Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia is one of the most ornate cemeteries in the world. Framed by trees adorned with soft tendrils of Spanish moss, Bonaventure Cemetery has a dreamy appearance that is not of this world. Founded in 1846, Bonaventure Cemetery was originally called Evergreen Cemetery. As the population of Savannah swelled, city officials realized that they needed more space to lay their residents to rest. In 1907, the city of Savannah purchased Evergreen Cemetery and converted the graveyard into the elegant dreamscape that it is today.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cemeteries like Bonaventure served as public parks where people would routinely take leisurely strolls, throw picnics, and watch the world go by. It was not uncommon for families to gather around the tomb of a deceased loved one on a Sunday afternoon. In the early days of Bonaventure Cemetery, people spent a great deal of time and money creating elaborate resting places for their loved ones. Bonaventure was such a well-trafficked gathering place that an opulent family tomb would not go unnoticed.
Bonaventure Cemetery features the tombs of nearly 700 yellow fever victims, over 500 Confederate soldiers, and several striking statues lovingly carved to honor young women who died far too soon. Visitors often ask if Bonaventure Cemetery is haunted. A Bonaventure Cemetery tour is the ideal way to spot some roving spirits. A cemetery tour can help onlookers learn more about Bonaventure’s history, deceased occupants, and the fascinating symbolism embedded in some of the graveyard’s most celebrated tombs.
It is difficult to say which Bonaventure Cemetery tomb is the most popular. Many Savannah residents say that little Gracie Watson serves as one of the city’s guardian angels. Gracie Watson was only 6 years old when she succumbed to a virulent bout of pneumonia shortly after dressing up in her Easter finery. Gracie’s father—who managed the swanky Pulaski Hotel—was so heartbroken after his daughter’s passing that he hired a highly skilled sculptor named John Walz to create a memorial statue that would stand for centuries. Gracie’s likeness is so convincing that more than one onlooker has sworn that they saw her shift on the white pedestal that bears her name.
The tomb of Corinne Elliot Lawton is another Bonaventure Cemetery grave that garners a great deal of attention. Corinne’s father was a wealthy Civil War general. Historical documents suggest that Corrinne died of an acute illness. Local legend states that Corinne fell hopelessly in love with a destitute man who her aristocratic family did not approve of. On the eve of her wedding, Corinne is rumored to have drowned herself in the Savannah River in order to avoid a lifetime of misery. Regardless of how she died, Corinne’s family was so grief-stricken that they commissioned a renowned Italian sculptor to create a mournful, youthful statute of her. Corinne’s stone likeness features eyes with no pupils, and a mouth that is slightly agape. Some Savannah residents claim that Corinne’s statute is staring into the thin veil that separates the spirit world from the material world.
Another famous lady of the Bonaventure Cemetery is the Baldwin Angel which adorns the family tomb of George Johnson Baldwin. Baldwin was an M.I.T.-trained chemist who made his fortune in the fertilizer, railway, and public utility sectors. The Baldwin Angel was sculpted by Henry Hering, whose penthouse sculpture studio was famously destroyed in 1945 when a plane crashed into the Empire State building in New York. The white enclosure that surrounds the Baldwin Angel was designed by Henry Bacon, who is responsible for drafting the plans for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The Baldwin Angel is sometimes referred to as the “Shell Girl” because the angel holds a shell in her hands. Baldwin selected a statue of a juvenile angel to adorn his tomb because he wanted to celebrate the innocence and wonder of childhood.
Savannah is easily one of the spookiest, most haunted cities in the world. If you’re searching for a ghostly thrill that you won’t soon forget, consider visiting one of the most celebrated cemeteries on the planet. The beauty and mystery of Bonaventure Cemetery tends to cast an unbreakable spell on all who journey there.