Why is 432 Abercorn Street considered the most haunted house in Savannah? It’s been an integral part of Savannah’s spooky lore for decades. Some people claim negative energy surrounds the home, while others consider it a breeding ground for paranormal activity.
For a home with so much intrigue surrounding it, there are surprisingly few verifiable facts about the place. The exact same rumors are repeated over and over again on the internet, ad nauseum.
I’m even guilty of repeating a few myself.
Now…I love a good ghost story as much as the next person, but I’m also a big truth-seeker. My never-ending quest for accuracy led me to do some digging into the home. Today, I’m going to share some of the fascinating details I’ve uncovered!
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If you’re new around here, first of all…welcome! My name is Erin, and I authored the Savannah First-TImer’s Guide. I enjoy helping visitors plan their vacations to Savannah.
A Quick Haunted Disclaimer…
Before I start on this post, you should know that I don’t make up stories for the sake of entertainment. I strongly believe in the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction…especially in Savannah.
It frustrates me when tour guides tell tall tales about the haunted side of Savannah and then charge visitors $30+ to go on a ghost tour, where they then pass those stories off as the gospel truth.
When I write about anything in Savannah (haunted or otherwise), I always attempt to separate fact from fiction. I try my best not to be a source of misinformation.
Savannah is interesting enough without any embellishment.
History of 432 Abercorn Street
Benjamin Wilson House | 432 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA 31401
[NOTE: I have a personal policy not to share the addresses of private residences, but this one is so notorious that the address is no secret. In fact, the house is known more for its address than its actual name.]
432 Abercorn is an incredibly beautiful home that faces picturesque Calhoun Square. It was constructed in 1868 for a Civil War veteran and Irish immigrant named Benjamin J. Wilson. The three-story mansion was intended as the primary residence for Wilson, his wife, and their six children.
To understand why the house is considered haunted, you first need to understand a little more about the historic square it faces…
Calhoun Square wasn’t one of the original squares in Savannah. It was laid out in 1851 — more than a century after the city was founded — and is named after South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, 7th Vice President of the United States.
The land the square sits upon is thought to be on (or near) the site of an unmarked slave burial ground…
The County Surveyor…is hereby authorized and required to admeasure and lay out the said two hundred feet square for a burial ground for the said negroes, and that the same, so admeasured and laid off, shall be forever considered as a place of burial for the negroes.“~ Christ Church (Savannah, G., Boles, J. Durelle., Nichols, G. N.., Gordon, G. A., J. Durelle Boles Collection of Southern Imprints. (1857)
That rumor was further solidified when utility workers were repairing gas lines in the area and they stumbled upon a Colonial-era skull. They sent it off to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) crime lab for further testing.
[NOTE: I’ll totally do an open records request for the results, if anyone is interested?!]
Calhoun Square is one of the only squares in Savannah where the majority of the original buildings remain intact. The Massie School, Savannah’s first free public school — constructed in 1855 “for the education of the poor children of Savannah”, faces the square. Historic Wesley Monumental Church also faces Calhoun Square.
The Benjamin Wilson House isn’t even the only haunted house on the square! The Espy House, which is currently owned by Wesley Monumental Church, is also rumored to be haunted.
If you sense negative vibes in Calhoun Square, it might be because enslaved men and women were unceremoniously buried in the vicinity, and then their memories were dishonored when the City of Savannah named Calhoun and Whitefield Squares after two men who were staunch advocates for slavery.
You Might Also Like: Try This Epic One-Day Trolley Tour of Savannah’s Historic District
Separating Fact from Fiction
Getting back to 432 Abercorn…the rumors about this home run as deep as the roots on all those massive oaks in Bonaventure Cemetery. I’m going to tug at the threads and attempt to pull them apart one-by-one.
Let the debunking begin!
432 Abercorn Street Rumor #1:
The first persistent rumor about this house is that Benjamin Wilson flipped out when he discovered his daughter had been playing with children from the nearby Massie School.
You see, his family was a prominent Savannah family, and the children attending the school were considered “beneath” their standing.
To punish his daughter, he tied her to a chair and made her sit in front of a window to watch as the children played without her in Calhoun Square across the street.
Wilson reportedly made her sit in front that window — in a house with no air conditioning, in the miserable Georgia heat — for two full days. And then she died. Or so the rumor goes.
Spooky ghost stories and photographic “evidence” abound from people who have reportedly captured an image of a little girl in one of the windows of the home.
[NOTE: I see no girl in the linked photo. Do you? If so, leave a comment and help a girl out!]
So…is the rumor true?
My Magic 8-Ball says, “outlook not so good”. While it’s true that Benjamin Wilson lived in the home with his family, his daughter didn’t meet her demise in such a cruel manner.
Wilson had two daughters, and neither died during their early school years. In fact, they both lived long enough to get married. Their names were Carrie Wilson Tye and Mary Dell Wilson Potts.
432 Abercorn Street Rumor #2
Wilson was so upset that his daughter died from his over-the-top punishment that he became racked with guilt and committed suicide in the home. Some tour guides claim his spirit still haunts the place and that an image of his face is forever imprinted on the exterior of the home — just outside the window where his daughter died.
So…is the rumor true?
My Magic 8-Ball says, “my sources say no”. Wilson lived to a ripe old age and his cause of death was not suicide. He died on February 15, 1896 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
432 Abercorn Street Rumor #3
Another persistent rumor is that a family traveled to Savannah sometime during the mid-1900s and chose to rent out the home at 432 Abercorn during their visit. While staying in the home, they went to dinner one night and left four children alone in the home.
Upon their return, they found three of the children dead and gutted, while the fourth child was apparently spared — but left in complete and total shock.
As legend has it, that child returned to Savannah in his or her later years and purchased the home, but then refused to live in it. He or she reportedly bought it to prevent any other person from ever having to endure the evil energy that resides within the home.
So…how much of that is true?
My Magic 8-Ball says, “concentrate and ask again”.
Actually…I’ll send a $200 gift certificate good towards a stay at The Marshall House to the first person who can find an actual newspaper clipping verifying the story about any children being gutted inside that home.
If anything that terrible actually occurred, I guarantee it would’ve made the local papers — and likely the national news, as well. (Could it be that Savannah’s newspapers were as bad about reporting crime stories back then as they are today? Because that’s the best way to get me to believe this dubious tale.)
At least one part of the rumor is true: In the 1960s the home was listed as a rooming house, and each bedroom was rented out as a separate apartment.
And this is where it gets interesting…
One of the renters was named Ralph E. Walden. Ralph later married a woman named Omi…and Omi actually ended up purchasing the house.
Mrs. Omi G. Walden worked for the United States government under the Carter administration as one of only a handful of women appointed to high profile positions during his presidency. Her job was Assistant Secretary of the Department of Energy.
But wait…this story gets weirder…
When she purchased the home, she purchased it in her name only — there’s no sign of Ralph on the title. And guess what?
She never lived in it…just like the legend claims.
She and Ralph stayed in the carriage house out back while they and their nephew worked to renovate the home.
432 Abercorn Rumor #4
Aware of the negative energy surrounding the home, Anton LaVey attempted to purchase the home and utilize it as the East Coast branch for his organization, the Church of Satan.
So…how much of that rumor is true?
Again, send me proof, and maybe I’ll believe it. I haven’t found anything to support the claim.
However, in keeping with the holy theme of this rumor, I’ll supply tickets for a family of four to tour First African Baptist Church (an awesome tour, by the way) to the first person to provide definitive proof of a purchase offer from Mr. LaVey.
Before the home was constructed for Benjamin Wilson, there was reportedly a church on the property that actually burned to the ground.
[I’m still digging around for proof of that, so I’m not willing to quote it as the gospel truth just yet.]
432 Abercorn Rumor #5
Spirits of the enslaved men and women who were unceremoniously buried in the square are said to haunt both the home and Calhoun Square.
So…how much of that rumor is true?
My Magic 8-Ball says, “signs point to yes”.
If someone mistreated me the majority of my life and then placed me in an unmarked grave for tourists to tromp over while listening to ghost tours, then you’d better bet I’d follow those tourists through the streets of Savannah to haunt them.
Another side note…
I was taking photos in Calhoun Square recently, and I listened intently as one of the tour guides went on and on about mysterious “shadow people” who roam the square. These ghostly figures apparently chill your body to the bone as they pass near — or through — you.
I desperately wanted to ask the guide how I could find one of those shadow people and have them follow me around all summer long. It sounds like a very “Savannah” way to survive summertime in the South.
432 Abercorn Rumor #6
Legend has it your camera will break if you attempt to photograph the home at 432 Abercorn — especially if you dare to photograph the interior.
How did this rumor start?
Well, during the time the Waldens owned the home, it fell into disrepair and appeared (and often was) abandoned. The Waldens frequently traveled for work and to check on their other properties in Atlanta and Alma, Georgia.
Since the house was empty, avid ghost hunters frequently stuck their cell phones inside the home’s mail slot to photograph the interior. They often posted those photos online. A few troublemakers even broke inside the house to explore it.
How do I know that?
One of my high school friends actually spent a good portion of the night inside the house shortly after we graduated. It was empty and deserted back then. This was during a time when downtown Savannah was not nearly as nice as it is today — prior to “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” being published and Savannah’s transformation into a popular tourist destination. Some of the surrounding homes also appeared derelict, so the area was rather spooky.
He said (and this is a direct quote), that it was “Creeeeepy”.
Then again, I’m pretty sure he was high the entire time he was in the house. So, take that for what it’s worth.
One of these days I’ll ask him if he’s willing to share his story here!
So…how much of that rumor is true?
My Magic 8-Ball says, “outlook not so good.”
As you can see by the shots above, I’ve taken plenty of photos of the home and haven’t broken a single camera or cell phone in the process. A photographer friend of mine also took detailed photos of the interior, and his equipment survived, as well.
Related Reading: Haunted Savannah: A Comprehensive Guide to the City’s Spookiest Attractions
So…is 432 Abercorn Street Haunted?
The Walden family sold 432 Abercorn Street for the bargain basement price (for a Savannah Historic District Trust Lot) of 1.2 million in June of 2018, and the new owners immediately went to work renovating it.
They’ve done an incredible job on the house — even winning a 2021 HSF Historic Preservation Award. It’s easily one of my favorites homes in Savannah.
The new owners currently live in the home full time and report NO GHOSTLY PRESENCE.
Yes, you heard right: Nada. Zip. Zilch.
If negative spirits were ever in the home, they appear to have moved on.
However, the haunted reputation of 432 Abercorn has persisted for nearly half a century, and there’s no end in sight. That’s thanks in part to the plethora of ghost tour guides who continue to frequent Calhoun Square on a nightly basis, as well as the many annoying bloggers who continue to share the home’s captivating story.
“Guilty as charged, your honor.”
I would love to interview the owners to see how they feel about living life in a fishbowl.
On the one hand, anyone who purchases a notorious home in the Historic District has to realize they’re buying into the Disneyfication of Savannah. They’re going to be part of the show — whether they like it or not.
On the other hand, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be spending millions to purchase — and then lovingly renovate a home — only to have trolley and hearse tours constantly circling while groups of ghost hunters swarm the place nightly to gawk and take photos of the house.
Which brings me to my next point…
Ethical Tourism in Savannah
The house at 432 Abercorn is a private residence. If you decide to see it during your trip, please refrain from trampling the landscaping, peeking in windows, or posing on the stairs for photos. Yes, those things happen.
It’s also nice to keep your voice down if you go on a nighttime ghost tour. Residents on the block may have to work in the morning and can’t stay up as late as vacationing tourists.
The tours occur seven days a week, every single night, multiple times per night. Residents in the area suffer from the effects of the tours, but earn no income from them. The tour operators are the ones profiting!
If you happen to spot the owners and they don’t seem chatty, please realize that visitors ask them the same exact questions about their home day in and day out. They’re just trying to go about their daily lives; they aren’t under any obligation to speak with visitors about the history of the home. (I personally think they’re very kind not to turn the sprinklers on every time a ghost tour ventures near.)
To enjoy the home respectfully, it’s best to do so from the vantage point of Calhoun Square across the street. While you’re in the square, please kindly stick to the sidewalks and avoid trampling the plants in the square.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
Savannah Travel Blog
As mentioned above, I’m very fortunate to live in downtown Savannah, and I write about the city regularly. In addition to my ebook about Savannah, I’ve also created a few other resources to help you out…
- Join my email list to stay in touch and get a printable list of 50 Things To Do on Foot in the Historic District — No Car Necessary, plus other helpful printables (including a checklist of the city’s most haunted spots). I promise I won’t email so frequently that I annoy you; I’m actually laughably bad at staying in touch!
- When you purchase my ebook, you’ll also gain access to my very active private Facebook group about Savannah! I pop in multiple times each day to answer questions, post photos, and provide updates about the city.
- If you’re planning a trip to Savannah and wondering where to start, you might want to read my post, When is the Best Time to Visit Savannah, GA? Afterwards head to Where to Stay in Savannah Georgia to figure out your accommodations.
If you’re just here for the ghosts, I created a haunted Savannah guide where you can find all of my ghost posts in one central area.
Have you been to 432 Abercorn Street and had a spooky experience? If so, I want to hear about it in the comments below!
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FAQs About 432 Abercorn
Yes. The home was sold in June of 2018 for 1.2 million dollars.
I’m not going to list the names of the current owners out of respect for their privacy. They purchased the home in 2018 and immediately began renovating it, so the home no longer looks like the haunted and abandoned house it once did. It was awarded a Historic Preservation Award in 2021 from the Historic Savannah Foundation.
No. The home is privately owned and is not open for touring.
Haunted rumors abound about the house, but the majority of them have been debunked.