Laurel Grove Cemetery
In 1853, Colonial Park Cemetery was full. Looking for other places to bury their dead, a new graveyard was commissioned and constructed in Midtown Savannah. The Laurel Grove Cemetery is among the most beautiful in the United States and it’s almost entirely Victorian, with the majority of its graves filled with the remains of those who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It resembles famous Victorian graveyards such as Greenwood in New York and Pere Lachaise in Paris.
The Lauren Grove Cemetery, like many cemeteries of its time, is segregated. People of different ethnicity are buried in separate places. There’s even a Confederate section with a memorial for the Battle of Gettysburg. Over 1,500 soldiers are buried there.
The cemetery’s most famous ‘residents’ are Girl Scout Founder Juliette Low and the author of Jingle Bells, James Pierpont.
Like countless other locations within Savannah, the Laurel Grove Cemetery is haunted — like, really haunted. As one of the most active sites in Savannah in regards to ghostly activity, the Laurel Grove Cemetery has a lot of secrets to share — read on to learn them!
History of Laurel Grove Cemetery
City planners in Savannah, Georgia had the blueprints for Laurel Grove Cemetery since 1818 but didn’t get around to plotting out the grounds since it wasn’t necessary, the Colonial Park Cemetery still had spaces to fill. Before the land was turned into a graveyard, Laurel Grove Cemetery was a rice field. At the time, people in Savannah believed wholeheartedly in the miasma theory. The miasma theory says that both rice fields and cemeteries were responsible for the spread of disease thanks to their ‘bad air.’
The large number of rice fields in Savannah was starting to be considered detrimental to the health of the community, so fields began being paved. For further protection against this bad air, cemeteries and graveyards were moved to locations further outside of city limits, and Laurel Grove Cemetery was as far from the city center as it could get.
Soon after completion, Laurel Grove became Savannah’s main burying grounds. Despite the miasma theory, Laurel Grove was outfitted with picnic areas, as the bad air was thought not to affect recreational visitors. Though many of Savannah’s families buried their dead in laurel Grove, the wealthiest residents opted for Bonaventure Cemetery.
Laurel Grove South
As stated above, Lauren Grove Cemetery is segregated. People were buried in different areas based on their religion, ethnicity, or political beliefs. Before Laurel Grove, many of Savannah’s African-American residents were buried in the ‘Old Negro Cemeteries’ which are now occupied by Whitefield and Calhoun Squares. After Lauren Grove opened, many of those original graves were dug up and moved, even though there are still some that remained; now under the Squares.
At the old cemeteries, African-American people were buried using African traditions and were buried with symbolic items. Their personal affects were commonly left on top of their graves. After being moved to Laurel Grove, their graves took on a more European appearance, as the cemetery discouraged traditional practices.
Initially, the headstones at Laurel Grove South were made of wood and degraded quickly. This is why many of these graves are unmarked today. As time went on, stone grave markers became the norm. Laurel Grove South was originally smaller than the North section of the cemetery, but throughout the years it expanded from its original 4 acres and ballooned to over 90 acres.
Laurel Grove South is the final resting place of members of Savannah’s Civil Rights movement like Westley Wallace Law, who helped to desegregate schools in the city.
Laurel Grove North
Laurel Grove’s North section was reserved primarily for Savannah’s white residents. The cemetery filled up quickly, with Laurel Grove North filling up by the mid-1800s. The headstones in this section of the cemetery are ornate and extravagant, with obelisks and crosses as the norm.
Laurel Grove North is cut through with pathways as well as open spaces for the public the enjoy the solitude of the cemetery. Many of Savannah’s most influential and wealthiest people were buried here, including most of the city’s mayors. The Silence Memorial is a large statue dedicated to the Confederate deaths in the Battle of Gettysburg. A small area in the North section for Jewish graves exists in Laurel Grove as well.
Hauntings at the Laurel Grove Cemetery
Ghost stories have been coming out of the the graveyard since its inception. In the 1850s, just after the cemetery was established, a trolley ran through the area and passed by the Laurel Grove Cemetery on its way. Every day, those riding the trolley reported hearing a child crying as they passed by the haunted burying ground. They never saw the child, but always heard the sobs no matter time time of day or how many times they passed the cemetery by.
The trolley workers clam the crying went on for years, and strangely enough, they claim that only riders on trolley car #28 could hear the cries. The crying has long since stopped bit the mystery of the crying child has yet to be solved.
While the beautifully ornate headstones and ethereal hanging Spanish Moss might entice visitors to take a stroll, the spirits that call Laurel Grove home will send you packing. A woman in a wedding dress has been seen multiple times in different places in the graveyard. No one knows who she is, and most people don’t realize she’s a ghost until she vanishes in front of their eyes.
Some of the phantoms at Laurel Grove Cemetery prefer to remain unseen. Visitors have reported the sounds of heavy footsteps around the cemetery grounds, moving in sync with visitors, seemingly trailing right behind them. Visitors feel the sensation of being followed only to turn around and see no one.
Even creepier still, some visitors report seeing disembodied hands reaching out from behind headstones, grasping towards people standing nearby when they’re not paying attention.
Savannah locals familiar with the area claim that Voodoo practitioners use the Laurel Grove Cemetery to perform rituals. A few people have stumbled upon the evidence of these rituals and since the cemetery is closed after dusk, these claims can be hard to verify.
Dying To Learn More?
Savannah is as gorgeous and historical as it is haunted. Many of its haunted locations boast beautiful architecture — like that seen at the Mercer House. The home is now a museum but it was once home to James Williams, one of the city’s earliest preservationists. Williams shot his lover, Danny Hansford, inside of the Mercer house in 1981. The house has been haunted ever since. Or, if you’re looking to visit a home with an even darker past, try 432 Abercorn — as the site of an unsolved triple homicide, the home’s storied past seeps into the present.
If you’re looking for a more up close and personal ghostly experience, why not book a ghost tour with us and see historically haunted Savannah for yourself?