The most infamous house in Savannah is, without question, 432 Abercorn. Coming in at a close second is the house in which legends are made, the house at 12 West Oglethorpe. The house's popularity is evident by the huge following it has developed over the years.
But while the house might be haunted, many of the fantastical stories told about the house are not true. Just fallacies and misinformation to drum up business by tour companies. While some ghost groups are content in sharing debunked tales as fact, here at Ghost City we are interested in one thing: discovering the truth.
Now, while there are indeed lies told about the house at 12 West Oglethorpe, that doesn't mean you should dismiss the house. Passerby regularly report seeing shadowy apparitions skulking around in the alleyway behind the house. Other entities of a ghostlike nature have appeared in the back corner of the house, and near the parking lot.
If that doesn’t send the chills skating down your spine, this might: on more than one occasion, Ghost City guests have been known to shriek as they pass by 12 West Oglethorpe. Are they perhaps frightened by the sighting of a ghost? The description of the ghost that is normally reported at 12 West Oglethorpe is of a guy wearing a cap, who leans against the house. Almost always he is waiting for a ride. But, where to? Unfortunately, no one knows. Not long after he scares the bejesus out of a tourist, he tends to vanish before their eyes. Seemingly into thin air!
However, many of the stories told about the house are simply not true and we’re prepared to break down the truth and fiction for you.
The History of the Haunted House at 12 West Oglethorpe
The house at 12 West Oglethorpe is believed to have been built around the turn of the twentieth century. But before its construction, there was another house on site. This house was occupied by the Gordon family for at least fifteen years. One of the Gordons was a young Juliette Gordon Low, who would go on to found the Girl Scouts.
The new structure built in place of the Gordon family's house was only a private residence for a short time. It was soon sold to the Savannah Charter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
The mysterious history of the house has led to many dark and twisted tales.
The Doctor's Tale
According to legend, the home that once stood before the house at 12 West Oglethorpe was owned by a doctor and his family. Their reign at the house was during the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged the city like a biblical plague.
As the population of Savannah and Georgia as a whole dwindled in size, it was only a matter of time before the doctor himself fell victim to this unforgiving disease. But, like the modern saying, most car accidents occur within ten minutes of one's home. The danger of becoming infected with this deadly curse always seemed to be greater upon one's arrival home.
The doctor's time did indeed eventually come. It was late in the night when the weary doctor called it a day. And, deservingly so, as it was one of many long and tireless days. Days, he spent vigilantly working to save lives in the growing grimness that Savannah presented. The epidemic had all but turned the city into a dystopia worse than hell.
Everyday the doctor risked becoming infected whilst at work. But, it was not until his return home that fateful night, that he would finally face his own mortality. As he walked up to the front door of his house, a feeling washed over him. A feeling that made him sick to his stomach. He hesitated for a moment, questioning whether or not he should place his hand on the doorknob and enter his home. The very place he had always viewed as his sanctuary.
Well, at least before this night.
The Tragedy Begins
A few moments later, the doctor collected himself. As he reasoned, he was being paranoid. In his mind, there was no place safer in the world than being at his home with his family. With that logic, he placed his hand on the doorknob and entered his house. With each step inside his home that he took came the realization that he was wrong. The disease had made its way into his home. His youngest child's fever had spiked, and his organs seemed to be shutting down.
Over the next couple of days, the doctor stayed home trying to save his child but he could do nothing. Over the days, his child's skin yellowed, while the sickness he himself regurgitated was as black as tar. It was not long after that that the child fell into a coma, later passing in the night. The doctor could not believe that for all of his years training and practicing medicine, he could not save his own child.
Unfortunately, as tragic as the child's death was, it was not the end.
One by one, the fever took hold of each member of the doctor's family, ravaging each of the poor souls in the same horrifying manner. And, with each time the sickness passed on to another member of the family, the doctor fought to save yet another treasured life. Trying to save one, at least one. But, alas, he could not.
Each futile effort could not escape his mind. Each day that passed only served as a reminder that he was running out of time.
The Doctor's Grief
Any sense of reality that the doctor had left was lost when the final member of his family passed from the fever. The horror he had witnessed twisted his mind. He could not reconcile the role he'd caused in the deaths of his family members. He came to think of himself as a mass murderer. He had infected his family. Why did I keep them here? When didn't I take them away, far away from Savannah? He asked himself these questions over and over again. Eventually, he came to believe that he was being punished for the act of vanity.
Before his immense loss, he believed that he and he alone could save the people of Savannah from yellow fever. And, now reflecting upon his loss, he began to think that it was this vainness that directly put his family in harm's way. With his loved ones now nothing more than casualties of the disease, the doctor began wishing for himself to become infected.
But as weeks passed, his fever never even spiked. Why? He would ask himself.
Take me, take me, he would beg God. The doctor wanted not to just die but to suffer—to suffer in the way that his family did. Actually, more so. He wanted to be punished. Punished, at first for not keeping his family safe, and then for not being able to cure them of the fever.
But, ultimately, he wanted to be punished for surviving.
After days of unanswered prayers, the doctor decided to take actions into his own hands. But killing himself would be too easy. A bullet in the head was just an easy way out in his mind.
What then? How? Weak of mind, the doctor came to the only conclusion that he could reach.
He went into the room of his youngest child, the first to succumb to the disease. The room was empty except for a bed. He boarded up the window, as he felt undeserving of even light. The doctor then locked himself in the room, without food or water. He looked at the bed, pondering for only a second, then opted to sit down on the hard wooden floor.
For days the doctor stayed locked in the room, hidden from the world as he wasted away. Already weakened from the loss of his family, the refusal of the smallest amount of food and the littlest bit of water was inconsequential. He was already dying from malnutrition before he locked himself away. Now with his complete refusal food and water, it was not long before he died.
It's important to clarify that the doctor's tale is just that: a tale. It's purpose is unclear.
Was it a story made up to explain the horrors of the yellow fever epidemic? Possible. Was it created to scare youngsters gathered around the campfire? More than likely not.
No one knows in all certainty just how the story came to be. But one thing is known for sure: it was not the last rumor to be spread about the grounds at 12 West Oglethorpe.
The Ghosts of the Haunted House at 12 West Oglethorpe
The ghostly unknown and mysteriousness that encompasses the grounds at 12 West Oglethorpe has led to endless rumors. Rumors that have plagued the house much in the same way as the yellow fever epidemic had cursed the City of Savannah. It's impossible to recount all of the tales that surround the house, as there are just too many. Most have little to no validity, while others are ever changing bits of nonsensical information that are shoveled around about town as gospel.
One of these bull-tastic tales began like most rumors do: with whispers. These particular whispers insinuate that 12 West Oglethorpe once operated as a church. Big deal, right? It's the south after all and there are churches everywhere. Well, the church that the rumors whispered of was actually the Church of Satan. And, moreover, the whispers about town contain more salacious details. Details of satanic rituals and animal sacrifices that regularly occur inside the house.
Another Suicide at 12 West Oglethorpe?
Satanists aside, another rumor told about the house was a tale of good Ole fashion death and suicide. Apparently, once upon a time, a young couple moved into Oglethorpe House. They ignored warnings from friends and family that the house was cursed. They were even told about the gruesome and infamous legend of the doctor and his family. But the happy couple were undeterred by the stories of the house's history.
The young couple felt the Oglethorpe House was the right home for them and their growing family. They believed that this would be their house for years to come. Unfortunately, this would not be the case. The young couple had just had a baby before moving in. And, prior to the move, the baby was seemingly healthy—shortly after settling in, that all changed.
The baby developed jaundice (or so they thought). The baby's fever and yellowing skin would not subside. Rapidly, the symptoms only intensified. Then one evening, the baby could not fight the illness any longer and passed away. The mother blamed herself, as she began to believe the rumors that the house was cursed. Her beloved baby had not a single mar to mark its body before moving in to 12 West Oglethorpe.
Much like the doctor, she was overcome with grief and could not bear to continue living.
It's been said that the woman returned to the house late one night. She was by herself, her husband completely unaware of her whereabouts. Her whole family was concerned about her, and searched all over Savannah. The last place to come to mind was the Oglethorpe House, as why would she want to return? Her husband decided to search the house anyway.
He entered the house, and began checking each room. One after another he found nothing. Finally, he checked the last room. Their baby's nursery. His feet suddenly became very heavy. But as the pace of his footsteps slowed, his heartbeat rapidly increased. When he finally got to the room and opened the door, he saw what he had feared.
His wife was hanging lifelessly from a rope wrapped around her snapped neck. The husband ran frantically to her aid, but there was nothing he could do but scream and curse the world.
To make this legend even more eerie, some believe that the room in which the young woman hanged herself, her baby's nursery, was the very same room that the Doctor starved himself to death in all those years ago.
But like the doctor's tale, there is no evidence of this story ever happening. Just another example of what horrifying stories are told about the haunted house at 12 West Oglethorpe.
The Legend Continues in the Afterlife
These dark stories of loss and suicides did not end when these poor souls departed. It's been alleged that the tragic end these souls met have left a lasting impression at 12 West Oglethorpe. not by memory alone but by their ghosts.
Some claim to have seen the spirit of the doctor haunting the house, his ghostly shadow roaming about the now abandoned property. Perhaps, this is the punishment he sought. Doomed to haunt the grounds where his family died for all eternity.
Over the years, people that walk past the house reportedly see all sorts of paranormal happenings. This includes the sightings of shadowy images wandering the property's grounds. Sometimes, these shadowy images even become fully formed apparitions. The apparitions are said to look like normal people, just enjoying the evening and going for a stroll.
But if someone dares to approach the lost souls, the ghosts vanish right in front of their eyes.
Neighbors of the abandoned house (which has been vacant since the 1980s), have made some rather interesting claims as well. They have reported hearing the loud banging sounds of pots and pans. (Maybe the ghost of the doctor has finally given in, and decided to make some SpaghettiOs.) But, perhaps not, as one of the most frequently spotted apparitions seen at the house is that of a man crying out in pain.
Despite all the fraudulent stories told about 12 West Oglethorpe there is something paranormal going on. As they say, when there's smoke, there's usually fire. While there's plenty of smoke at 12 West Oglethorpe, where's the fire? Could there have actually been a doctor who lived at the location of the house at some point? Maybe so. But for whatever truths we may know, it is doubtful that we will ever learn the whole story.
Visiting the Haunted House at 12 West Oglethorpe
The haunted house at 12 West Oglethorpe still sits boarded up to this very day, waiting for someone to give it a little love. There have been new rumors developing in the past couple of years—I know, more rumors? But, wait! These rumors are of a more positive nature. Rumors of an ongoing negotiation between the current owner of the house and restaurateurs. Will it work out? Only time will tell, but that would be something. Imagine having dinner at 12 West Oglethorpe!
But until that time comes, the house continues to sit abandoned, cursed, a playground for the lost souls doomed to haunt the house forever. Could restoration efforts ease their pain, allowing them to finally rest in peace? Doubtful, but hey, it couldn't hurt to try. Right?
On certain evenings, Ghost City's Dead of Night Ghost Tour makes a stop at the house at 12 West Oglethorpe. This is obviously one of those haunted houses rich in stories about ghastly events. So, if you want to know the truth about the house, and all of its secrets too, then you should consider taking a tour with us.
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Stay spooky, y'all!