Savannah Ghost Tour Questions… and Answers
Running a Savannah ghost tour affords me the opportunity for taking questions in between stories. I can get a little morbid in my answers. One such night is when I described that Colonial Park Cemetery is a spot where some truly strange burials and burial practices have occurred. For instance, there were numerous documented instances where people found bodies outside of the cemetery’s current dimensions. A woman asked me, “Could you please explain that? Why would people be buried outside of the cemetery fence?” It was a fair question, but a hard question to answer quickly. The following is what I told her, almost verbatim:
Creepy Haunted Savannah
“Colonial Park is presently six acres, but it has been expanded several times in order to reach that size. When burials began here in 1750, no buildings existed south of Oglethorpe Avenue. Looking north from our vantage point, we would see the city walls, which enclosed the entire town. The area where we’re currently standing was a large field known as the South Common. The cemetery’s official line was about eighty feet further east. There was no fence or wall at that time marking the cemetery’s dimensions. That the borders of the cemetery were… shall we say ‘indistinct’? More on this in a bit.
“The first expansion of Colonial Park was in 1763, and was due to massive overcrowding. Remember, this is just 13 years after the cemetery was laid out, and already the high mortality rate had filled up an entire three acres. Again, I remind you that this was just a big field at that time, and the actual limits of the cemetery were hazy—no fence or sidewalks. We know for certain that burials took place outside of the ‘accepted’ cemetery confines.
“How do we know this? In 1967, human bodies were discovered by workers doing some construction on Abercorn Street. As a matter of fact, if you look down the brick sidewalk of the cemetery along Abercorn Street, you will notice a regular pattern of subtle depressions and humps within the walkway. It’s reminiscent of gentle ocean swells. This is due to the wooden coffins which have slowly collapsed under the weight of the sidewalk bricks over them. In 1968, the city manager at the time told a prominent local historian that graves stretched as far as Drayton Street, one full block to the west.
“In fact, a story which may confirm this comes from a friend of mine who worked at a law firm next door to that fire station. The law firm was located in a converted residential home. One day a man came to visit the house, and told them that he used to live there in the 1940s. He remembered digging in the backyard while doing landscaping with his father. They had hit multiple coffins while doing it. They called the city, who sent a truck to pick them up.”
A ‘Grave’ Savannah Problem
“So there are dead bodies under the sidewalks, bodies under the street, and bodies all the way west to Drayton Street. We’re almost surely standing on dead bodies, right now.” Several people on the ghost tour looked at their feet, uncomfortable with that knowledge. The woman who had asked the original question had gone a little pale, but I couldn’t resist going further.
“Oh, it gets worse,” I told the crowd. “On the southern side of the cemetery, there’s a children’s playground. That ground was also once part of Colonial Park. So I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to Savannah, where we allow children to play on top of our dead.”
Sometimes Savannah ghost tour questions have nothing to do with ghosts. The beauty of running a haunted tour in Savannah is that you can scare people with just the history of how we buried people.