Colonial Park Cemetery is considered one of the most haunted locations in all of Savannah. Some of the local paranormal enthusiasts even go as far as calling Colonial Park Cemetery ‘ Paranormal Central’.
Colonial Park Cemetery opened in 1750. It is the oldest burial ground in Savannah which can still be identified by your average tourist. There are a few burial grounds which were used prior to 1750. They have all been covered up, built on top of or paved over. One of the oldest, if not the oldest is at the south west corner of Wright Square. Within the 6 acres of ground which make up Colonial Park Cemetery there are over 10,000 people buried, however, there are not even 1,000 grave markers. Many people were buried in mass graves. Others had their grave marker knocked over or destroyed. Many people believe this willful desecration of burial grounds helps to fuel the haunted activity which is attributed to Colonial Park Cemetery.
The most famous ghost story to come out of Colonial Park Cemetery is the haunted story of Rene Rondolier. Rene’s ghost is reported seen walking through the Cemetery, or hanging from the ‘Hanging Tree’ which is towards the back of Colonial Park Cemetery. How do people know this is Rene’s ghost? Well, in real life Rene was a very large person, standing almost 7 feet tall. Rene was famous for killing multiple young girls in Colonial Park Cemetery. After he was caught, he was taken to the tree inside of the Cemetery and hanged.
The problem with this story…is that it isn’t true. This character hasn’t been found in historical records. Nobody has even found records of little girls being killed by a serial killer in the Cemetery. This story is a good ghost story, but it isn’t based in reality. Some tour guides will even tell you that he lived at a house that is located on the plot the Hampton Lillibridge house sits on. The will tell you that the glass on the brick wall surrounding part of the house was to keep Rene from wondering. Once again, this is complete nonsense.
So, while Rene Rondolier may be the most famous ghost to come from Colonial Park Cemetery, the story simply is not true.
Voodoo Ceremonies in the Cemetery
Savannah is home to, and has been for a long time, a thriving Voodoo culture. Many voodoo practitioners live in and around Savannah. Many of them have moved outside of the city of Savannah due to various reasons. Before Colonial Park Cemetery was closed at night it wasn’t uncommon for early morning visitors to find the remnants of a Voodoo ceremony performed just the night before. The soil from the graves was used in various Voodoo rituals. In addition to the soil, graves were sometimes raided in order to obtain human bones.
These stories are true. To what extent the Colonial Park Cemetery was used as a place of ritual can be disputed, but I don’t think there is a single knowledgable person who would dispute that Colonial Park was used for Voodoo rituals and ceremonies.
The Dueling Grounds
Just south of the south wall of Colonial Park Cemetery is a small park. Today the area contains a basketball court and a children’s playground. It is rumored that this is the dueling grounds of Savannah when dueling was legal. After the city of Savannah passed laws outlawing dueling the participants would go over to Hutchinson Island or South Carolina to attempt to restore honor to their names. Prior to the passage of this law, this small park was used by duelers in Savannah. I cannot find any source which says that this area was used for dueling…with any degree of certainty.
Another rumored use of these dueling grounds was a mass grave for victims of the Yellow Fever epidemics. Some tour companies will have their guides tell you this. Well, the problem with that is that two archeological services have used ground penetrating radar in this area. What they found was a dug path connecting two redoubts which were in the area..and not a single body buried anywhere south of the south wall of Colonial Park Cemetery. So, if your tour guide tells you about the mass burials in this area, let him/her you know better.
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