The Terrifying Tales of Calhoun Square in Savannah, GA

Posted by junketseo in Savannah Ghost Tours
The Terrifying Tales of Calhoun Square in Savannah, GA - Photo

Of Savannah’s 22 diligently constructed public squares, Calhoun Square is among the youngest and most spiritually active. Two private residencies flank the 172-year-old square, the Espy House and 432 Abercorn Street, and are said to be some of the most haunted in Savannah. The morbid stories behind these spirits are bone-chillingly fascinating.

Underneath the square’s concrete, in front of the first public school in Savannah, the unmarked graves of tortured African slaves were discovered in the early 2000s. The school was once used as a civil war hospital, prompting speculation and stories about strange sounds heard in the square late at night. 

Haunted Locations in Calhoun Square

  • The Espy House
  • 432 Abercorn Street
  • The Square Itself

Besides the hauntings and the macabre stories, Calhoun Square offers a unique window into the past, as it’s one of the only squares in the city to retain its original architecture. Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, a gorgeous Gothic piece of architecture, looms over the dead and living as they frequent the square. 

Calhoun Square is just one of many squares with buildings attracting spiritual energy. Read our blog to find out where they all are! 

What Is Calhoun Square?

Calhoun Square, named after former Vice President and leader of the secessionist movement James C. Calhoun, is one of the 22 remaining squares in Savannah. This square was constructed in 1851 and is one of the youngest in the city, alongside Whitfield and Troup. Out of the original 24 squares, centerpieces of its 24 wards, laid out in the city’s 1773 construction, 22 have survived. 

Calhoun is unique in that its original architecture has remained relatively unchanged. While others fell to natural disasters and three major fires, Calhoun shines on with periodical integrity. 

Architecture in Calhoun Square

Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church is the largest building in the square and was constructed between 1875 and 1890. Construction was delayed due to the fires mentioned above and various yellow fever outbreaks. Two large Gothic spires tower over the historic square, reaching 136 and 196 feet. 

Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church
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Georgia’s first public school, The Massic Common School, also lines the historic square. Construction began in 1855, and the school was officially opened on October 15th, 1856. It served as a hospital during the Union occupation, led by General William Tecumseh Sherman, prompting many to believe that too is haunted. After its closure in 1974, it began to operate as the Massie Heritage Center, informing curious visitors about Savannah’s local history. Here, under the sidewalk in front of the museum, construction crews dug up the bones of former African slaves. 

Surrounding these forebearers of the city’s history are a plethora of Greek Revival-style buildings. These buildings, quite fashionable in the mid-1800s amongst Americans, are where our ghost stories begin. 

The Espy House 

One of the most popular stops in any Savannah ghost tour is the Epsy House. Here a story is unwoven of love, loss, and lament. The tale woven is about the Espy family. Carl Espy was an influential judge in Savannah during the 1920s and 30s. Carl disapproves of his son Wesley’s romance with the daughter of a criminal. 

He warns his son to break things off with her; otherwise, there will be grave consequences. Wesley refuses in adolescent denial. Soon he is found beaten and inches from death on the front steps of their home. He passed due to his injuries a short time afterward.

His spirit still haunts the large mansion today. People line up nightly to hear the tale before the Greek revival behemoth. To listen to it in full detail, take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures! 

432 Abercorn Street

A few blocks from Calhoun Square sits 432 Abercorn Street, a mysterious brick-laden home that spooked locals and visitors for decades. A twisted, made-for-Netflix story compliments the dark facade of the building. 

The gray three-story house at 432 Abercorn St.
Image Source

This three-story Greek revival mansion was built in1868 for Irish Civil War veteran Benjamin J. Wilson and his family of 7. One of these children, it appears, has been left behind today. The ghost of a young girl sitting in a chair can be seen in the front window of the building above the outer staircase. 

One day her father caught her playing with children at the Massie school down the street. The family was one of great wealth and power; such a thing was seen as treason by the angry father. He tied his daughter to a chair for two days as punishment and was forced to stare out the window while other children played. 

This disturbing display of punishment happened during the hot summer months above all. She died of heat exhaustion two days into the terrible event. 

Many claim to see her in the window, and they say the face of the angry Benjamin J. Wilson has forever been engraved into the front of the home. Others propose, in a more rational sense, that it is the spirits of the innumerable and forgotten slaves. Once thrown into the ground beneath the square, their dead bodies remain unmarked and uncared for. 

Who Haunts Calhoun in Square in Savannah, GA?

  • The spirits of former slaves buried beneath it
  • Wesley Espy 
  • Benjamin J. Wilson and his tortured daughter

The Spirits of Calhoun Square

Before 1851 the area now known as Calhoun Square was considered outside the city limits. It became an ideal spot, along with what is now called Whitefield Square. From 1773 until 1851, these burial grounds were the only two legal parcels of land to bury bodies into. Bodies were generally kept outside city limits during the days of yellow fever, but this area was soon overlooked as the city expanded. 

In the early 2000s, numerous bodies were uncovered in Calhoun Square, igniting the search for more. It had been discovered that many African-Americans were left beneath the patchwork of homes and cobblestones. The bodies and spirits ignited a discussion that continues today, with conversations centering around adding a historical marker to honor the spirits of Calhoun Square and renaming the square itself. 

Whatever the future dictates, we can rest assured that much of the spiritual energy coming from the square emanates out of these brutalized souls. Are both the spirits of the Espy House and 432 Abercorn one and the same? Are the ghosts of these African-American slaves still looking for salvation? 

Haul yourself over to beautiful Savannah, GA, to find out for yourself. When you get there, book your first and last tour with US Ghost Adventures. Our experienced tour guides will take you all around the historic city, looking for the spirits and their true stories. Check our website for further information and booking details.