The Savannah Cotton Exchange

The original Savannah Cotton Exchange was built 1872, but the structure has been added too and renovated a few times so who knows who was doing what, when and why. The current two-story building is a combo construction of ballast stonework on the lower River Street level and brick on upper Bay Street level. In the olden days the ships unloaded the shipped merchandise from the river and moved it to Factor’s Walk where factors (buyers) made purchases at the exchange.

The Savannah Cotton Exchange was a symbol of importance of the cotton industry in Savannah and was originally called King Cotton’s Palace and by 1880 the area was known as the Wall Street of the South. In the 1920’s the boll weevil did some weevil-evil-cotton-eating devastation to the cotton industry and the old exchange closed.

Today the building serves the tourist industry with retail stores, antique shops and a tavern. The living people enjoy shopping, dining and drinking in the Cotton Exchange, but the dead folks also seem to like hanging around.

Renovations were done after a fire in the building and it sort of stirred up some ghostly trouble. Now people hear footsteps when no one is there and the sounds of crying babies. In the tavern there are reports of flying bread loaves, deadly ice-cream scoopers, unexplainable falling objects and the volume on the radio randomly changes.

A ghostly woman in a long white dress has been seen descending the staircase and another ghost is thought to be Oompah, an old clockmaker who liked to visit the tavern for his morning coffee. The strong smell of coffee sometimes fills the tavern before anyone has turned on the pot.

On Bay Street the impressive old Savannah Cotton Exchange has a beautiful red terra cotta winged lion fountain in front surrounded by a fence with medallions of poets and presidents.

The original terra cotta lion, which dated to 1890, was shattered by a car that sped north on Drayton Street, jumped the curb at Bay Street, knocked down a section of wrought-iron fencing, obliterated the winged lion, snapped a lamppost in half, soared over a pedestrian walkway and came to a grinding halt at the front steps of the Savannah Cotton Exchange.

The most amazing part of the accident was that the driver was a native Savannahian, not a tourist and nobody died, which was fortunate otherwise there might be more ghosts haunting the old Savannah Cotton Exchange.

 

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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The General’s Daughter

Located in Savannah Georgia at 432 Abercorn on the east side of Calhoun Square is a big o’l creepy southern mansion rumored to be inhabited by multiple ghosts.

Reports include ghostly figures, strange sounds, children’s laughter and sightings of a little girl in a white dress tied to a chair looking out the window. Other restless spirits include a trio of sisters from Florida who were reportedly murdered in 1959 while visiting with their family.

The house was built in 1868 for Civil War veteran General Wilson. His wife died of yellow fever and he raised his two daughters alone. One was a good child and the other was not so good. The bad daughter wanted to play with the poor kids at Massey School across the street. As the legend goes, General Wilson did not like his daughter associating with the “lower class”. For punishment he tied his daughter to a chair and she sat for days facing the window, watching the children play, but not permitted to join them. After a couple days baking like a hot sweet potato in the blistering Georgia sun with no water, she died from dehydration. Her father, upset with his bad parenting supposedly killed himself in the house.

Apparently, as a ghost child, she’s still sitting there waiting for revenge, freedom or perhaps a glass of water. And Dad is wandering around feeling sorry about the whole extreme punishment torture thing.

Unfortunately that’s not quite what happened because records indicate that General Wilson died in Colorado in 1896. Both daughters, the good and the bad, grew into adulthood, got married, moved away and lived happily ever after.

As to the supposed triple homicide of Florida tourists, in the late fifties or early sixties, there’s no solid information on that either.

But typical of Savannah (the city built upon its dead) the house at 432 Abercorn is built on top of not one, but two overlapping cemeteries. So, perhaps there are restless spirits in the creepy big o’l southern mansion on Calhoun Square looking for the stairway to heaven.

 

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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It’s a known fact that people in Savannah love to party, and everyone knows the best time to throw a lavish over-the-top stylish party is Christmas. And nobody, dead or alive, could throw a better Christmas Gala than Jim Williams at his home, the Mercer-William House, on Montgomery Square. They say it was “a party to die for”.

Every member of Savannah’s high society wanted an invitation to Jim Williams’ elaborate Christmas party. It was the biggest social event of the year. Women would wear lovely gowns, men dressed in tuxedos, and almost everyone showed up fashionably late. The decorations were extravagant, the food delicious, and the music played to perfection by choice musicians. The second floor ballroom of the Mercer-Williams House was ablaze with lights, music, dancing, and laughter. It was a true Savannah holiday party done just right.

Jim Williams was made famous from John Berendt’s non-fiction book, Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil. (in Savannah we refer to this as The Book). Williams, an antique dealer of substantial wealth allegedly shot his young lover, Danny Hansford in the library.

A game of Clue was solved quickly with Danny’s dead body and Jimmie holding the smoking gun.

Jim Williams was tried four times for the murder, but claimed self-defense and was set free. Nobody knows what happened, and most folks believe Williams was guilty, but Hansford was trouble with a capital “T” and sometimes, people just needed killing. It was justifiable homicide.

After his final overturned conviction, Jim Williams decided to throw one of his famous Christmas parties and it was the last party he would throw as a living person because he died the next month. And…not only did he suddenly drop dead, but he died next to the same spot on the library floor where the poor unfortunate Danny Hansford was shot.

Some believe Hansford got his revenge by scaring Williams to death.

Since Williams’ death, he’s been seen in full apparition form, walking up and down the halls of the house. It is also said that if you pass by the Mercer-Williams House on the night of the annual Christmas party, you’ll see the house ablaze in a ghostly light as misty partygoers drift through the rooms.  And you’ll hear the distant sound of revelers attending a Savannah Christmas Ghostly Gala.

Jim Williams Christmas party at the Mercer-Williams House was indeed “a party to die for”, and if you’re already dead, then apparently it’s “a party to live for!”

Have Yourself A Very Merry Ghostly Christmas!

Books By JK Bovi
www.wickedhaints.com

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The Gribble House Ax Murders

Every town needs a gruesome gory ax murder and Savannah, not to be out done by any other town, had a Triple Ax Murder!

The diabolical crime was committed on December 9, 1909 at a Mrs. Gribble’s shabby cheap rundown boarding house on West Perry Street.

Carrie Ohlander, a 36 year old deaf lady, lay in the hall; her bloody head crushed and her throat cut. Eliza Gribble, 76, Ohlander’s crippled mother, was found dead with a smashed skull in a back bedroom. Maggie Hunter, 35, had a busted skull, but was still alive and lying at the front door in a pool of blood. She died three days later.

A bloody ax, found in the house, was believed to be the murder weapon. The crime happened at 2:00 in the afternoon on a busy street and, odd as it was, there were no witnesses. There was no sign of a struggle.

How could this horrendous crime happen without anyone seeing or hearing anything? Was it a robbery-gone-wrong or was it a revenge killing? No matter what it was, it was murder and mayhem in true Savannah style.

Police stomped all around the crime scene, so did attorneys, reporters and morbid curiosity seekers. Everybody and anybody was welcomed in to see the dead and give their assessment of the fiendish assaults. Evidence was compromised. Gossip, hearsay, and suspicious behavior was reason enough to haul somebody off to jail. They let lose the Bloodhounds, a $1,000 reward was posted and anybody with a bloody ax was suspect. (I guess they forgot the murder weapon was left at the crime scene)

There wasn’t very many bloody ax welding killers around and eventually the suspects narrowed down to three. 1) Maggie Hunter’s third x-husband JC Hunter from Guyton who turned out to really be David Tayler; a horse thief, a bigamist and an x-convict. 2) William Walls, a family friend and a possible lover of Maggie. 3) John Coker. A cocaine addict neighbor said John Coker did it, but it was discovered she lied and wanted the reward money to buy herself two gold teeth and a diamond ring.

All three men denied the killings.

On her deathbed Maggie told Reverend John S. Wilder who the real murderer was, but he never divulged that information and nobody asked.

Matters got more complicated and weird when rumors spread that Maggie Hunter had a premonition about her pending demise. The morning of the murders she told a friend that ‘Bloody work would be done.’ And when an insurance salesman tried to sell her an insurance policy for JC she told him, ‘I won’t live long enough to collect’.

Apparently in Savannah a death premonition is evidence enough for a conviction. It was decided the crime was not a botched robbery, but a sinister premeditated murder by Maggie’s vengeful x-husband.

JC Hunter was sentenced to death by hanging. He went to prison, but wasn’t hanged and instead spent his time working as a waiter in the Confederate Veterans’ Home. In 1923 he was pardoned and returned to Savannah as a free man.

After the murder and mayhem, the boarding house opened again. But typical of Savannah’s restless dead folks, they just wouldn’t stay dead. Living persons who rented rooms in The Gribble House said blood stains reappeared on the walls where the three women were killed and misty apparitions wandered the halls.

The Gribble House was demolished in 1941. The lot is now a car barn for Old Town Trolley Tours and they say the portion built over the scene of the triple bloody ax murders is haunted.

This is a True Crime Story and I didn’t have to make any of it up because sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; especially in Savannah.