Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, can justifiably lay claim to being one of the most beautiful in the world.
Admired for centuries by local people it now attracts visitors from all over the world after an image of one of its statues appeared on the front cover of author John Berendt’s most successful book.
Built on the site of an old plantation, the dead sleep peacefully by day surrounded by an exquisite grandeur that wouldn’t be out of place in a formal garden.
At night though it is a different story, according to the good citizens of Savannah the restless spirits of this old graveyard awaken to wander between the graves and tombs.
Haunted by a number of spirits there is one phantom in particular who provokes more interest than the others and draws visitors to her grave.
The Bonaventure Cemetery ghost is now almost as famous as the cemetery itself, a tiny child, loved in death as she was in life, her name is little Gracie Watson.
Bonaventure Cemetery is almost as famous for its elaborately carved statues as it is for its illustrious inhabitants.
If you are lucky enough to visit its expansive grounds, like many visitors you will be stunned at the number of beautifully carved effigies that stand as monuments to those who have passed.
Pensive ladies, weeping angels and cherubic children, stand silently guarding the wealthy dead of old Savannah.
There are many beautiful and famous statues, but one in particular, the statue of Gracie Watson, draws more visitors than any other.
Carved in white stone, the amazingly lifelike statue depicts a little girl aged five or six. Sitting on a rock, one tiny hand resting upon a tree stump, this life-sized statue would tug at strings of the hardest heart.
Little Gracie is wearing her Sunday dress and her best buttoned-up boots. Her hair tumbles loosely around her shoulders and her pretty face is half smiling as if she is posing for a photograph.
It’s not surprising then that little Gracie has become such a favorite.
Today people make pilgrimages to Gracie’s grave to leave her toys and pennies in the hope that she will grant a wish. Take one of Gracie’s toys away and she is rumored to weep tears of blood.
Some visitors to Gracie’s grave have reported a feeling of oppressive sadness around the little girl, whilst others swear they have seen the ghost of the child, dressed in her Victorian clothes, wandering through the cemetery.
Sightings of little Gracie’s ghost are not limited to Bonaventure Cemetery, though, almost as soon as her short life ended, the sad little girl began to make her presence felt in other parts of Victorian Savannah.
Who Was Gracie Watson?
Gracie Watson was the only child of a prominent Savannah hotelier and his wife. Born and raised in the upmarket Pulaski Hotel, she spent her life surrounded by adults.
Very soon the lovely young child learned how to beguile and charm visitors to the hotel and became a real favorite with guests and staff alike.
When she tired of the adults company she would take herself off to play beneath the stairs of the hotel and could often be heard giggling and singing to herself.
Sadly, little Gracie died suddenly and unexpectedly of pneumonia in the spring of 1889. Gracie’s parents, the staff, and visitors to the hotel were devastated at her loss.
Very soon after her death people began to report seeing and hearing Gracie’s ghost about the hotel, particularly close to the stairs where the little girl had loved to play.
Eventually, the bereft parents moved on to manage the De Soto Hotel nearby. Determined not to be left behind Gracie followed her parents and continued to be seen and heard in their new home.
Today, people still claim to see Gracie’s ghost playing near the site of the old Pulaski Hotel or peering from the window of the building that now stands on the spot.
Other Ghostly Residents
Little Gracie, of course, is not the only spirit that haunts Bonaventure Cemetery. Built on the site of an old plantation, local people claim that they can hear music and laughter emanating from the cemetery of an evening.
Described by experts as a residual haunting the sounds hark back to the wonderful parties that were once held on the plantation in days long past.
At one such party, a fire broke out but not to be put off, the guests carried the tables of food and drink outdoors and continued their festivities as the plantation mansion burned to the ground.
It is even rumored that some of the statues themselves are haunted.
The image of the statue of little Wendy the bird girl on the cover of John Berendt’s book is said to be haunted by its original model, Lorraine Greenman.
Another statue, an angel, is said to change its expression according to who is looking at her, sometimes sad and contemplative, other times peaceful and serene.
Far more sinister is the pack of phantom dogs who reputedly roam the cemetery. Wild and savage, the dogs hunt down visitors to the cemetery after dark.
Some claim to have seen these terrifying creatures whilst others say they have felt the hot breath of the dogs on the back of their necks or their sharp teeth snapping at their heels.
Little Gracie’s parents eventually left Savannah leaving their little girl behind. Perhaps this is why her restless spirit still searches for them in the area where she once lived and the overwhelming feelings of sadness surrounding her grave.
Cherished during her lifetime, her father commissioned the most beautiful of statues when his dear child passed away.
It is this statue that draws people to Gracie now and has made her the most beloved Bonaventure Cemetery ghost.
Adored in life and death, the story of little Gracie is a tragic tale of a beautiful life that ended far too soon.