Savannah’s Haunted History in Southern Gothic Literature


Savannah, Georgia is a city known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and charming southern hospitality. However, beneath its picturesque facade lies a dark and haunting past that has captured the imagination of many writers in the Southern Gothic literary genre. From ghostly sightings to tales of voodoo and mystery, Savannah’s haunted history has served as a source of inspiration for countless works of literature, making it a must-visit destination for fans of this unique genre.

The Southern Gothic genre emerged in the early 20th century, as a reaction to the traditional Romanticism and realism found in literature at the time. It is characterized by its focus on the macabre, grotesque, and eccentric characters, often set in the American South. The genre often explores themes of decay, taboo, and the supernatural, making Savannah an ideal backdrop for these stories.

One of the most famous and influential works of Southern Gothic literature set in Savannah is “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. This non-fiction novel tells the tale of a murder trial that took place in Savannah in the 1980s, involving a wealthy antiques dealer and his flamboyant assistant. The novel not only explores the murder but also delves into the eccentricities of Savannah’s residents and the city’s dark underbelly, including tales of hauntings and voodoo. With its vivid and detailed descriptions of the city, readers are transported to the heart of Savannah’s Southern Gothic atmosphere.

Another notable work of literature set in Savannah is “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. This classic horror novel follows a group of characters as they stay at a haunted house in Savannah, known as Hill House. Jackson expertly uses the location of Savannah to create a sense of unease and dread, as the characters are surrounded by the city’s history and its ghosts. The novel’s chilling atmosphere draws upon the city’s rich heritage and adds an extra layer of terror to the story.

Savannah’s most famous and spooky attraction, the Bonaventure Cemetery, has also been the inspiration for many works of Southern Gothic literature. This historic cemetery is known for its beautiful sculptures, elaborate gravestones, and the haunting Spanish moss that drapes over them. The cemetery has been featured in many novels, including “The Book” by Keith Scribner, where it serves as a central location in the story. The eeriness of the cemetery is often used as a metaphor for the characters’ inner turmoil and the uncanny nature of Southern Gothic literature.

Beyond these famous works, Savannah’s haunted history has also been referenced in many short stories and poems by both established and emerging authors. The city’s architecture and folklore, such as the legend of the “Gray Man” ghost, have become integral parts of the Southern Gothic literary canon. These stories often capture the mystique and intrigue of Savannah and its ghostly past, adding to the allure of the city and its connection to Southern Gothic literature.

In conclusion, Savannah’s haunted history has captured the hearts and minds of writers in the Southern Gothic genre for decades. The city’s atmospheric streets, rich history, and ghostly legends make it an ideal setting for works of fiction that delve into the macabre and supernatural. From classic horror novels to contemporary pieces of literature, Savannah continues to enthrall readers and inspire them to explore the darker side of Southern culture. So, if you’re a fan of Southern Gothic literature, a trip to Savannah is a must, to experience the city’s haunted past for yourself.