Colonial Cemetery Ghost Tour
The city that lives upon the dead. That’s what they call her, you know. Savannah, Georgia. Yes, in fact they say that the dead walk the streets of Savannah, as easily as you or I. That Savannah is their city – their home – and that they know it. From misbegotten souls who had been tormented by the living long after having been put into the ground to rest, down to savage brutes of men – who had been intent on doing another harm, before their own untimely demise. Yes – the overwhelming spiritual presence that this place holds, is undeniable… And Colonial Park Cemetery just so happens to be at the epicenter of it all.
Colonial Park Cemetery – a place so ancient that even its own boundaries can no longer hold the torrential outpour of paranormality that spews forth from its very core. it’s true – in fact, as the city expanded, it became clear that amidst the turmoil that was brought about by the turn of the century, so to was there an overarching preeminence of progress, and unimpeded success for those willing to pursue it. And so, Savannah began to expand. It happened slowly at first, a part of the cemetery would be forgotten here, in favor of a bakery, or here, in favor of a new barber shop. Slowly but surely, as time marched on, piece by piece, the Colonial Park Cemetery was absorbed back into the city proper, its name being struck from those parts of its land, and those poor souls buried beneath, forgotten right along beside her.
Having been built originally in 1750, the Colonial Park Cemetery is the oldest remaining cemetery in the entire city of Savannah, Georgia. Having housed generations of Savannah’s men and women in their final hour, it is of no wonder that upon this land walks some of the most prolific, and most fascinating spirits ever encountered by man.
The first thing that struck me, upon setting foot into the Cemetery proper was its size. Approximately six acres of land. Six acres of land, to house over 10,000 souls. It didn’t seem possible, and sure enough, it was not. Having been eroded over the many years, over nine tenths of the graves extant in this place carry a marker of any kind. The rest? Abandoned souls – forgotten by not only their city, but by her people, as well. Is it any surprise, then, when these poor misbegotten souls rise from their eternal slumber, and come forth again to meet us? To remind us, once and for all, that they’re still there, under the dirt – even if no one seems to remember.
The dueling grounds to the south are of a particular interested to those of us enthralled by the paranormal. Once home to some of Savannah’s finest dueling grounds, men from across the city would come to this place to settle their differences, permanently. Now, a playground and basketball court for the Cities youth – it is said that is you look closely, and keep an open mind, that you will be able to catch glimpses of some of these long forgotten men, the ephemeral duelists of savannah.
It was in 1820 when the Yellow Fever stuck, and not surprisingly, the men and women of Savannah were succumbing in droves to its wicked denouement. By the end of that year, according to a town report at the time, upwards of 700 men and women had been taken. Rumor has it, I was informed, that the true number lies closer to that of the devil’s own, 666 – but the town decided it best to avoid reporting on this particular fact in hopes that they could begin to dissuade the already mounting reports that Savannah was a place held in high esteem by the men and women no longer of this earth.
But of course, if you’re coming to Savannah, there’s surely one ghost you’ll be positively dying to see. The ghost of Rene Rondolier. Said to have been a true giant of a man, coming in at over seven feet in height, Rene Rondolier was a killer, and a terrible one at that. Having all of his life been cursed with the cognitive abilities of a much younger man, but gifted with his enormous physical strength, it was said that Rondolier would kill animals and small children, before he had even realized what it was that he had done. On one such event, the death of a young girl who had had her neck broken, Rondolier had naturally been the prime suspect.
Having pursued and finally caught up to the man, the townspeople subdued him with all of their might, and set out to the Cemetery to lynch him for his crimes. Throughout the ordeal, Rene had been adamant that he was not to blame for the death of this girl, or for any of the others – that he was innocent. His cries, however, fell on deaf ears – and he was hanged by the neck that very evening, from what is now known as the Hanging Tree, within the ground of the Colonial Cemetery. Of course, once Rene Rondolier was gone, the children did not stop dying. It’s said now, that on clear nights, you are able to see Rondolier still, hanging in that tree and lamenting the loss and waste that was his earthly life at the hands of those frightened, and yet undeniably wicked men.
One thing you’ll immediately notice upon entering this place, is that many of the headstones seem… strange. Markers in odd locations, stones doubled up on graves, dates of birth and death that have no business being laid permanently into stone, for all of time to bear witness to. Upon further investigation, it was imparted unto me that these stones had indeed been tampered with, and by a very curious contingency, at that.
It was 1864, when General William Tecumseh Sherman carried out his famous “March to the Sea”, straight through the heart of Savannah, Georgia. It was no secret, even then, that General Sherman was one for total destruction. His scorched earth policy in dealing with the Southern States during the time of the Civil War are nothing short of legendary – and horrific – in equal measure.
But this time, things were different. The beauty of Savannah seemed to take a hold of the General, and in the wake of their impending victory over the south, rather than raze this city of great natural splendor to the ground, the General decided that it would be better suited as a gift, meant for none other of course than the then president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
But General Sherman’s boys did not go quietly, unfortunately, for Savannah’s resting dead. Headstones were torn from the earth and thrown asunder, as the Union soldiers made their way through the Colonial Cemetery, defacing whatever piece of history that they could find. They swapped stones around, carved new dates of birth and death, doubled stones up on some plots, while leaving other bare and wholly unidentifiable – leaving many of the future citizens of Savannah to wonder, just who is buried beneath their very feet?
It’s the preeminent question on the mind of someone like myself – a lover of all things paranormal. Just whose body might I be walking over now, as I meander down the loosely winding pathways of this beautiful city – and just whose spirit might that be, following me close behind? What mystery might lay beneath the ground, under each and every one of my footsteps? Perhaps we’ll never know for sure… but heck, come to Savannah and take a look. With a bit of luck, you may just find out for yourself.