Savannah has earned a reputation as one of America’s most haunted cities, with ghosts in nearly every historic home, restaurant, fort and cemetery.
Author Margaret Wayt DeBolt moved to Savannah in 1973, after her husband retired from the U.S. Navy, and took a job as a feature writer for the local newspaper.
"When I went out to Fort Pulaski or Fort Jackson, the Telfair or the Pirates’ House, somebody always wound up telling me a ghost story," she recalls. "I realized that there are perfectly reasonable, logical people who are telling me these incredible stories. I thought that these stories needed to be documented."
After conducting extensive interviews and meticulous research, DeBolt wrote Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales, a 295-page book that chronicles dozens of Savannah’s best ghost stories. DeBolt published Savannah Spectresin 1985 and soon began the first non-profit ghost tour, in connection with the Historic Savannah Foundation.
DeBolt's book has sold over 50,000 copies in bookstores across Savannah and has helped launch a number of successful ghost tours.
Why does Savannah have so many ghost stories?DeBolt thinks that the proliferation of ghost tales is directly related to the various cultures that have played a role in Savannah’s history. From Irish to African-American, Lutheran to Native American, a variety of cultures have contributed their own folklore and stories. These stores have intermingled over the years, creating a unique blend of ghost stories.
Add to the mix the fact that Savannah has endured countless epidemics, fevers, occupations and battles since the city was founded in 1733. "You have ghosts where you have tragedies," DeBolt explains.
DeBolt has become an expert in Savannah’s ghost lore. In the course of doing her research for Savannah Spectres, did she ever actually see a ghost firsthand? "I have not personally seen a ghost," she acknowledges with a grin. "But I think some people are more psychic than others. I don’t think it’s an absolute. Maybe we’re psychic by degrees."
Juliette Gordon Low House — The ghost of the father of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, has been observed walking through the halls of this historic home.
Owens-Thomas House — Built in 1819, this Regency-style home has been the site of a number of strange occurrences, including the appearance of male ghost dressed in a tailcoat with a ruffled shirt.
The Telfair Museum of Art — Harp music and footsteps have been heard by visitors to this building, designed by nineteenth-century architect William Jay.
17Hundred90 Restaurant and Inn — The ghost of Anna, a young Savannah woman who fell in love with a sailor and jumped off a third floor balcony as his ship departed in the 1820’s, has been seen many times in this historic building.
The Pirates’ House — The top floor of this eighteenth-century building, which once housed pirates and seamen, has been the site of strange noises and lights.
Bonaventure Cemetery — The sound of crystal breaking and the echo of laughter has been heard on many occasions, perhaps harkening back to the dinner party that took place in 1800 as the mansion of Josiah Tattnall, Jr. burned to the ground.