On a recent flight to Savannah, I kept pestering the flight attendants about which runway we would be landing on. I was really hoping for runway 10, knowing that I might not see the headstones, but at least I could say I landed on them. Savannah's runway 10 is the only known runway in the United States with marked gravestones in it. A runway extension during World War II placed the path through a small family plot. The ancestors of the departed didn't want to move the graves, so to add to Savannah's spooky reputation, visitors landing at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, whether they know it or not, are thrust into the city's afterlife culture.
I never did confirm which runway we landed on, but I had larger intentions of visiting the city's gravestones nonetheless. I don't claim to have any sixth sense or paranormal abilities when it comes to ghosts, but in the past I've felt what I describe as mysterious energies around me—at times seeing dark shadows turning corners or just feeling someone or something in the room with me. I had read about Savannah being one of the most haunted cities in America, and I figured, since I was there, I would try and seek out some great goose-bump moments.
My first stop was Colonial Park Cemetery, in the heart of Savannah's historic district. It's the final resting place to more than 700 victims of the 1820 Yellow Fever epidemic as well as many victims of Savannah's tragic dueling era, men who died from what some call acts of "too much honor." It was daytime, and a small park, so I felt comfortable exploring the graves on my own. Near the back, there were a number of headstones resting against a massive dividing wall. Stories say that during the Civil War, Federal troops took over the grounds during their occupation of the city and changed the dates on many of the headstones, while also looting and desecrating the place. Once my confidence in hanging out in cemeteries rose, I headed to , east of the city.
Bonaventure is famous for its prominent role in the novel (and movie by the same name). The massive graveyard is home to various statues and monuments, many of which are said to come to life at night. The most famous statue belongs to the grave of little Gracie Watkins, who died at age six in 1889. It's a life-sized (and portrait accurate) representation of the girl. I was determined to find this grave within the labyrinth that is Bonaventure and, after walking for about an hour, I managed to stumble upon it. (The photocopied maps provided at the main entrance don't provide much help, and more point visitors in the direction of the older part of the cemetery, where most want to visit.) After I left little Gracie, I walked in one direction, or so I thought, searching for an exit. After about 35 minutes, I lost my breath and looked up and recognized the gravestones. When I peered a little closer, I realized I had walked right back to the burial site of Gracie Watkins. At this point I was exhausted, a bit terrified, and ready to go back to my room at , so I ordered an Uber and called the driver directly to come find me in the cemetery—I wasn't up for another attempt at leaving on my own.
Even though I was a bit shaken up from my mysterious walk through Bonaventure, I had booked a night tour of a famous Savannah home that evening with some friends. The has been featured on various paranormal activity television shows and is considered to be one of the most haunted homes in the U.S. and even the world. The home was built by Francis Sorrel in the early 1840s, and after the passing of his first wife, a couple of years later, Sorrel married his late wife's younger sister, Matilda, who would live in the home with him.
Francis had his vices: He engaged in a long-time affair with a slave named Molly, who was given preferential treatment among his slaves, even having her own private quarters above the carriage house next to the main home. When Matilda discovered her husband with Molly one night, she became enraged and leapt from the second-story balcony, killing herself. Weeks later, Molly's body was found hanging in her room from an apparent second suicide, although some conclude Molly was led to suicide by the ghost of her lover's wife.
That night, I was on a mission to have some sort of close encounter with any spirits hanging around the house. But since this was a "ghost tour" of sorts, I was skeptical at what, if anything, we would experience. Our guide had a calming vibe with his monotone voice and slow descriptions of the history of the home. He led us through parts of the living spaces and the group was encouraged to take as many photos and videos of the home as we wanted. The camera flashes in the darkly lit interior of the home became more of a nuisance during the tour, but understandably, everyone was trying to capture little green lights or orbs, or what most consider to be spirits. The home had a history of captured images of these orbs and dark shadows, as well as recordings of voices and screams. The history of the home also includes murder and suicide within the walls of the home, so that added to the intensity.
I took an impressive amount of images that night, mostly because everyone else was taking photos and I wanted to be the one to find those orbs. In the dining room, there was a large wall mirror, and for some reason, everyone was snapping pictures of the mirror, apparently because it was the location of various orb sightings. I took my mirror photos and while standing there, reviewed them on my phone, and there was nothing immediately visible, so I continued the tour, mostly disappointed. There were a couple times where I felt the chills, but I attributed that to being in an old home with very little lighting. The tour ended and we all left — but none of us had any real evidence of a ghost sighting that evening.
But the next morning, while laying in l bed and scrolling through the photos I'd taken the night before, I came across something that still makes me shudder when I think about it. I saw what I had been hoping to see but didn't really want to see.
I examined the images carefully... I was looking for green lights or anything spooky, really, when I came across what looked like an old-school "double exposure": everything was basically bright white but, beyond that, there was nothing out of the ordinary. It was the next image that gave me chills.
In one of the photos taken of the dining room mirror, there was an extra face in the reflection—someone who hadn't been standing in the room with us.
My hotel room was bright and full of light as it was early morning, but at the moment I noticed the unaccounted for person in the photograph, a dark shadow passed swiftly by the full body mirror near the hotel room door.
My first thought was that something or someone was waiting for me to take notice of that particular photograph. I had spent the entire day silently asking to see or feel something while on my ghost hunts, so in a way, it all made sense.
When I showed my friends who had been on the tour with me, we checked the time stamps and sequence of my photos while comparing them to the shots they had captured. A lot of us had the exact same images as we were standing in the same area as we snapped away. But my camera had caught something else in the historic home's dining room mirror. After comparing various time stamps and images, what we saw just didn't make any sense—there was a figure of a man, standing in the background, off to the side, in the reflection of the mirror.
The man didn't fit at all: His hairstyle and manor of dress appeared to be from another time period. The more we examined the image, the more frightening the facial features appeared, almost as if the man was looking directly at the camera. The time stamps show guests of the tour standing in the same spot as he appeared just moments before the image of him appeared where he was standing alone, followed by an image of those guests right back in the same spot, almost as if he made them disappear so he could appear.
Various people have viewed the image and the initial reaction is usually a combination of fear and confusion. Employees of the Sorrel-Weed House are currently investigating the image, as are a handful of paranormal investigators around the country. So far, the response from professionals is that whoever is pictured in the photograph is indeed deceased. Historical records indicate that the home is located next to, or possibly directly above, the site of the Siege of Savannah, which took place during the Revolutionary War. The 1779 assault, according to many historians, was the bloodiest hour of the entire war, with more than 1,000 casualties recorded. It's possible that the man in the mirror was a soldier—someone completely unrelated to the mysterious double suicide that took place years later.