The oldest section was built prior to the great Savannah fire of 1820. Steel White built the western end between 1821 and 1823; the Powers family built the smaller western section in 1888; and a 3-story guest house across the street was built in 1875. So why the name 17Hundred90, you ask? That year marked the first free election of the mayor, city council, and city government in Savannah.
Creepy stories about this place abound, but the inn’s owners say at least three ghosts live here. The most well-known is Anna, who spends most of her time in Room 204. Supposedly, Anna jumped from a third floor window when her lover sailed away. Personal items move, bed covers are tousled, and some folks get nudged. Don’t worry, though, they say she’s a friendly spirit, so nighty-night! Another pleasant ghost is Thaddeus, a boy who hangs out in the ground floor restaurant and tavern. He likes shiny new pennies, so be sure to leave him a few.
If you’re the grumpy type and like your ghosts crotchety, you’ll love the kitchen. There’s a spirit there who throws pots, pans, and spice jars at inn staffers. Talk about an annoying coworker.
The Pirate’s House
The Pirate’s House is as good as it gets in the haunted restaurant category. Oh, and the food is dee-licious to boot. But as dark history goes, this place is our absolute favorite haunted Savannah location. Opened in 1753 as an inn for sailors, the establishment promised a hot meal, a warm bed, and plenty of alcohol for the weary seamen. However, when they over imbibed many were dragged unconscious through a tunnel leading to the river. From there, they were sold and forced into piracy. Imagine waking up after that hangover! Needless to say, the patrons of the inn way back then weren’t the most upstanding citizens, and bloody brawls and murders were pretty commonplace.
Sightings of long-dead seamen, disembodied voices and moans, sounds of footsteps, doors opening and closing, staff who refuse to work alone after closing… it’s all part of a normal day at Savannah’s oldest restaurant. Cool side note: The smaller structure next to the main building is called The Herb House and is the oldest building in Georgia, dating to 1734.
Madison Square is already on many a Savannah sightseer’s to-do list, even if ghosts aren’t on their radar. Located in the Center of Savannah’s Historic District, at the intersection of Bull and Macon Streets, this small park is where you’ll find the Sgt. William Jasper Monument. Sgt. Jasper was a Savannahian Revolutionary War hero who died in the Siege of Savannah in 1779. The monument honoring him also defines the southernmost limit of the British defenses.
Needless to say, Sgt. Jasper was only one of many men who died in the gruesome Siege of Savannah. Rumor has it there’s a mass grave at this location and some men were buried alive as they agonized on the verge of death.
Many claim this is one of the most haunted outdoor locations in Savannah and visitors have reported seeing dark shadow figures at night, feeling cold spots and chills, and hearing disembodied voices and capturing EVPs. The Sorrel-Weed House (see above) is also here, so be sure to check it out.
Factor’s Walk/Factor’s Row
Say you don’t believe in ghosts and just aren’t interested. You’ll still love Factor’s Walk for the history, architecture, and cool places to eat and shop. And if you’re (un)lucky you’ll see a spirit or two.
Located on a bluff just above the River Walk, Factor’s Row is a group of historic red brick buildings that was once a hub for Savannah’s cotton brokers, known as factors. These buildings run east to west above the river and a series of iron walkways links them with the streets that are higher up. These walkways are called Factor’s Walk. Sadly, the slaves who were brought to work in Savannah were processed through this area, as well.
All of this heartbreak, pain, and suffering surely contributes to the hauntings reported here. Visitors and locals alike see shadow figures, experience feelings of sorrow and heaviness, and hear phantom footsteps approaching but never reaching them… or do they?
Located about five miles from downtown Savannah, Bonaventure Cemetery is a bit out of the way, but well worth the trip. Known as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world (who knew this was a competition?), Bonaventure features over 100 acres of Southern Gothic style. Meander through the fascinating sculptures framed with silvery Spanish moss and spot the graves of singer songwriter Johnny Mercer and his grandfather Hugh W. Mercer, who fought under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Mr. Mercer also built the Mercer-Williams House (see above).
However, the most famous grave here is that of Little Gracie Watson. Gracie died of pneumonia just short of her 6th birthday and her parents had a beautiful stone carving done of her likeness. After she died, her parents moved to Boston and were eventually interred there, leaving Gracie alone. Some folks say that if a visitor removes any gifted toys or flowers her statue will cry tears of blood. There are also reports of her crying in the middle of the night or running around Johnson Square, where she used to play in life. And good news for you animal lovers out there: Supposedly, there’s a pack of ghost dogs roaming around, although the barks and growls people report aren’t very friendly. Maybe pack some ghostly doggie treats.
Eliza Thompson House
Built in 1847, the Eliza Thompson House was not only the first house built on Jones St., but also one of the finest. Eliza and Joseph Thompson lived here with their seven children and regularly hosted lavish parties. Unfortunately, Joseph passed away just eight years after the property was built, and Eliza accompanied him to the afterlife in 1875. Legend has it that their son James, a Confederate soldier, was killed in front of the house when a horse kicked him in the stomach.
The home remained in the Thompson family until the 1920s and thereafter served as a medical and dental office before eventually becoming an inn.
Visitors report seeing a soldier gazing out the window and sitting on a sofa in room 132. Perhaps the spirit of James Thompson? So, if you’re a fan of spirits, ask for that room if you dare. That room’s not available, you say? No worries, as some guests report little children giggling in the hallway and have spotted a ghostly girl in a white dress wandering around.
Lest you think the hauntings are not “official,” the inn’s website claims that writers from South Magazine investigated the property and rated it 4.5 out of 5 on their “Fright-O-Meter” thanks to orbs, strange mists, unexplained cold spots, and general spookiness. So, it’s officially a haunted Savannah must-see.
Remember, even if you’re not a big ghost fan, these haunted Savannah locations are all amazing places to visit for their unique history and the impression they’ve made on this remarkable city. And who knows, you just might make a new friend (or enemy) along the way.