The Intriguing Man at the Bar—Savannah, Georgia

Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn Street

In her 2001 book, Cemetery Stories, Katherine Ramsland includes an odd tale about the Olde Pink House, one of Savannah’s most prominent restaurants. Tales have been told about this building for years; and I haven’t yet seen a tale quite like it among the sources on this place.

Olde Pink House Savannah Georgia ghosts haunted
The James Habersham Jr. House, between 1939 and 1944, taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston for HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

It seems that a young lady working in the restaurant’s bar located in the basement of this more than 200-year-old home, became intrigued with a regular patron. This young man would come in, order a beer, and say nothing as he drank. The young woman watched him intently and eventually developed an infatuation with him. One evening, as he got up to leave, the young lady decided to follow him into the warm night air.

Ramsland doesn’t provide the actual route, though I suspect that the young man followed Abercorn Street south. This would have brought the man around Reynolds and Oglethorpe Squares before approaching the gates of Colonial Park Cemetery at the intersection of Abercorn and Oglethorpe Avenue.

The young lady watched as the man entered the gates of the cemetery. He approached the plot of the Habersham family. “He stopped at the iron fence surrounding the aboveground monument and then walked right through it and disappeared.”

Shocked at what she had just witnessed, the young lady approached the grave thinking this was perhaps a trick of the light and shadows in the cemetery. To her astonishment, there was no one in or around the grave site.

There are a couple details of the story concerning the cemetery itself that may not be correct. The story speaks of the man simply entering the cemetery gates at night. The gates of Colonial Park are closed at night, in fact the cemetery’s official website notes that it closes at 8 PM March through November and 5 PM November through March. However, the Habersham family plot is located near the fence line on Oglethorpe Avenue, so the young woman could have observed the man from just outside the fence. The second detail that may be incorrect is that the Habersham plot does not have a fence.

In digging around for this article, I did come across a much older version of this story. The Visit Historic Savannah page on Colonial Park mentions several ghost stories about the cemetery including one involving a young maid from the City Hotel. One night, this young woman was found sitting outside the gates of the cemetery distraught after she followed an intriguing young man from the hotel. The young man, it seems, entered the cemetery gates and vanished within its precincts. It should be noted that the City Hotel building is now the home of the Moon River Brewery, one of the most discussed and well-known hauntings in the city.

Ramsland writes in her book, Ghost: Investigating the Other Side, that her version of the story was told on a ghost tour of city. This would make sense. In my own experience of taking a tour in Savannah, I heard one story on my tour that was a local adaptation of a typical ghostly hitchhiker story. In fact, I recall quietly groaning when I realized what the story was. It would not surprise me if the City Hotel version of the story had simply been updated to a more modern setting. While the story is intriguing, it may very well be fiction.

Savannah is a city of stories and the restaurant where this tale originates has many of its own. The restaurant’s name is a reference to the red brick underneath the home’s stucco that has bled through over the years. The home was built by James Habersham Jr., son of noted colonial merchant and planter James Habersham, around 1789. It is James and his three sons, James Jr., Joseph, and John, who lie in the family crypt in Colonial Park Cemetery. The home was converted to use as a bank in 1812 and became a tea room and antiques shop in 1929. The building was transformed into a restaurant in 1970 and remains one of the most prominent restaurants in the city.

James Habersham Jr. by Jeremiah Theus.

Among the supernatural stories from the Olde Pink House are several telling of a man in colonial dress seen drinking at the bar. He is believed to be the spirit of James Jr. still watching over his former home. A few other spirits may also be in residence in this stately old home. I plan on exploring those ghost stories in future articles.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure Books, 2005.
  • Historic Colonial Park Cemetery.” Visit-Historic-Savannah.com. Accessed 24 September 2019.
  • Ramsland, Katherine. Cemetery Stories: Haunted Graveyards, Embalming Secrets, and the Life of the Corpse After Death. NYC: Harper Collins, 2001.
  • Ramsland, Katherine. Ghost: Investigating the Other Side. NYC: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.
  • Williams, Robin. Buildings of Savannah. Charlottesville, VA: U. of VA Press, 2016.
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