River Street works its way from east to west along the Savannah River. It was the main artery for traffic and goods coming into Savannah during those early years in the 1700′s and much of the 1800′s. The port which was located on River Street was the driving force behind Savannah’s economic rise during that same time period. On our Savannah ghost tours, we will sometimes take you down into River Street where most of the ghosts and hauntings have been reported.
The land Savannah was built upon was chosen because it was a natural fort. Located high up on a bluff, the ground offered protection from an attack by water. This is one of the reasons General Oglethorpe decided on building the city of Savannah where he did. Little did he know (or maybe he did and didn't care) that this area was also used as a burial ground by many of the Indian tribes in the area. We will save that story for another blog post. River Street was located on the bottom of the bluff. It was from River Street that the docks were built that helped shape the world's economies with cotton...and slaves. Cotton was shipped out (a long with many other exports) and slaves were shipped in.
Many of the buildings which line River Street were once warehouses. When cotton was king the warehouses would be used to store the cotton before it was placed on the ships prior to be sent around the world. From the warehouses, cotton and other assorted exports were crammed into ocean-going vessels by the hard working men of the Docks. These men, mostly Irish, German and Africans, worked under extreme and dangerous conditions. It wasn't unheard of for a worker to be crushed under the load of goods being loaded. Men would fall off of the docks and drown...The conditions were ripe for a haunting of a large magnitude....Men were killed by the hundreds working in these dangerous conditions. It is not a coincidence that people have from time to time reported seeing ghostly men, dressed in old style clothing, moving through the shadows of River Street.
While workers hustled day and night to keep the outgoing ships loaded with goods and products, ships were also coming into port to unload their cargo. For almost 100 years, this cargo included human beings, slaves, bound in chains and metal. For these people, it wasn't a land of freedom and prosperity they were being brought to. For them, it was a land of cruelty, heartache and dream crushing sadness. After being unloaded from the ships, these slaves were brought into the warehouses on River Street. This was usually done under the cover or darkness, to hide from potential buyers the horrid condition these people were in. The slaves were imprisoned in the warehouses....and once they were ready for market they were led out of the back of the warehouses, through the Factors' Walk area and beneath Bay Street via tunnels into the basements of buildings up and down Bay Street. Many of the slaves never made it out of the buildings on River Street, succumbing to diseased conditions and utter despair, their fragile bodies unable to bear another day of lose and utter sadness. There are even the remains of shackles in some of the buildings along River Street and Bay Street.
The slaves which were brought into Savannah not only helped establish Savannah's prosperity, but they also contributed to Savannah's haunted present. Many of the buildings along River Street were used to house slaves after their trip from Africa. One can only imagine the atrocities which took place in these buildings. There are even the remains of shackles in some of the buildings along River Street and Bay Street. The negative energy felt by these slaves still casts a dark shadow on many locations on River Street.
The people who worked the docks were not exempt from the hardships of living in early Savannah. Many workers were killed during the construction of these early docks and buildings. Even more were killed by simply working in these dangerous places. On dark, quiet nights along the river, people have reported seeing individuals working quietly, not making a sound...then simply vanishing into thin air. These spirits of Savannah's past are here to remind of the sacrifice which was required to make Savannah a prosperous city.
Moreover, all of these stories of human suffering, loss of life...helped to contribute to the hauntings which now plague the buildings of River Street. In the Olde Harbour Inn, guests here the sounds of chains rattling, people moaning. In the alleys of River Street people report seeing black shadow figures moving through the shadows. Are the departed from River Street's past to blame for all of the paranormal activity reported by so many people on and off our Ghost Tours?
River Street is located along the Savannah River, in Savannah Georgia. There are a few access areas to drive down to River Street, along with some parking areas. You may find it easier to park above River Street and walk down.
The next time you are on River Street, do make sure to keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. If you have time to stop into the many shoppes and restaurants make sure to ask about any ghost stories they may want to share with you. Many of the employees of these places will eagerly share the experiences they have had with Savannah's ghostly residence when asked. On certain ghost tours we will guide you down to River Street and show you the locations of these hauntings. You will hear the stories of the slave trade and other tragedies which happened on River Street.