Every haunted city needs at least one good haunted cemetery, and Savannah is no different. Located at Abercorn and Oglethorpe, strong>Colonial Park Cemetery is considered one of the most haunted locations in all of Savannah. Some of the local paranormal enthusiasts even go as far as calling Colonial Park Cemetery ‘Paranormal Central.'
Colonial Park Cemetery opened in 1750. It is the oldest burial ground in Savannah which can still be identified by your average tourist. There are a few burial grounds which were used prior to 1750. They have all been covered up, built on top of or paved over. The habit of building over the dead has earned Savannah the title of the City That lives upon her Dead. One of the oldest, if not the oldest, is at the south-west corner of Wright Square. Within the 6 acres of ground which make up Colonial Park Cemetery there are over 10,000 people buried; however, there are not even 1,000 grave markers. Many people were buried in mass graves. Others had their grave marker knocked over or destroyed. Many people believe this willful desecration of burial grounds helps to fuel the haunted activity which is attributed to Colonial Park Cemetery.
Over the years, Colonial Park Cemetery has many ghost stories of its own. Many people consider Colonial Park Cemetery to be one of the most haunted places in all of Savannah. For this reason, among others, Ghost City chooses to start our Beyond Good and Evil Tour at the front gate of Colonial Park. While on tour it isn't uncommon for guests to see shadowy figures moving silently through the headstones and burial vaults. Twice this year alone guests on the Beyond Good and Evil Tour have seen a green mist floating through the cemetery behind Nicodemus. On the Beyond Good and Evil Tour, you will come to find that walking the streets of haunted Savannah is not always for the timid.
The most famous ghost story to come out of Colonial Park Cemetery is the haunted story of Rene Rondolier. Rene’s ghost is reported seen walking through the Cemetery, or hanging from the ‘Hanging Tree’ which is towards the back of Colonial Park Cemetery. How do people know this is Rene’s ghost? Well, in real life Rene was a very large person, standing almost 7 feet tall. It was said that one night Rene was caught not long after murdering two young girls inside of the cemetery. A mob was organized to find and lynch Rene. After Rene was hung in the nearby square, residents started to report a large shadowy figure walking the grounds of Colonial Park, Rene's favorite place to play.
The problem with this story . . . is that it isn’t true. This character hasn’t been found in historical records. Nobody has even found records of little girls being killed by a serial killer in the Cemetery. This story is a good ghost story, but it isn’t based in reality. Some tour guides will even tell you that he lived at a house that is located on the plot the Hampton Lillibridge house sits on. They will tell you that the glass on the brick wall surrounding part of the house was to keep Rene from wondering. Once again, this is complete nonsense.
So, while Rene Rondolier may be the most famous ghost to come from Colonial Park Cemetery, the story simply is not true.
Savannah is home to, and has been for a long time, a thriving Voodoo culture. Many voodoo practitioners live in and around Savannah. Many of them have moved outside of the city of Savannah due to various reasons. Before Colonial Park Cemetery was closed at night it wasn’t uncommon for early morning visitors to find the remnants of a Voodoo ceremony performed just the night before. The soil from the graves was used in various Voodoo rituals. In addition to the soil, graves were sometimes raided in order to obtain human bones.
These stories are true. To what extent the Colonial Park Cemetery was used as a place of ritual can be disputed, but I don’t think there is a single knowledgeable person who would dispute that Colonial Park was used for Voodoo rituals and ceremonies.
Just south of the south wall of Colonial Park Cemetery is a small park. Today the area contains a basketball court and a children’s playground. It is rumored that this is the dueling grounds of Savannah when dueling was legal. After the city of Savannah passed laws outlawing dueling the participants would go over to Hutchinson Island or South Carolina to attempt to restore honor to their names. Prior to the passage of this law, this small park was used by duelers in Savannah. I cannot find any source which says that this area was used for dueling…with any degree of certainty.
Another rumored use of these dueling grounds was a mass grave for victims of the Yellow Fever epidemics. Some tour companies will have their guides tell you this. Well, the problem with that is that two archeological services have used ground penetrating radar in this area. What they found was a dug path connecting two redoubts which were in the area..and not a single body buried anywhere south of the south wall of Colonial Park Cemetery. So, if your tour guide tells you about the mass burials in this area, let him/her you know better.
Yep, you read that correctly. Don’t go dying in Savannah, we just might lose your body! Well, hopefully, the system for tracking dead bodies has improved over the past 200 years but in the early days of Savannah, lost bodies were not uncommon. On the ghost tours we offer here in Savannah we often get into all sorts of macabre topics. Death and dying inevitably come up during the conversation on a ghost tour.
One of the more interesting stories about Savannah’s approach to the dead is the story of Major General Nathanael Greene. It seems that being a Major General, second in command to General George Washington, during the Revolutionary War wasn’t even enough to guarantee yourself a proper burial here in Savannah.
On June 19th, 1786, Nathanael Greene succumbed to heat stroke on his plantation, Mulberry Grove, on the outskirts of Savannah. The Major’s body was transported into Savannah by boat the following day. In the late afternoon, his body was transported to the Cemetery for burial. It was decided that his body would be placed inside of the Graham family Vault. The Graham family wasn’t using it. They fled the country as Sympathizers to the Crown a few years earlier.
A few years after Nathanael Greene was laid to rest inside of the vault it was opened up for his son, George Washington Greene. George died when his boat overturned near Mulberry Grove. The location wasn’t a very lucky place for the Greene family. He was placed in the vault with his father on April 4th 1790.
It only took Savannah about 30 years to lose the body of Nathanael Greene and his son. A committee was appointed and tried, unsuccessfully, to locate the final resting spot of Nathanael Greene.
Finally, in 1901, Asa Bird, President of the Rhode Island Society of Cincinnati, came to Savannah for the purpose of trying to track down the final burial place of Nathanael Greene. During the inspection of a number of family vaults in Colonial Park Cemetery the body of the General and his son were found in the Graham-Mossman Family Vault. There was a number of pieces of evidence which left no doubt that the bodies were the bodies which were sought after.
In 1902 The bodies of Major General Nathanael Greene and his son were moved to their final resting place in Johnson Square, here in Savannah. They were placed underneath the monument which bares his names. This Obelisk is seen by millions of people every year as they stroll through the streets of Savannah.
This story is just one of many stories about Savannah’s weird history that our guides sometimes tell on the ghost tours. On every ghost tour we try to work in some of this strange history so you can get a better understanding of why Savannah is as haunted as it is. We have a reputation for forgetting about and abusing our dead. Building on top of burial plots, desecrating graves, putting roads on top of graves..and losing bodies. Does all of these happenings help provide the fuel for the hauntings we have here? I would almost certainly say it does.
When you own a Savannah ghost tour company that does ghost walks you end up getting a lot of questions. There are certain places that guests seem to want to know more and more about. One of those places is Colonial Park Cemetery.
After taking a ghost tour it isn't uncommon for us to get emails or phone calls from people who want to learn more about the ghosts of Colonial Park Cemetery. So, here is a little more information that isn't included in the ghost tours.
If you want to learn more about Colonial Park Cemetery I would recommend doing a self-guided tour during the daytime. On our ghost tours we do not have access to the inside of Colonial Park. During the day you can wander the Cemetery on your own. You'll see more than a few interested headstones and grave markers. Many of them have interested information about the person buried there. Are some of these people the ghosts which we talk about on our ghost tours? It is very possible.
Another fun thing to do is to simply sit outside of the fence at Colonial Park Cemetery. The guides on our ghost tours will encourage you to do this while walking past the Cemetery on the tour, however, you can do this on your own. There are numerous benches around Colonial Park Cemetery. Grab yourself a beverage and a bench. You never know if you'll see one of the famous ghosts and spirits from Colonial Park without trying.
If you decide to do your own ghost tour of Colonial Park you'll want to keep an eye out for a few things. While on our ghost tours guests will often tell their guide that they see shadows walking among the headstones. Could this be a play of light or a real ghost? I know that I have personally watched two shadow figures make their way through the graveyard on two different occasions..and I know what I witnessed. Another common sight are mist figures moving through Colonial Park Cemetery. I have never seen one of these while at Colonial Park but our ghost tour guests have seen them. Even people who work for other tour companies have witnessed these ghostly mists floating through the Cemetery.
Even though you cannot get into Colonial Park Cemetery after they close you can still work the fence. I have spent many hours walking along the fence which surrounds Colonial Park Cemetery. I'll occasionally do EVP sessions with a voice recorder on quiet nights. While Colonial Park Cemetery isn't what I would call an EVP hotspot, I have got numerous ghost voices around the Cemetery. Towards the southeast corner of the Colonial Park I have two recordings of the same man talking to me, on two different occasions.
Last, but not least, if you are planning on doing your own mini ghost hunting tour, walking around Colonial Park Cemetery, don't think about trying to get in. Yes, the fence could easily be navigated. You will get caught. The city of Savannah has numerous cameras fixed on the Cemetery grounds. You will get caught, you will get fined. So, don't even try it. Stay outside of the Cemetery, you'll still have a great time.
We have three ghost tours in Savannah which regularly go to, or start at Colonial Park Cemetery. On each of this ghost walks you'll hear the stories associated with the dark history of Colonial Park Cemetery.
If you’re looking to visit Colonial Park Cemetery, our advice is to do so in the early evening before they close the gates. Before it is time to go check out haunted Savannah on your ghost tour head over to the Cemetery and check it out.
Colonial Park Cemetery can be found at 201 Abercorn Street. The main entrance is the large stone archway at the corner of Abercorn and Oglethorpe. Just make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to explore this historic cemetery before the gates close at 8pm.
Many of our ghost tours do go by Colonial Park Cemetery. We will stop, let you look around and tell you some of the most interesting historical aspects and ghost stories of the cemetery. The Beyond Good and Evil Tour even starts right at the entrance to the cemetery.
If you're looking for the perfect way to learn more about haunted Savannah Georgia, check out one of our Savannnah Ghost Tours. We look forward to showing you around our beautifully haunted city.