The Legend of 432 Abercorn

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The house at 432 Abercorn Street in Savannah is a dilapidated Greek Revival structure. The historic house sits on Calhoun Square, and like any building on one of Savannah’s squares, it’s a coveted piece of real estate. So why, then, does the building stand empty and, apparently, abandoned?

Sixth Sense Tours’ Dawn Laxton has been researching the long and mysterious history of the house, although details have proven difficult to find. The house was built in 1868 for General Benjamin J. Wilson, a veteran of the Civil War. The General’s wife succumbed to yellow fever, leaving him to raise their daughter alone in the four-level house.

Just across the street from the house is the Massey School, one of the oldest public schools in Savannah still in use today. General Wilson’s daughter loved to play with children who went to Massey School, but her father disapproved of her socializing with them. Undeterred, the little girl continued to run across the street to play with the other children.

Legend says that, in his frustration, General Wilson punished his daughter by putting her in a chair in the living room window and tying her into place. She could see the other children playing outside and she could do nothing but sit and watch. When neighbors saw the little girl, they complained to General Wilson about his mistreatment of her. He responded by removing the ropes that bound the girl in place, but he ordered her to remain in the chair nonetheless.

After a few days of sitting in such a humiliating position, the little girl died of heat stroke and dehydration. In those days before the advent of air conditioning, houses could become stiflingly hot, and the child’s position directly in front of the window made her even more susceptible. Years later, General Wilson also died in the home, but his death came naturally, unlike his daughter’s.

The General and his daughter have never left, according to many. Dawn is just one of the tour guides I spoke to who says that tourists often take a picture of the house, only to find the image of a little girl sitting in one of the windows. Other tourists are less lucky: before they can snap a picture, their cameras shut down. In some extreme cases, Dawn has even seen smoke begin to curl up from cameras that worked just fine at every other spot on the tour.

The General's face in the stucco.General Wilson’s face doesn’t show up in a window that of like his daughter’s. Instead, he can be seen looking out from the plaster next to the right-hand window on the second level. This living-room window is the one where his daughter purportedly died. Is the image of the old man’s face just a coincidental arrangement of cracks and discoloration in the plaster? Even the pictures that I took, before I had heard the story, show what looks like the face of a man with a white beard, turning his face away from the window.

As if the sad tale of General Wilson and his daughter isn’t enough, there are other mysterious tales surrounding the house. I first heard about the haunted house on Abercorn Street from “Hollywood” Ron Higgins during one of his Scary Ghost Tours. The story Ron uncovered deals with a much more recent tragedy at the house.

In 1959, a family from Pompano Beach, Florida, came to visit the doctor and his family living at 432 Abercorn. The visiting family included four daughters, ranging in age from four to twelve. The adults went out one evening, and when they returned later they found three of the girls dead. Two of them were still inside the house, and one was sprawled on the front porch, as if she was slain while trying to escape. The youngest daughter, age four, was the only one still alive. The sad and senseless triple murder was never solved.

In the 1990s, the house was briefly rented out and a lot of college students from nearby Savannah College of Art and Design lived there. They heard pounding, heavy pacing, crying and, even more mysterious, a lot of giggling. I spoke to a local resident who sometimes feels such a negative emotion emanating from the house that she can’t even walk past it. One of her acquaintances lived at the house for a time, but he disappeared while living there, and the mysterious circumstances make her wonder if his disappearance is somehow related to the paranormal activity at the house.

Among all the ghost stories I’ve heard about Savannah over the years, I have never encountered a story like this one, in which people are so reluctant to tell the story and even more wary of going near the place. I’ve walked past in broad daylight and broken out in goose bumps. If you have a story or pictures to share about 432 Abercorn, e-mail me and I will post your information on this site.

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88 Responses to The Legend of 432 Abercorn

  1. Beth Dolgner says:

    Debra, did you try looking through these shared accounts? Most of them have photos, too! http://www.bethdolgner.com/432abercorn/432abercornstories/

  2. Heidi says:

    I’m sorry to burst your bubble but none of this legend is true. There was no murder (you can’t find clips or articles about it at all) and Wilson wasn’t a veteran and he had five healthy kids, two of which were daughters who lived to grow into old age.
    Now that being said this house is extremely creepy and the strangest things go on around it. The thing just oozes bad vibes. It’s very possible someone could have been killed here and the body’s been the house and undiscovered or maybe something traumatic happened and it’s just the pain and misery of the tragedy clinging to the house instead of a person.

  3. layla says:

    Who owns the house now?

  4. Beth Dolgner says:

    Layla, apparently the owner of the house lives in Atlanta currently. I’m not sure who the exact owner is, unfortunately.

  5. Mike Potts says:

    My wife Lisa and I were in Savannah this past week for our honeymoon. We got there Saturday June 29 late afternoon, and that night we went on a haunted walking tour. On the tour was 432 Abercorn, and we got some pics that night. The following Tuesday we were sightseeing the downtown area and I took some pics of the house in the daylight. I stood in the street to get a close-up of the street sign. When we got home and saw the uploaded pics on our laptop, we saw what looks like a ghostly little girl in a tattered white gown looking out of the window.

    -Mike and Lisa Potts

  6. Beth Dolgner says:

    Congratulations on your marriage! I’d love to see the photo- could you please send it to Beth (at) bethdolgner.com. Thank you for sharing!

  7. ashley says:

    The living room is the first level. Underneath is the basement. It’s just storage, not really connected to the house. I’m a local. It’s a creepy place, but I don’t think there is anything unpleasant about it. I don’t know if I believe in ghosts…so I liked to push the limits when I was younger. I once sat on the steps for two hours talking and carrying on with my friends, nothing happened. They pressured me into putting my hand in the mail slot…still have my hand. I’ve been to scarier places. But it’s a nice tourist spot. When my friends come into town, I take them there for a good scare.

  8. ashley says:

    Also, the 50′s story…I heard they went out and when they came home there was a pentagram carved into the floor and the 3 girls were dead and layed into a triangle over top. Does anyone know what the rabbit symbol was that was on the board that covered the hole to the basement? I figured it was gang related, but curious.

  9. chantele says:

    My manager told me about this house. Her fiancee had an encounter when he decided to look in the window. He suddenly was pushed back by a huge gust of air/wind. There were no openings in the windows. Having just moved to the city, I had to seek out this house myself. It is creepy. I took several pictures and had an uneasy feeling. After reviewing them it looks as if there is a mist in the upstairs window.

  10. Beth Dolgner says:

    Wow, Chantele, that’s quite an experience your manager’s fiancee had! Thank you for sharing!

  11. Rebeca says:

    I heard that the one kid who survived is a grown woman and owns the house in New York she keeps the lights and runs cameras in the house

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  14. Philip says:

    I live in Savannah and my family and I sit in that square every year on St. Patricks Day for the parade. As it has become harder and harder every year to obtain a decent spot in any of the squares (especially the first few the parade route passes), we took to spending the night in the square saving our spot (that is before the city prohibited you from doing so). I did spend the night in the square when I was about 17 or 18, I didn’t get much sleep that night and when there were no people passing through (people are all over the place in Savannah at all hours the night before and of St Patricks Day) it got pretty damn creepy. I have had some unusual and I guess you could say paranormal encounters in Savannah. And I do know that unmistakable feeling you get as if you’re not alone. Didn’t feel as though it was from that house, though I don’t know any of the history behind it.

  15. Philip says:

    I live in Savannah and my family and I sit in that square every year on St. Patricks Day for the parade. As it has become harder and harder every year to obtain a decent spot in any of the squares (especially the first few the parade route passes), we took to spending the night in the square saving our spot (that is before the city prohibited you from doing so). I did spend the night in the square when I was about 17 or 18, I didn’t get much sleep that night and when there were no people passing through (people are all over the place in Savannah at all hours the night before and of St Patricks Day) it got pretty damn creepy. I have had some unusual and I guess you could say paranormal encounters in Savannah. And I do know that unmistakable feeling you get as if you’re not alone. Didn’t feel as though it was from that house, though I don’t know any of the history behind it..

  16. Beth Dolgner says:

    I bet it felt a little creepy! Did you know that you were also sleeping on a cemetery? There’s an old African-American cemetery underneath that area, too! Thanks for posting!

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  18. taylor says:

    there not called ghosts there called spirits left behind with unfinshed buisness. It;s hard to explain if you haven’t been thru it yourself. i’ve talked to them and saw them and got recordings. spirits are the real deal.

  19. Tom Stempfley says:

    I attended a Haunted House tour in Savannah this evening operated by the 6th Sense group. Our tour guide was Sharon, and she was knowledgeable, well spoken and a very nice person. The first thing that occurred as we stepped in front of the first house on the tour was that the batteries from my Nikon D5200 DX Digital SLR Camera (Which I had charged specially for this event the entire night before) went dead, and I could take no photos….

    We ended our tour with 432 Abercorn. All the stories you list were told, both about the small girl who died of hydration in the front window, and the girls murdered and placed in the the parlor in a triangle on the floor.

    It was explained to us ( we were a small group, myself, and a very lovely young college couple, and our guide) that the house is currently owned by the 4th daughter that wasn’t murdered the night her sisters were killed and arranged on the floor. She refuses to sell it for fear of more death, and pays the taxes on it each year to maintain ownership. She wants no one to live there. No idea if this is accurate, but Sharon was relating all info that she had available.

    In regards to this top floor being lit, she said yes, there are lights that are on a timer since the vandalism about a year or so ago. They were, however off tonight, no reason why. Sharon thought this was quite odd. There are also new white shades blocking the main floor windows (where previously so many people have photos of a small girl looking out on to the park). Sharon had one pic of the girl in the window on her iPhone from before the shades, so this seems corroborated by many.

    I was oddly compelled by the dark, heavy feeling of the house, and wanted to experience more than just staring at the it. Since the lights were off, and the shades were up, I walked up the stairs to the front door, just to feel what it would be like to be closer, to stand on that porch. The group was afraid and retreated to the street.

    I stood for a minute or two, and just quietly opened my mind to anything that wanted to come through. I felt nothing, and started to descend the stairs.
    As I did, the shade from the window just to the right of the door pulled back, just ever so slightly, and I stopped long enough to look in. I didn’t see anything specific, but I had the sense to flee immediately–The message I heard was “Get the F*&^ off these steps.

    I mentioned it to the group, and the Male of the couple agreed with me, that the shades had been 100% closed when we arrived. There was a definite gap on the left side of the window where the shade had been pulled back. We could even see details of a reflection of light where we stood out in the street. We unanimously agreed that the shade had moved.

    I took what photos I could with my iPhone ( my camera being mystically dead), but the images were so dark that they are not worths sharing-

    Just another tale of 432, I suppose–

    I do agree with some of the earlier posters, there is an addictive quality to the property–I don’t just walk up stairs of abandoned properties, but at the same time, I couldn’t resist……..

  20. Beth Dolgner says:

    Wow, what an experience! Thank you for sharing. That’s neat that everyone on your tour was able to corroborate the position of the shade. I hope you had a fun visit to Savannah (and that your camera is back to normal).

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  22. Angela says:

    Several years ago I was in Savannah with two colleagues for a conference. On the last afternoon we did a ghost tour and a couple on the tour with us took a photo that showed the ball of light that is so common. I am a born skeptic and thought it was a reflection or something of the sort, but played along. After dinner that night the three of us drove back to the house and experienced a whole new level of creepy. We drove away from the house, but the GPS took us in a circle back by the house again. We pulled up in front of the house and the guy in front put his cell out the window and started to video. I was in the back and rolled down my window to the same not really expecting to see anything. Just about the time the guy in front said his phone went dead (and didn’t function correctly for hours) on my screen I saw a light in the shape of a person on the balcony, then my screen flashed red, blue and went dead as well. My phone did turn back on but the video was lost. We immediately drove away and as we did so we noticed that it was five till midnight. I suppose there could be a scientific explanation(electromagnetic pulse?) But there is no denying it was creepy.

  23. Beth Dolgner says:

    Thanks for sharing! What a spooky experience! There are other stories of electronic equipment like cameras going haywire there. If you think of paranormal entities as energy, it makes sense that they could disrupt electronics. Many people speculate that ghosts can also draw energy from electrical sources, which might explain the dead phone battery.

  24. Karen says:

    I was pn a ghost tour Sunday March 9th. As we were listening to our guide the shade moved aside , as though someone were looking our. Another person in the party and myself went in for a closer look. As we shot pictures, we aproached closer to the house. He moved towards the stairs, i moved to peek in the lower window. The next thing I knew, I was stumbling backwards. It was like i had hit an invisable firce field that was clearly marking the boundry. All of my pictures are dark.

  25. Beth Dolgner says:

    Wow! Thanks for writing, Karen! I’m glad everybody is okay.

  26. Gabbi Junod says:

    Visited the house on a short visit to Savannah with a tour group and tried to get pictures of the house. One before shows a dim but okay view of the house as we stopped by. My mother and I drove back by after the tour to get another picture. We drove up and I remember feeling an odd cold sensation and a bit scared as I turned on my flash to take a picture of the front, now that we were closer. I noticed immediately that the first floor window closest to the front door looked as though someone had moved the shade back on the left. I took a picture and compared before and after and the shade had definitely shifted. Not sure of what stories specifically tie to the house but this was definitely an odd case, and hope to someday have a little more history on it! Such a rich historic area, I think people would love to know the history behind the house someday :)

  27. Beth Dolgner says:

    The shades didn’t used to be there, but now that they are, it seems like there are growing reports of them moving!

  28. Julie Barnes says:

    If want a true take on why the house at 432 Abercorn isn’t “right” look up the history of the square it sits on, that’s all you need to do, this unfortunate property happens to sit on the south west corner ( trying to leave the square) of a very old , very sad and very poorly done graveyard, I am very sure that the house in question isn’t the only place on that square with some strange or unpleasant vibes. The whole block just feels sad, murders in the 60′s , a daughter dying from dehydration ( no child would EVER sit in a window long enough to die of anything like that, and the father , no sorry ,don’t think the tall tale about him is true either, BUT there is something very, very wrong with that whole square, i personally avoid strolling to or even around it. And I’d place bets that the Massy school on the opposite corner also has just strange goings on if my very sensitive radar for such things is not mistaken. I wouldn’t live in that block. Nuf said.

  29. Beth Dolgner says:

    Yes, the cemetery probably does play a large part in the energy and activity there. Like you, I’d be very curious to know what happens in the other buildings on that square!

  30. Trisha Cash says:

    I was there September 2013. I went on a tour and took some pictures of the house. I have orbs in the pictures and what looks to be a fihure I will send them to you if you send me your email and maybe you can make them out.

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  32. Rod says:

    I visited the house on Abercorn last week and I’m from Indiana.
    Although it was creepy looking …I took several pics and had no issues
    I also did not feel a sense of dread..btw…I do paranormal investigations and I have been to many well haunted locations.Its just my opinion…but I think there is a tale on this house.still creepy house.

  33. Robin says:

    My family and I took the hurst tour last night and as we slowly passed by the house looking at the windows, a light was on in the second floor room, first window on the left. When I said out loud to double check myself,”is there a light on in that room?” Another person confirmed. It lit the room and the rest of the house was dark. The tour guide said that was not possible. Any ideas?

  34. Beth Dolgner says:

    I’m not sure why it would be impossible – in fact, I’ve had several people tell me they went by and saw some lights on. However, it is definitely very rare! I know of one account in which the upstairs lights were on, and when the person looked again a moment later, the whole house was dark! Thanks for sharing!

  35. M says:

    A two-minute public records search on the Chatham County Property Appraiser’s site lists the owner as Omi G. Walden, former assistant secretary of energy to Jimmy Carter. I don’t know if she lives in Atlanta now but she’s from Atlanta. Crazy things you can find with actual research!

  36. Emily moore says:

    I’m from savannah and took my first hearse tour last week. It was fun, we visited 432 abercorn st and heard the story. We decided after the tour to walk down there. We went on the porch looked in windows, but nothing creepy. We forgot to take pictures…. so me and my husband ate dinner down town this weekend and decided to revisit the house and snap a few pictures (both of us don’t believe.just interested) our picture has a a creepy face of an older man (looks evil) very clear too . Then I took my mom last night and took more pics and got another picture of a younger female face in the window next to it. I’m still skeptical . But definitely creepy

  37. FERRELL says:

    My family and I were there July 18th-21st and went on one of the late night ghost tours. We knew nothing about the history of the house until the we were in front of the house and the tour guide enlightened us. I had taken numerous photos with my Canon t3i camera before getting to this house. As we approached this house my camera stopped working all together. I knew I had a completely charged battery. About a block or so after leaving this house my camera began working as if nothing was wrong with it. It was some time later that I learned about camera’s not working around this residence. Weird!!!

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