The Sinister Side of Tondee’s Tavern

Posted by junketseo in Savannah Ghost Tours
The Sinister Side of Tondee’s Tavern - Photo

Late one summer night in Savannah, a small fire raged inside Tondee’s Tavern. It awakened the two employees sleeping inside and the spirits of the 19th-century building. A spectacular display of orbs pulsated across the security cameras that night. This film is not the first incidence reported at the beloved bar. Strange and terrifying stories of ghost slaves, sailors, and soldiers are a part of the building’s legacy, making it a popular tourist destination. 

The two-story building served dual purposes at the height of the antebellum period. The Central Railroad and Banking Company owned the bottom floor, while the top floor was reserved for Joseph Bryan, one of the most heinous and renowned slave brokers in the city. Many suspect that the levels of paranormal activity reported here emanate from the basement where Bryan held slaves and other prisoners. 

Savannah is commonly referred to as America’s most haunted city. Take a tour with US Ghost Adventures to get the full experience. 

The Tale of Two Tondees

The original Tondee’s Tavern has been lost to time. Burnt to the ground in the first of Savannah’s many fires. But it served a monumental purpose, as a meeting place for the great thinkers of the Revolutionary War. The current Tondee’s Tavern pays tribute to this historic spot with a twist of the otherworldly. The histories of both buildings combine into a fascinating tale. 

The Original Tondee’s Tavern

Tondee’s Long House was established and constructed by early Savannah settler Peter Tondee. Upon arrival in the new world, Tondee, unfortunately, found himself quickly orphaned. He entered the world of carpentry at sixteen, constructing many of Savannah’s earliest and most important buildings. 

One of these was his infamous tavern. The building was constructed sometime between 1766 and 1770 on land granted to him by Savannah’s local council. His skilled carpentry and political connections in colonial America placed him and his tavern in a place of great importance to the revolution. 

Once located at the corner of Broughton and Whitaker, Tondee’s Tavern was the central social hub of early Savannah. Young and old would gather here to drink, listen to captivating tales from docked sea captains, and play a colonial ring toss game called “Quoits.” 

As the revolution gained momentum, Tondee’s Tavern was at its center. On August 10th, 1774, delegates from every parish in Georgia gathered at the tavern. It was the first of many revolutionary meetings held here. 

The first independent government of the state of Georgia was formed here on July 4th, 1775. Revolutionary operations in Georgia would continue to be headquartered here until the British occupied the city in 1778. The revolutionary government would continue to meet here after the war’s end in 1782. Peter Tondee passed in 1775, but his wife Lucy continued operations at the tavern until her passing in 1785. 

The beloved Tavern and two-thirds of the city would eventually be lost to a tragic fire in 1796. But its spirit and essence continue to this day as the current Tondee’s Tavern. 

Modern Tondee’s Tavern

Opening in 2013, the modern-day Tondee’s Tavern pays tribute to the long-gone but not forgotten long room of the colonial days. Its location downtown near Savannah city hall is almost an ode to the revolutionary incubator of old. City officials, locals, and tourists gather at Tondee’s Tavern to enjoy its fine beer, liquor, and local seafood selection. 

But there are other visitors that gather in front of the historic 19th-century building. Hoards of ghost tours flock in front of the tavern to spook and scare them in the dark Savannah night. 

It begins with the building’s foundation in 1853 as a bank for the Central Railroad and Banking Company. The first floor served benign enough purposes, but something far more sinister was taking place on the second floor. 

A man named Joseph Bryan worked out of an office on the second floor. Bryan was known around town as one of the largest slave traders in Savannah. It is said that he sold more people into slavery than any other man in Savannah. The basement of the building is where he kept many of these unfortunate souls before lining them up for sale, creating a massive spiritual build-up that is still seen today. 

Spirits of Tondee’s Tavern

Since its opening, strange activity, sounds, and disturbances have been reported at Tondee’s Tavern. Even prior, when the building was a Tony Roma’s Italian restaurant, temperatures would drop, and lights would flicker, especially on the bottom floor. 

But it wasn’t until video evidence was captured that people started paying attention. One night a fire broke loose, credited to a cigarette butt being improperly disposed of in a flower pot outside. Two employees who had closed that night were spending the night to save time for the opening shift the next day. 

At 3:00 am, one of the employees, Lisa Scrougin, was abruptly awoken. She explained it as if someone had touched her in her sleep. Upon awakening, she heard the terrifying scream of her co-worker; the two of them had discovered the fire. The two quickly extinguished the fire with buckets of water and returned to sleep. Their nerves were shaken, but they were safe. 

It wasn’t until the following day, when the security cameras were reviewed, that they discovered something unusual. Small orbs were captured flying across the camera in various shapes and sizes. Some appeared as flashes of light, while others seemed more concrete. None had any designated patterns to their movements, and the two already startled employees were stunned. 

Coupled with the abrupt awakening that Scrougin experienced, it seems as if the spirits of Tondee’s Tavern were trying to save the two innocent employees. 

Since the event, significant documentation of spiritual activity has yet to be documented. It is as if the spirits of the tavern appeared only when needed. But strange activities still occur inside the building, and large crowds gather to hear the story of evil Joseph Bryan and his crimes against humanity. 

Haunted Savannah

If you would like to hear this story in person or from the haunted city of Savannah, take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures. We bring you to the best-haunted locales in the city. Our experienced tour guides will leave you shocked and spooked by the night’s end. Check our website for further details and booking information.