As sure as Chicago is windy, Boston is cold in the winter, and NYC is hot in the summer — Savannah is haunted. Places like cemeteries and battlegrounds are what first comes to mind when one thinks of haunted hotspots — but what about lesser-visited locations like homes, streets and tunnels? The Hampton-Lillibridge House is one of those places. From the outside, it seems like any other private residence, quiet and unassuming. Don’t be fooled, local experts in Savannah rate it as one of the most haunted locations. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s the location of Savannah’s only exorcism… a failed one.
History of the Home
Located in the historical district and only a short walk from Oglethorpe Square on East Saint Julian Street lies the Hampton-Lillibridge House. It’s distinctive, and elegant. It boasts two beautiful stories and wide shiplap siding.
It was constructed in 1796 for Hampton Lillibridge, who was originally from Rhode Island. The design matched that of a New England coastal town, even though it was built in the heart of the south.
The First Death
Hampton’s widow sold the home after his death and its new owner converted it to a fancy boarding house. In this new role, it witnessed at least one tragedy. A sailor, weary and trouble stopped at the house for a short break. He ended up overwhelmed by his sadness and committed suicide by hanging himself in one of the boarding house’s guest suites. The suicide destroyed the reputation of the house, which eventually closed for business.
The Second Death
The home has become sort of a legendary property in the area, having been owned by Jim Williams in 1963. He was the inspiration for the main character in John Berendt’s book ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.’ The events that occurred in the book mirrored Jim’s own life. Jim was an esteemed antiques dealer and an architectural restorationist and he took pleasure in restoring the Lillibridge house to its former glory. A common story of the home tells of the process of moving the house. Picture it — an entire home up on blocks and wheels, a precarious sight, dangerous for the laborers given the job. On its way down the road, part of the roof collapsed, crushing one of the workers who later died from his injuries.
The Trouble Continues
The issues with the home didn’t end with its moving, and perhaps the moving of the home just jostled up some energies that had been stored deep within. It is widely believed in the ghost hunting community that moving or renovating a home can rustle up the entities that reside there, sometimes even to the point of physical attacks taking place.
John Williams’ construction crew’s misfortune did not stop with the death of one of their workers. They all reported chills and tingling sensations on the back of their necks when they were in or around the home. At times they even thought furniture was being moved around due to how loud the entities were becoming. The sounds and disembodied voices could be heard from different rooms, ghostly laughter filled the old home. Tools and construction equipment began to go missing and building materials were being destroyed.
Many members of the crew decided to quit halfway through the job, bur can you blame them? Reports of the ghostly happenings soon spread to local media and eventually a news crew came out to the home to see for themselves what all the fuss was about. As they entered the home, a piece of construction material came flying at them. Needless to say, they left for the evening.
Unseen Ice Cold Water
A handful of the restoration workers stayed to brave the haunting, and one worker was rewarded for his commitment to the team after his own very personal confrontation with an aggressive entity. The worker heard an extremely loud noise upstairs, and since no one was supposed to be up on the second floor, he went up right away to investigate the source of the disturbance. When he didn’t return to his coworkers for quite a long time and they began to worry about him. They went upstairs to find him and saw a horrific sight — he was whimpering on the floor face-down, scraping at the wood with his nails, terrified.
After they were able to calm him, they asked what had happened. He explained that he walked into the room and was almost instantaneously overcome with the feeling of being thrown into ice cold water. He said he felt like he was losing complete control over his body and felt as though something had taken possession of him.
He said the mysterious force was attempting to drag him to an open chimney shaft where a three-story drop would have certainly killed him. As he retold his harrowing tale, the man uttered that the house needed an exorcism. As the word left his lips, a woman’s scream echoed throughout the room, a scream from an unseen entity.
The Man in Black
As well as screams and terrifying physical encounters, the builders working on the restoration reported seeing apparitions. One was often described as a tall man dressed all in black. The workers stated that the entity would watch them all day from the third-floor window. He wore a black suit and a light colored tie.
Others that visited the home during its restoration reported seeing a man with grey hair wearing a robe. People who lived nearby complained of loud parties and noise coming from the empty home, some even reported seeing people dancing through the third-floor windows.
No electrical issues were discovered in the home but lights constantly flickered. A woman who lived nearby even came to Williams herself and mentioned that she had recently started feeling a male presence at the home. Not a human, but an evil presence. Williams rejected the idea, but he revealed to her a detail that could be the key to the entire mystery of the home.
During the moving and restoration of the home, the crew had dug up the house’s foundation and found an ancient crypt dated from the pre-colonial period. Williams was notified and it’s not clear what exactly happened to the crypt or the remains, but there was no mention of moving any of the bodies. It seems as if the crypt was just buried underneath the home.
Jim Williams’ Time at the Home
Even after all of these incidents, Williams moved right into his beautifully renovated historic home. The spirits welcomed him right away in the form of slamming doors, footsteps, apparitions, and chasing him down hallways. Great roommates!
Finally Williams had enough. The spirits were disrupting his daily life and he had to do something about it. He went to an Episcopal bishop from a nearby church, Reverend Albert Rhett Stewart. On December 7th, 1963, the bishop conducted an exorcism of the home. He even blessed the property. He demanded that the spirits leave and rest in peace. His efforts cleared the home of all activity, for less than a week. A few days later, all activity resumed.
The Hampton-Lillibridge House of Today
Investigators from all over the world flock to the home in hopes of capturing evidence of the hauntings there. Other homeowners have bought the house since Williams sold it, and it remains a private residence. The house was listed for sale again in 2018, mentioning a ‘storied past’ in the ad. The asking price for this haunted haven? Almost $2.5 million. The home is only a short walk from Oglethorpe Square, where you can find the infamous 12 Oglethorpe Square!
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