For generations people have talked about one house in Savannah more than any other, with horrifying tales of the past owner (Benjamin Wilson) becoming more and more grim with every decade that passes by. This house is known not by a name like the Winchester Mystery Mansion or the Myrtes Plantation.
No, it is known simply by its address: 432 Abercorn Street.
The house at 432 Abercorn is a place of endless rumors, rumors that draw tourists from around the country, where even rock star Alice "No More Mr. Nice Guy" Copper has made the trip. The privately owned home is not open to visitors, so when we (Ghost City Tours) bring our guests near the house, we always treat the house with great respect, not just for its residents, but also for any ghostly inhabits it may contain or any curse it may emit.
On a tour with Ghost City, we, unlike most other ghost tours in Savannah, do not wish to spread the controversial rumors that swirl around the house and its past owner as facts. We prefer to tell the truth. While the stories that have been passed on and on again are indeed fantastic, they are just that: fantastical stories. Stories meant to insight drama, and send unnerving chills down the spine of those looking to hear a frightful tale. However, it is important to separate the facts from the fiction when dealing with the haunted house at 432 Abercorn Street.
The story of 432 Abercorn begins in the year 1868, when its ground was first broken, or, rather re-broken. You see, long before plans to build the 432 Abercorn house came to fruition, the land was home to a slave burial site.
Suggestion: don’t ever build on top of burial ground, not just because it's in poor taste, but because you and your home will forever be cursed.
But, in a city like Savannah, this situation was seemingly unavoidable as many of its structures were built on the forgotten graveyards of the Native Americans and the enslaved Africans. This has lead many people to believe that Savannah is a cursed city, haunted by a curse that has burdened the city with the endless bloody battles of the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. A curse that has also plagued the city with innumerable outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera. Countless people in Savannah have perished at the hands of the curse, leaving these departed souls to linger the grounds of the city for eternity.
The area around 432 Abercorn, known as Calhoun Square, is part of Savannah's haunted equation, and is considered a hotbed for supernatural activity (if you want to try your hand at ghost hunting, Calhoun square is the place for you). Some even consider Calhoun to be ground-zero for Savannah's curse, as it has endured more than just battles and diseases. Over the years, Calhoun square has witnessed murders, suicides and disappearances, that have only further wounded the city, leaving it infected with an incurable darkness.
The misery and death that lays upon Calhoun Square and Savannah as a whole fills its atmosphere with pain and despair. When visiting the square, you can feel the presence of a sorrowful energy in the air; you can hear the cries of the fallen in the wind; but you may never know who is actually trying to reach you . . . perhaps the ghost of a soldier, the soul of a slave or the spirit of a Native American.
The main street that follows alongside Calhoun Square is Abercorn Street, and the most infamous house on Abercorn is without question no. 432. Construction of the house built for Benjamin Wilson and his family wrapped up in 1869. Wilson was a veteran of the Civil War, with an ambition to climb the Savannah social ladder. The home he had built was considered to be one of the most expensive houses in all of Savannah, and was valued at over 20,000 dollars, a staggering amount at the time.
Shortly after the family moved into the new house, Mr. Wilson's wife died, one of the many victims claimed by Yellow Fever. Reportedly, Mr. Wilson fell into a deep depression, but tried his best to pull himself together, as he was now the only parent his children had. It is believed that Mr. Wilson was not the warmest of individuals, hardened by war and lost after the death of his wife. Some say he did do the best that he could given the circumstances, while others claim he was too strict and overbearing when it came to his children.
From here on out the facts about 432 Abercorn become hazy. No one is quite sure when or how the legend of 432 Abercorn started, but the twisted versions and various accounts of the tale are unsubstantiated. The lack of facts, and evidence to the contrary, have done little in the way of discouraging many tour companies and their guides from telling the story as though it were gospel.
When we give our Dead of the Night Ghost Tour, the first question we tend to get is about 432 Abercorn. The wild and outlandish rumors that surround the house have a far reaching legacy, thus it brings out our natural curiosity. So, we understand that the rumors are why many people wish to take a ghost tour when they visit Savannah.
Problem is: while it’s likely the house is haunted, there is no truth to the story about Benjamin Wilson.
The story of Benjamin Wilson is a disturbing tale rooted in fiction, and laced with tabloid magazine flare. This fallacy about Benjamin Wilson centers around his "disciplining" of his daughter. According to rumors, Mr. Wilson's punishment techniques went well beyond a spanking or sending his child to their room without supper. His punishments were said to be excessive and borderline cruel.
Then one day Mr. Wilson crossed the cruelty line.
The incident that pushed him over the edge should never had been considered an “incident" in the first place. It was the Post-Civil War era, when racial tension and hatred were still threatening to completely destroy the United States of America. The country had just reunited after being split in half by a gruesome and bloody war. Also, one must remember, that the United States had only been a country for less than a century, still an infant when compared to their counterparts in Europe.
But, enough set up.
The story began innocently. Mr. Wilson's daughter was seen playing with the children for the Massie School.
What could possible be wrong with that?
Well, the children who attended Massie were a collection of the city's poor, mainly orphans and African-Americans students. Mr. Wilson was not pleased by his daughter's choice of friends and heartily disapproved of a proper young girl like his daughter playing with children from a "lower class."
Upon his daughter's arrival home, Mr. Wilson proceeded to berate her without mercy until he believed she received the message. However, this would prove not to be the case, as his daughter had no intention of obeying her father's command. No, she knew he was wrong in his beliefs and was determined to pay him no mind.
The very next day, the daughter went back to the Massie Schoo, and played with her friends. It did not take long for Mr. Wilson to learn that his daughter had not heeded his warning. She needed to be taught a lesson, he thought, a lesson that she would not soon forget, a lesson that would forever end her defiance.
Little did he know how literal of a lesson this would become.
For his daughter's continued disobedience, Mr. Wilson grounded her to her room, isolated from everyone (solitary confinement).
But this wasn't a simple case of locking her away in her room. In Mr. Wilson's eyes that wasn't extreme enough.
He took a chair and placed it right in front of her bedroom window, a window that overlooked the area outside of the Massie School, where the students routinely gathered to play. He then dragged his daughter to the chair, while she desperately kicked and screamed for help.
No one would come to her aid.
Mr. Wilson forced his daughter to take a seat, tying her wrists and binding her ankles to the arms and legs of the chair.
There she was left to look out of the window, down on the children from Massie, as they played without her. One day of the tortuous punishment was not enough to satisfy Mr. Wilson. He left his daughter tied to the chair for days, ignoring her pleas and cries for forgiveness. To make matters all the worse, the conditions she was subjected were unbearable, as Savannah was experiencing one of the hottest heatwaves to ever hit Georgia and with each passing day her body was left to roast in her room.
Some have said that she was imprisoned for several days, but as the end of week approached, she no longer had any fight in her. She was unable to hold on and died from heat exhaustion. Her father didn't even bother to check on her until the following day. When he finally entered her room, he noticed that she was unconscious and called out to her. Needless to say, she not respond. Mr. Wilson futilely rushed to her side, frantically untying her from the chair. Once free, her lifeless body fell into his arms (not yet frozen by rigamortis).
It wasn't until that very moment that he realized just how wrong he was. He couldn't believe that he had just killed his own daughter.
In the days to follow, no charges were filed against Mr. Wilson, as he was viewed as an important man in Savannah. Thus, his crime was swept under the rug by the police and went unreported in the newspapers. However, one person could not let his sin go: Mr. Wilson himself. He was distraught over what he had done. He had done awful things during the war, and knew he wasn't the most honorable man, but never believed that he could be capable of such an evil act.
There was one other who was unable to let Mr. Wilson off the hook, the departed soul of the daughter he had left to die. His daughter's spirit never crossed over to the other side, instead opting to stay in the house in which she had perished. She contentiously showed herself in apparition form to her father, with the intention of serving as a constant reminder of what he had done. But, her afterlife plans were shortly put to a stop, as the sight of her drove her father into further madness more quickly than she had anticipated.
After only a week of haunting her father, he’d had enough. Mr. Wilson went up to his daughter's room, his LeMat revolver gripped tight in one hand. When he entered her room, he saw it, the chair his daughter died in, still facing the window.
Mr. Wilson walked over to the chair, took a seat and there he sat. As, he looked out of the window, viewing the last sights his daughter saw, he began to weep for the first time since childhood and with the knowledge that he was undeserving to live, he rose the revolver to his temple and pulled the trigger, taking his own life in the very same spot he’d ended his daughter's.
As previously stated, the rumor about the Wilson family is just that, a rumor, just a way for tour companies to cash in. This shameless maligning of a man and his daughter for the sake of entertainment is the real dark side of urban legends. This example of blending real people with made up stories is the reason why some people are so quick to discredit other ghost stories. Because of this tale, the Wilson family will never be forgotten, but this also means the truth will never be remembered.
But, here is the truth anyway: Benjamin Wilson did not commit suicide at 432 Abercorn. He didn't even die in the state of Georgia.
Mr. Wilson passed away peacefully in 1896, in the state of Colorado. As for Mr. Wilson's children, he did indeed have a daughter. Two, actually. However, neither of them daughter died in the Abercorn house. The eldest Wilson daughter lived long passed her childhood. In fact, she lived to be in her eighties. As for the other Wilson daughter, she married into one of the most affluent families in Savannah.
So, how in the world did this rumor come about? Maybe Mr. Wilson was abusive to his children, and was harsh in dealing out his punishments. Perhaps this led to rumors around Calhoun Square about the family, and over the decades those rumors grew into the story we now know today. Another theory is that there could have been a similar incident to somewhere else in the county that may have been reported in the local papers, and as time went on the story became attributed as a local crime, later blending with the Wilson family and 432 Abercorn.
Another rumor told about 432 Abercorn is set in the backdrop of the late fifties (some say early sixties), when the owners of the house were a young husband and wife. The couple lived in the house with their two daughters.
Around one holiday season, the couple invited family friends to spend their family vacation at their home. The family friends took the young couple up on their offer and came for a visit with their two children (two girls as well).
During the evenings the adults would go out on the town, enjoying Savannah's nightlife. Unwisely, the adults left the four children home alone without any supervision. On the last night of the friend's vacation, the adults stayed out a little longer than usual.
When the adults finally arrived home, they went to check up on the children before going to bed. But, when they entered the children's room, they were shocked to discover three of the girls had been viciously murdered and contorted together to form a triangle. Their bodies laid bloody, slice opened, with their organs removed. The fourth child was later found hiding in one of the other rooms, curled inside of a closet, frozen in fear.
Some say that the current owner of the home is that fourth girl, and that she believes the house is cursed and that anyone who lives in it will die. It is for this reason that she lets the house sit abandoned, vowing that no one will ever occupy 432 Abercorn as long as she lives.
This story is equally as disturbing as the Wilson family tale, and also equally as false. Perhaps this is why the current owner is so annoyed with the constant touring around 432 Abercorn.
The third most common story told about the house at 432 Abercorn, might just be the most absurd of all. Years ago, a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design found himself staying at the Abercorn house, when one night he disappeared, never to be seen again. Some say he was transported into another dimension by the will of demons. (All we can say to this is, really?)
Another demonic rumors that is told about 432 is that the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, tried to buy the house for the purpose of using it as the base of operation for the east coast branch for the Church of Satan.
These stories too have been disproved.
If you go on Ghost City's Dead of Night Ghost Tour you will hear about the confirmed stories and paranormal ongoings at 432 Abercorn.
Yes, that's right: that are true haunting account regarding 432.
Some people have felt the negative energy that the house emits, while others have capture photos of shadowy apparitions in the corner windows of the house.
These ghostly images have convinced even the most adamant of nonbelievers that there is something inside the house at 432 Abercorn. What or who that something is may never be known, as the house is sealed in secrecy and therefore forever encompassed by rumors.
If you are interested in learning more about our offerings in Savannah, please visit us at Ghost City Tours.