Savannah, GA

What it's Like Inside One of the Most Haunted Houses in America

Rene Cizio

I went on a ghost tour of the Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah, and it’s a decision I’ve regretted ever since. The guides were terrific, and the information provided was top-notch. It’s the outcome I regret—the fear, nightmares and sleepless nights that have plagued me since. Even now, three months later, I am afraid anew. Judge it how you will; I’m not trying to convince you of anything; this is my impression of the place and my feelings after.

It was on one of the infamous Savannah Ghost Hearse tours when I learned about the Sorrel-Weed House. The guide said it’s one of the most haunted sites in the city, possibly America. Further, for those who dared, they host midnight lock-ins with ghost hunting equipment. Fool that I am, I immediately decided to visit.

HISTORY OF THE SORREL-WEED HOUSE

Many consider Savannah the most haunted in the country, and the Sorrel-Weed House is among the most haunted buildings. It’s also historic for its Greek Revival and Regency architecture and was the first state landmark in Georgia. It’s one of the biggest houses in Savannah, at nearly 16,000 square feet.

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Francis Sorrel had the house built in the 1830s and sold it to Henry D. Weed in 1859, thus the Sorrel-Weed House name. During Sorrel’s tenure, there were two questionable deaths: his wife and his alleged mistress.

The story claims that Matilda Sorrel, Francis’ wife, jumped from the third-story balcony, killing herself on the flagstones in the yard below – maybe after finding out about Molly: his enslaved mistress. She, too, killed herself. They found her hanging in her carriage house bedroom.

Many organizations and TV shows, including Ghost Hunters, HGTV’s “If Walls Could Talk,” “Ghost Adventures,” and the Travel Channel’s “The Most Terrifying Places in America,” have investigated the house for paranormal activity. Nearly all significant publications have written its hauntings and found things unexplainable.

Many have documented audio, video and imagery that indicate paranormal activity.

SORREL-WEED HOUSE ON MADISON SQUARE

The outside of the house, though big, isn’t noticeably much different from others on Madison Square. Its orangish exterior features four columns of the same color across the front porch and contrasting dark green shutters. An iron fence encloses the backyard, where the ghost tour convenes.

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The garden between the house and the carriage house is functional more than cultivated. Stone pavers, benches and a few flowering bushes are the only adornments between the looming bulk of the three-story house and the much smaller, two-story carriage house. Matilda died on these pavers and Molly hung from the rafters nearby.  

GO INTO THE SORREL-WEED HOUSE

Our guide, Mckenna, led us around the side and through the front door into the main hallway. She seemed pragmatic and straightforward and said she was skeptical, but the house had opened her mind to the supernatural. “There are things that can’t be explained,” she said.

Inside, a staircase leads upstairs to bedrooms we would not see, the right side to an office, and the left to the double parlor.

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I’ve always believed in ghosts. I think that they are leftover energy from people who once lived. Some “charismatic” people seem to have more “energy” than others. The same is true with emotion. Anger is intense energy, and so is sadness; people in the same room can feel happiness. Imprints of our energy can linger even after life. Energy begets more energy, so ghosts grow stronger when we focus on them. Places like Savannah and the Sorrel-Weed house give attention to that energy, so it grows and remains.

There are multiple tours of the house each day. In the mornings, the focus is on architecture and history and, as night falls, ghosts and horror stories. The place seemed ready for feeding time when we entered through the door. By midnight, the lock-ins begin, and the spirits must be gluttoned on the day’s energy.

THE FIRST FLOOR OFFICE AND PARLORS

There were fewer than 20 in my group and McKenna guided us through the period-appropriate rooms. As we moved, infrared cameras, recording 24 hours a day, monitored every move we made through the ornate Victorian-era rooms.

The guide told us the history of the family and ghost stories associated with each room. She left us plenty of time to explore, take pictures, and record videos, while she passed around an iPad showing pictures others had taken. Photos of ghosts in these very rooms horrified me. In the men’s parlor, a long, dark-haired apparition stands dark eyes, a blur, blending into the wood of a closed door, the long line of a mouth – just too long. In another, in the women’s parlor, a long, dark-haired figure, its back facing the camera, stands between two unsuspecting sisters as they face the big mirror.

We cringed at the photos and started snapping our own, hoping we, too, would capture something unexplainable and praying we wouldn’t.

INTO THE BASEMENT

We walked down creaking old wooden steps into the basement, and the energy shifted to something more daunting. It was growing dark outside, and the only light came from candles and the red glow of the infrared cameras. Again, McKenna led us through the rooms, explaining what each had been used for, and told us more ghost stories and other phenomena experienced therein.

McKenna said, a spirit called “Shadowman,” lingered in the breezeway at the back furthest from the stairs. Images and videos often show a tall, thin apparition pacing back and forth. The breezeway is an addition built after they added indoor plumbing. Once, it was part of a street, but before that, it was the site of war. The area was the location of a Revolutionary War battle called the “Siege of Savannah.” Many reported apparitions are of men dressed in military uniforms or with a soldier’s bearing.

THE LAUNDRY ROOM

As soon as I entered the laundry room, my skin crawled. I felt filled with longing, sadness, and confusion. It seemed like chaos and discomfort and I began sweating. I thought I might cry, run from the room, or sit on the floor. It took all my willpower to control myself and stand still. My entire body was jumpy, like I had electrodes giving me pulses. McKenna said the room had once been the domain of the enslaved, who managed heavy boiling pots of laundry and dangerous chemicals. Many people reported feeling hectic energy in that room and experienced similar feelings.

A MEDICAL ROOM

In the next room, I stood alone at the back of the group. I was feeling stressed, and when my left hand went numb, I began to worry I had a health issue. Next to me was a decrepit couch, and I sat on it. After, the guide said it was in that very spot that a young ghost was known to hold hands or touch body parts of visitors. She said you’d know if she did because it caused a numbing sensation. I sprang from the couch like a shot, though there was no place for me to go. The entire house seemed a menace.

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When reviewing live photos, you can see orbs flying past like fast birds (see Instagram video). Once McKenna opened the back door, I was among the first to exit. I was glad to leave the place behind and careful not to get too near Madison Square again in the following days.

NIGHTMARES

That night, my nightmares were vivid. They depicted old times and dark days, and I recall glimpses of horse and carriage, long dresses and stately rooms. It was as if I watched a movie in which I played no part. The following is some of what I recorded upon waking from my last dream where I watched and seemed able to reason some of what I saw:

“The people are afraid of a devil, but they do not understand the devil they fear is sickness. There are three men fleeing something in an open wagon. All is dark and dirty, and they are long-suffering. They are finally making it away from the devils and have hope after so long having none. The driver and passenger up front are concerned about the man lying across the back of the wagon. He is very sick. I think he has Yellow Fever. There is some loyalty – not among the three men – but to another man, to whom they’ve promised to get the sick man home. Now though, they’re worried he is too ill and will jeopardize them. But it has been promised that the man would roll himself off the back of the wagon if he were too sick. They need not even touch him.

Flashes of thought came from the man on the back of the wagon. He’d made promises too, but he could do nothing but break them. Darkness.”

A GHOSTLY APPARITION

The next day, I awoke physically and emotionally exhausted. Once I found the courage to look at my photos, I saw many orbs that zip past unaccountably on live images. However, two pictures from the women’s parlor gave me pause.

In one, I’m standing in front of a mirror, taking a picture. It reflects me and, further back, a wood door. The door, pristine in real life, was blurred at the top, so I compared it to other images. In another photo, I find the door reflected again but from a different mirror. I zoomed in to see it more closely, but what I saw stopped me cold.

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It appeared that I had captured a person with long dark hair and a black vest over a white shirt in the lower-left corner of my photo. Except, after double-checking all my many photos from that night, no person on my tour fit that description. Could I have missed this person? Or is it something else? I cannot say.

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In the weeks that followed, I was on edge. The nightmares continued, and I was often startled at a stranger’s approach only to find nobody had come near. At night, alone in my carriage house, I heard undefinable whispers and saw shadows flit past the glass of the French doors. My exhaustion was endless.

After I left Savannah, I eventually put what I experienced there out of my mind, and things went back to normal. But as I revisit this story and recall that time, fear strikes me anew. I’m renting space in a house near Boston now, and as I sit in the parlor alone on a cool, rainy day, I feel someone watching me from the hallway to my right.

I burn sage, light a candle, and hope the nightmares do not come again.

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