Savannah, Georgia, is known for its timeless beauty.
Its historic squares, such as Johnson Square or Calhoun Square, are plastered on postcards that don’t do them any justice. Its narrow streets are shaded by the long reach of tree branches. Its historic homes, spanning from the Revolutionary War to the Victorian period and later, are regarded as excellent examples of Savannah’s dedication to historic preservation.
Shops such as the Gryphon Tea Room exist in century-old buildings that once functioned as something else entirely (in this case, as an apothecary).
But beneath these breathtaking squares, beneath these streets and these historic homes, is the Subterranean level of Savannah.
The Savannah that is not often seen, though it is often discussed with hushed whispers and local lore.
The hidden tunnels below the city’s streetscape tell a different story. A darker, more intricate tale of Savannah’s less-than-prestigious past, which, in turn, has created Savannah’s haunted present.
Many people are under the impression that you can take a tour of the tunnels underneath Savannah. This isn't true. All of the known tunnels are blocked off for safety reasons. Of course, we wish we could take our ghost tours down into these long abandoned tunnels - but it simply isn't possible.
Here are the haunted, hidden tunnels of Savannah.
This 250-year-old property remains today one of the most visited buildings in Savannah’s historic district. There’s been talk that Captain Flint (of Treasure Island notoriety) once died in the house, though this has been largely disproved.
But there is another reason why The Pirate’s House continues to lure locals and visitors alike, and that is because of the tunnel that allegedly runs from its basement to River Street. Or so people say, anyway. (A more recent and viable historical reason for the “tunnel” beneath The Pirate’s Alley is that it was the bar’s old–excuse the language–“shitter”).
Still, as the story goes, once the preferred drinking spot for sailors and the rough-and-tumble folk of the 19th century, The Pirate’s House was the perfect locale to catch people unaware.
So unaware, actually, that the term “shanghaied” was bandied about at large. Drunk seamen and criminals would drink at the bar, demanding another and another, until they passed out. But when they woke up, they found themselves on a ship in the middle of the sea.
Some claim the “thiefs” were pirates, while others label them as sea captains unwilling to waste time in recruitment. Nevertheless, these unsavory patrons were dragged down to the Rum Cellar, the basement of The Pirate’s House, before being brought through the secret tunnel and out onto River Street and put on a ship.
Today, The Pirate’s House is said to be one of the most haunted locations in the city—thanks to the murders, fights and the lot of stolen criminals that once drank here. Current patrons of the bar have witnessed seeing apparitions meandering through the upper rooms, as well as hearing phantom footsteps prodding around.
And down in the basement? Well, it’s said that you can hear the sounds of people moaning as though the spirits of these old sailors are reliving their kidnapping over and over again for all of eternity.
Named for the cotton factors of the 19th century which made Antebellum Savannah rich and famous, Factor’s Walk remains one of the least discussed locations in the city . . . although it shouldn’t be.
Those who were enslaved were brought into Savannah by being led into the buildings of River Street. Behind those buildings lay Factor’s Walk, now the home to the many sealed off tunnels that would have descended under Bay Street and into the basements of those buildings. Basements like the Moon River Brewing Company, which is now regarded as one of the most paranormally active locations in the city, where the spirits are sinister and oftentimes even violent.
But at Factor’s Walk, the ghosts are no less quiet, which can be expected as thousands of people were separated from their families and forced into slavery.
For the brave souls who still wander down that way, the heavy wooden doors that once opened to the dark tunnels beneath the street harken back to the 1700s. Dark shadows have been seen darting in and out, and sometimes even follow the living to wherever they might go next.
Factor’s Walk is a symbol of Savannah’s dark past, and its ghosts are all too eager to remind those who visit that the beauty of Savannah was constructed by the souls who lost their freedom.
Stand next to the doorway of one of the old tunnels and pause for a moment. Listen. And wait for the sounds of footsteps padding along the cobblestone street, and just know that if you hear another pair of footsteps in tune with yours as you leave . . . you aren’t going alone.
Want to check out Factor’s Walk on your next trip to Savannah? Check out our Grave Tales Ghost Tour where it is an often featured stop!
Now one of the buildings belonging to the Savannah Law School, the former Old Candler Hospital has a gruesome history all unto its own.
To the east of Forsyth Park is the Candler Hospital, well, what is left of it. It is presently a law school. Many ghost tour companies still go there to tell the stories about the death and dying which took place there.
It was 1876 when one of the largest (and final) yellow fever epidemics swamped the city of Savannah. Thousands lay dead, or dying, and for those of you unaware of how completely yellow fever ravages the body, imagine this: once the fever spikes your temperature and your organs start to fail, you start to vomit, dragging up black fluid that many liken to coffee grinds. There was no cure for yellow fever, except miracles—and if you did happen to survive the fatal disease, you were strangely immune for life.
During this last Yellow Fever outbreak in Savannah, as the story is told, there were a great number of people who died in the Candler Hospital from Yellow Fever. So many in fact, that tunnels were dug and secret burials were made throughout the entire area. Of course, this breaks a shock to the people on the ghost tour, with many eyeing the ground underneath them, wondering if they are standing on one of these graves One of the secret burial grounds was a tunnel that ran underneath Forsyth Park. This tunnel didn’t have an exit. It was simply a place to put the bodies of the dead without bringing them to the surface. Is this true?
A good many people found themselves at the old Candler Hospital hoping for a miracle. Only, so many people had apparently died from the disease that it is said that tunnels were dug below the building and under the surrounding area for a place to lay the dead to endless sleep.
But in that fateful year, a good many people found themselves at the old Candler Hospital hoping for that miracle. Only, so many people had apparently died from the disease that it is said that tunnels were dug below the building and under the surrounding area for a place to lay the dead to endless sleep.
One of those such “burial grounds” is said to exist beneath the beautiful Forsyth Park, just steps away from Candler Hospital. Allegedly–although it is unlikely such tunnels were dug beneath the park itself–there were no exits to the tunnel, as they were intended only to be a place for burial. Were these tunnels in fact dug below the surface level? For many, this has become cold, hard truth, while others find the thought difficult to digest. (And, in fact, there is no historical evidence that beneath Forsyth, these tunnels exist. Under the old Candler Hospital on the other hand . . . there’s absolute truth to the legend).
If the story is true, it is pretty creepy knowing that underneath the feet of people getting married, kids playing in the park…that there could potentially be hundreds or more, burials which were simply swept under the rug. So, we have to do a little digging to find out if this story is true or not. This is one of the reasons we don’t feature it too often on our ghost tours. Here in Savannah, we have a lot of places to take guests to on our ghost tours, places where we are much more certain of the information.
Forsyth Park is one of the most visited squares in Savannah, where weddings and celebrations take place on the regular. But according to local lore, beneath your feet lie the dead of the diseased.
And, if that doesn’t make you uneasy enough, an article in the Savannah Morning News, which dates to 1884, discusses how there was to be a construction of a tunnel beneath the hospital to replace the aboveground morgue.
Whether you believe the legend or not, it’s clear that the proximity to the old Candler Hospital and the possible burial grounds in the tunnels have left Forsyth Park with an air of mystery . . . and also a bit of paranormal activity as well.
Can you brave the ghostly stories of the former Candler Hospital? Check out our Dead of Night Ghost Tour where Forsyth Park is sometimes a featured stop on the tour!
It seems as if this story, at least for now, is one of the stories that is told about the macabre past of Savannah that will have to remain unknown, at least, to me. Some of the most popular stories on our ghost tours seem to have that theme…a little unknown and a little mystery. Sometimes people don’t want their ghost stories to be wrapped up and figured out. If anyone out there has solid information about this story we would love to hear about it. Feel free to start a discussion in the comments below.