There is another story about the city of Savannah, Georgia, that might shed some light on its supernatural side. An unofficial saying about the town is, "Savannah was built on its dead" - a phrase coined due to the idea that some of the more historic areas of town are built on cemeteries. With the wars and other tragedies that swept through town, impromptu graveyards were established and soon forgotten. Construction sites where new buildings were being built or old ones were being restored have yielded human skeletons from the Georgia dirt, with no explanation other than at one time, the property had been a cemetery.
A ghost story that I found to be one of the most interesting doesn’t trace back to the Revolutionary War, General Sherman’s roust of the city, or even the forgotten cemeteries. The history of the haunting is well-documented, and has its own tragic tale to tell... that, along with the fact that it takes place at one of the most beautiful inns that you’ll see in town!
As you walk through Forsyth Park, you may notice a bright yellow Queen Anne Victorian house facing it. That is our destination: the Forsyth Park Inn. Originally, the house was built as a private residence, with its own splendid courtyard garden, and a huge verandah to look out over the park. When it was constructed in 1893, I’m sure that the owners had a mental image of sipping mint juleps out on the porch as that rocked in wicker chairs and simply took in the beauty of the park. It enjoyed different owners over the years, but in 1985 it was turned into one of Savannah’s most luxurious inns. From the moment that you walk through the front door, you’ll be awestruck. From the rich woodwork of the staircase to the hardwood floors that cause an echo as you walk, the best word to describe the Forsyth Park Inn is extravagant. With eleven rooms and a separate cottage in the courtyard, you’ll find an abundance of choices when you’re making reservations. From park views, whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, and other exquisite amenities, prepare yourself to be pampered.
While you’re enjoying your stay, however, you may find yourself face to face with the spirit of a girl from the house’s past who occasionally comes back to visit. Her tragic story is one that has the twists and turns of a Hollywood movie, yet it is true – and is the reason that the ghost of the girl named Lottie still wanders the halls of the Forsyth Park Inn.
Back at the turn of the century, a couple named Aaron and Lois Churchill owned the house. A well-to-do pair, they obviously enjoyed their home’s magnificent view of the park, and their opulent life in the city of Savanna. One thing was missing, however: a child.
The couple had no children, but one day a young girl named Lottie came to live with them. While we do not know the explanation that they provided to Savanna society, the girl called the Churchills “Uncle Aaron” and “Aunt Lo”. They raised her as they would a daughter, giving her all the benefits of a wealthy upbringing. When Lottie was a teenager, the family changed once again: Lois’ sister Anna had fallen ill, and came to stay with the family to be nursed back to health.
Lottie and Anna hit it off instantly, with Anna becoming the “big sister” that she’d never known. As Anna recovered the two spent more and more time together, until they were almost inseparable. Unbeknownst to Lottie, a terrible twist to her life was brewing just below the surface of the family.
One day at the home, the young lady happened to walk in on a romantic scene where her Uncle Aaron was in an impassioned embrace with, not her Aunt Lois, but Anna instead. The adults in the house had been involved in a romantic triangle, and the sudden discovery shattered Lottie.
As much as Lottie had grown to care about Anna, she loved her would-be parents even more. She was old enough to know that the relationship would tear them all apart, so she began to fret about what to do to correct the problem. A terrible plan was hatched.
The next afternoon when the three ladies were having their tea and cakes in the garden, Lottie secretly emptied a small vial of poison into Anna’s cup. She stirred it, then sat back to watch as it performed its deadly job. Anna gasped, then began to choke. Lois leapt out of her chair, but she was already dying. As the last breath escaped from her sister’s lips, Lois began to sob hysterically. She cradled Anna’s head, and through the tears, told Lottie a secret that had been buried deep within the family: Anna had been her mother. In circumstances that made her unable to care for Lottie, she presented her child to Lois and Aaron to raise as their own. Lottie was devastated. She had killed her own mother, whom she had come to care for as a sister. The rush of information and emotion was too much for her to handle, and her mind simply snapped. The family had no choice but to commit Lottie to a mental institution where she would live out her life, and eventually die.
Her life at the house with Aaron and Lois were truly her happiest years, which may be the reason that she sometimes comes back to the Inn to visit. Her spirit has been seen on the staircase, looking exactly as she did as a young lady. Most often, though, her presence is felt out in the courtyard by the fountain, which some think was the very site of that tragic day when she took her mother’s life. Lottie’s ghost isn’t threatening or mean-spirited – she seems to simply want to re-visit the happiest time of her life. Who can blame her? If I’d grown up in a beautiful mansion like that, overlooking a lush park like Forsyth, after death I might be tempted to come back for the occasional visit as well. The place is so beautiful that many people certainly enjoy coming back there time and time again in life!
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