Posted on June 8, 2018
Savannah is haunted. This is practically common knowledge in the American public imagination. Virtually every corner of Savannah is considered haunted, from places you’d expect, such as cemeteries and battlegrounds, to more unusual spots: restaurants, bars, hotels.
In this spirit, the Hampton Lillibridge House, a seemingly quiet, private residence, is one of the most infamously haunted locations in Georgia’s First City, and the site of the city’s only exorcism to date—which failed.
The First Death
Located on East Saint Julian Street, a short walk from Oglethorpe Square in the Historic District, the Hampton Lillibridge House has endured lifetimes of strife. The distinctive house was built in 1796 for Hampton Lillibridge, a man originally from Rhode Island, in a New England architectural style suited to his home state’s sensibilities.
After Lillibridge’s death, his widow sold the residence. It then became a boarding house. As a boarding house, the Lillibridge hosted at least one tragedy: a suicide by hanging committed by a troubled sailor in one of the guest rooms. This death reportedly marred the reputation of the boarding house, and the property in general. For decades, no one lived in the house.
The Second Death
In 1963, Jim Williams, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, bought the house. Much like his own life’s story, the events after this fateful purchase have become cultural legend, a story that has gradually changed with each retelling. More tellingly, though, is what has remained consistent: the horror and haunting that once befell the house.
In every version of what happened at the Hampton Lillibridge under Williams’ ownership, the presence of ghosts and grief remains a consistent, key detail.
An esteemed architectural restorationist, Williams restored the Lillibridge residence to its former glory. As the story most commonly goes, in the process of moving the house a few blocks over to its current location, part of the roof collapsed, crushing one of Williams’s laborers to death.
Little else is known or said of the victim.
The troubles didn’t end with the property’s successful transplantation. If anything, moving the house only stirred up more misfortune and turmoil.
After the house’s move, Williams’s crew almost immediately experienced other eerie events. They felt prickling, tingling, tickling sensations at the backs of their necks. They heard disembodied laughter, voices, footsteps. At times, the otherworldly dins resembled the sound of furniture being tossed around a room. Even their equipment was not safe from uncanny interference, as tools and other construction materials moved inexplicably—or disappeared entirely.
The disturbances were unsettling enough to cause several members of the construction crew to leave the restoration project. Reports of the property’s ghostly incidents soon traveled, eventually reaching a local news crew. One evening, the news team entered the empty house.
They were greeted not by a friendly, Casper-like presence, but by a piece of construction material flying at them.
Despite these issues, not all of Williams’s restoration team quit. One of these committed workers was rewarded for his dedication with a chance meeting… with a hostile ghost.
In this account, the laborer went to one of the house’s two upper stories to determine the location and reason for a loud, sudden noise. The laborer found this odd, as he knew the room to be empty—or so he thought.
Some time passed. The laborer still hadn’t returned downstairs. Concerned, his team went up to find him. After searching different rooms, they found their coworker. He was facedown on the floor, clutching at the floor with his nails for dear life, literally. He was terrified.
The laborer explained his ordeal to the crew. Per his explanation, he’d walked into the room to find the noise, and instantly felt as though he’d been thrown into “ice-cold water.” He felt himself losing control over his body. It was almost as if he was possessed.
In his panic, he reflexively dropped to the floor, desperately trying to stop the mysterious force from dragging him toward an open chimney shaft. If the force had succeeded, the man would’ve plunged three stories. The fall likely would’ve killed him.
While explaining what happened, the laborer suggested conducting an exorcism of the house. As soon as he simply mentioned the word “exorcism,” a loud female scream echoed through the room.
The Man in Black
Beyond voices, workers also spotted apparitions. One notable ghost seen by the crew is described as a “tall man dressed in black.” The crew saw the man watching them through a third-floor bedroom window. He wore a black suit and silver tie and stood by the window, transfixed.
Outside of the crew, during the Williams era, others also saw spirits. Some passerby reported seeing a gray-haired man in a silver morning robe. The house’s neighbors complained of party noises and singing, despite the house being empty at the time. Some neighbors even saw people dancing on the third floor, while the house was, again, vacant.
The house didn’t have electrical issues, yet lights flickered on and off at random. A neighborhood woman confessed to Williams her fear of a male presence—not a man, but a presence —she sensed inside.
Regardless of the many grievances and sightings Williams heard of his property, he rejected the belief that the house was haunted. In his dismissal, however, he did admit a significantly sinister detail of the house’s renovation: a crypt.
During the restoration, the crew had to dig up the house’s foundation. In their digging, they managed to excavate a buried, ancient crypt, most likely from pre-colonial times, from under the foundation. Perhaps indicating Native American origination, the crypt’s walls were constructed from lime and oyster shells.
Williams was reportedly not at the property at the time, but his crew notified him of their finding. It is unclear what became of the crypt, as, in accounts of the Williams period, the only other detail noted about the crypt is its disposal, or lack thereof. After its discovery, as word has it, the crypt was merely buried underneath the house.
The precise importance of the crypt, and its possible relationship with the host of hauntings at the property, are speculative, but a crypt was indeed found underneath the house.
Jim Williams, Resident
Eventually, after hearing so many reports of haunted activity in his newly acquired property, Williams couldn’t shake his morbid curiosity. He moved into the Hampton Lillibridge House.
Right away, the spirits, in their own way, welcomed Williams to the house. On several instances, in the middle of the night, the grating sound of footsteps woke him. These footsteps weren’t soft—they sounded like glass being crushed.
At other times, Williams witnessed a shadowy figure approach him, then disappear. One time, Williams, likely both intrigued and annoyed by the paranormal presences, tried pursuing one of the spirits, chasing it down a hallway until a door abruptly slammed in his face. He attempted to open the door. It was locked.
Williams finally conceded that his house was home to too many strange events to ignore.
He consulted Reverend Albert Rhett Stewart, an Episcopal bishop.
On December 7, 1963, the bishop conducted an exorcism of the Hampton Lillibridge House. The bishop blessed the home, and demanded evil spirits exit. His efforts were not in vain. The exorcism succeeded…
for less than a week.
A few days later, the disturbances resumed.
The Hampton Lillibridge House Today
A series of paranormal investigators, psychics, and related organizations have examined the property, including the American Psychical Research Foundation. All agreed that paranormal activity has occurred within the house.
Other owners moved into the Hampton Lillibridge House after Jim Williams. Despite its haunted reputation, the Hampton Lillibridge is still a residential property and private residence. As such, it is not open to the public for visits or tours inside.
However, as of 2018, the house is listed on real estate sites as being for sale. For a mere $2,150,000, the Hampton Lillibridge House can be yours to own and experience.
If you’d like to admire this beautiful, storied home in person, the house is a short walk from Oglethorpe Square, where our Savannah Terrors tour meets nightly. Although the Hampton Lillibridge is said by some—usually its owners, neighbors, or real estate agents—to no longer be haunted, the sites on our tour aren’t as tame.
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