Savannah, GA

Unless You're A Ghostly Inhabitant, Don't Plan to Visit Savannah's Historic Colonial Park Cemetery at Night

DeanLand

When it comes to Savannah burial spots, Bonaventure Cemetery is by far the most famous and most visited. The 1995 Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, makes Bonaventure a central story location and almost a character on its own. As a result, thousands of visitors each year flock to the cemetery in search of book references, ghost stories, history and the "bird girl" statue from the book's cover.

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Within an easy walk of tourist areas, Colonial Park Cemetery contains the resting places of some of Savannah's leading denizens.Photo: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe

Yet, fewer find the closer-in and older Savannah cemetery within easy walking distance of the main tourist areas in the historic district, which also contains the resting places of some of Savannah's leading denizens. Known through its history as Old Cemetery, Old Brick Graveyard, South Broad Street Cemetery, or Christ Church Cemetery, it's now named Colonial Park and has been a city park rather than a cemetery since 1853, when it was closed to interments.

While the larger Bonaventure Cemetery touts more statuesque memorials and tree-lined roadways, Colonial Park contains more than 10,000 grave sites packed into six acres and dating back more than 100 years before its famous cousin was first used as a burial ground.

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Colonial Park cemetery was in use 100 years before its more famous cousin, Bonaventure Cemetery.Photo: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe

But you won't find an official count of burials or an accurate list of the historic occupants anywhere. For the first 50 years, Christ Church didn't keep records of the burials at the cemetery, according to OfficialSavannahGuide.com. And today, only about 600 headstones remain at the site, many too difficult to read due to weathering and others attached to the cemetery wall rather than marking any specific gravesite.

Still, some gravesites are well-known and easily spotted, thanks to historical plaques erected by the Georgia Historical Commission. Among those are James Johnston, Georgia's first newspaper publisher and printer; James Wilde, a military officer shot through the heart on the fourth exchange of a duel; William Scarborough, the founder of the Savannah Steamship Company; and more than 700 victims of the yellow fever outbreak of 1820.

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Several duelists, including a military officer shot through the heart on the fourth exchange of a duel, are buried in Colonial Park.Photo: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe

As with virtually all cemeteries -- especially these older and storied sites -- it's easy to find ghost stories about the undead who may wander here and elsewhere in the city. A Google or YouTube search will turn up plenty of results around Halloween, like the questionable account of Rene Rondolier and the Hanging Tree. Or maybe tales of a green shadow floating above the grave sites. We'll leave that research to you, or you can try one of the city's plethora of ghost tours. BTW, The "Ghost Stories" series featuring paranormal investigator Zak Bagans filmed an episode in Savannah, but didn't include the cemetery.

A final note about these ghost stories: you'll have to explore them during the day or at night from outside the cemetery fence, even at Halloween. Colonial Park cemetery is closed to visitors during night hours -- meaning that only the inhabitants are allowed inside the fences.

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Unless you're one of the ghostly inhabitants, Colonial Park cemetery (and others in Savannah) are closed to you at night.Photo: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe

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I'm a Georgia based family outing, Georgia outdoors and travel blogger. You can follow my blog at: OurTravelCafe.com. You can also follow me here on Newsbreak. Simply use the "follow" button, located before and after this article on your phone, or on the left side menu on your computer.

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I'm a trained journalist and retired global marketing executive. Living in Northwest Georgia, I write about about avocations including outdoors, travel, exploration, history and some of my community passions. I've traveled to 47 states and nearly as many countries. My South Louisiana-born French Cajun upbringing in food-rich Louisiana plus my extended restaurant-related career affirmed my status as an over-qualified eater. At my blog, OurTravelCafe.com, I offer a complete menu of our my own experiences, explorations and adventures, organized by geography and always sprinkled with some spicy, tasty tidbits and food notes.

Acworth, GA
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