Savannah Haunted Crime Scenes
Posted 12 June 2007 - 09:07 AM
Posted 12 June 2007 - 09:33 AM
Proud member of "The Head-Knockers Club"Just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they aren't here. Just because you can't hear them, doesn't mean they aren't whispering in my ear.
"Disrupting the status quo, because the status is not quo. The world is a mess and I just need to rule it." --Dr. Horrible
Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:29 AM
I dream I'm this adventurer. This daredevil, a madman. The Doctor, I'm called. And last night, I dreamt that you were there. As my companion.
He's like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe. And... he's wonderful
People assume that time is a strict progression of cause-of-effect...but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly...timey-wimey...stuff.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:42 AM
Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:14 PM
Posted 21 July 2018 - 08:34 AM
HAUNTED SAVANNAH: MERCER HOUSE
Savannah, Georgia was founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733 on the Savannah River in southeastern Georgia. Known as the City of Festivals, it was America's first planned city. For a while during the eighteenth century, Savannah was Georgia's capital and became a shipping and cultural center for area planters, leaving it with a historic district over two-and-a-half-square miles, set up in a grid of park-like squares. One thousand historic buildings still stand.
Among the most infamous places is the red brick Mercer House on Monterey Square, initially owned by General Hugh Mercer, the great-grandfather of singer Johnny Mercer. However, no Mercer actually lived there, as the Civil War interrupted the building, and afterwards, Mercer sold the house to another family.
It eventually came into the hands of the notorious Jim Williams, an antique dealer who was responsible for saving and restoring around fifty of the town's historic buildings. Willams decided that he would live in the Mercer House. It took him two years to restore it, and thereafter he used the spacious carriage house for his international antique restoration business.
Millions of readers and movie fans know Williams as the slightly sinister character at the heart of John Berendt's "nonfiction novel," Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which starred Kevin Spacey when it was made into a film by Clint Eastwood. By that time, Williams himself was dead. The reason he gained such notoriety was because of the shooting that occurred on May 2, 1981 in Mercer House, which resulted in the death of a young hustler named Danny Hansford (played in the film by Jude Law).
Williams' Imprint on the House
First, let's consider the Mercer House itself. In preparation for our "haunted Savannah" feature, we toured the home, which yielded a distinct impression of who Jim Williams had been. His philosophy, we learned, was, "If you like it, buy it," and what he purchased revealed his taste in European and American antiques, oil landscapes and portraits. Items that jumped out included an iron sculpture of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," precursors to the world's end, as well as paintings of birds of prey, specifically vultures and falcons. Over the back of the couch in the vulture room, the preserved head and skin of a jaguar, staring with fierce eyes, lay draped. It had a startling effect as we walked into the room even more so as we learned that Williams was not a hunter.
Clearly, he liked to align himself with the manly professions, probably to create an impression on Savannah society and deflect them from suspecting he was gay. We'd also seen a "cockfight chair," which gentlemen straddled so they could watch this vicious sport without cramping their coattails. The overall impression of this home was that Williams had exquisite taste, that he kept control over minute details, and that he was quite haughty.
Many people have mentioned how Williams sold fake antiques for exorbitant sums, and it's clear from everything we've learned that this man looked to his own advantage. Generally, his conning only involved swindling, but then a young man paid a higher price: his life. Only Williams knew what really happened on May 2, 1981, and he took his knowledge to the grave, once again protecting himself.
Williams's sister, Dorothy Kingery, described him as a risk-taker. In her book about his preservations, Savannah's Jim Williams and his Southern Houses, she stated that "challenge, risk, and a healthy dose of crisis were the ways Jim started his career in Savannah..." It seems that he ended his career this way as well.
The "Incident" and the Ghosts
Each year, Williams threw a socially significant Christmas party, but all that ended when he killed Danny, his lover and "part-time assistant." Claiming self-defense during an argument in which Danny threatened him with a loaded gun, Williams went through a historic series of four trials, starting in July 1982. Initially, the jury found Williams guilty, but he appealed and got a new trial. Again, he was found guilty and again appealed. New evidence surfaced from witnesses who stated that Hansford had planned to harm Williams. Despite the suggestion that the witnesses had been paid, the Georgia Supreme Court granted a third trial, which resulted in a hung jury and mistrial. In 1987, the fourth trial commenced, this time in Augusta, where the jury did not know about Jim Williams. This jury acquitted him in less than two hours ten days after the eighth anniversary in 1989 of the shooting. He was free.
He then resumed his Christmas galas but managed only one. In January, just eight months after his acquittal, Jim Williams died, some sources say from a heart attack, some from AIDS-related pneumonia. He had just turned 59. It's likely that the stress of four trials, which interrupted his business and threatened his image as a refined gentleman, had taken its toll as well. Some even whisper that Danny's ghost extracted revenge, although Berendt's story that Williams fell on the very spot where he'd have fallen had Danny actually shot him, is fabricated.
Danny Hansford's grave
Danny was buried in section 8 of Greenwich Cemetery, next to the more famous Bonaventure Cemetery. Scenes from the book and movie indicate that his spirit remains restless. Described by one female character as "a good time not yet had by all," he was a high-maintenance hustler and alleged drug dealer and abuser who thought rather well of himself and did not hesitate to make demands on Williams, his benefactor. Reportedly, Williams had bought him a car, given him money, and paid his expenses, but Hansford failed to fully appreciate the opportunity. In Haunted Savannah by James Caskey, Judge George Oliver from the Williams trial was quoted as saying that he believed Jim Williams had shot Hansford in cold blood. Then he added that Hansford was "trouble with a capital T" and that "sometimes, people just need killing."
In a scene from the book (Midnight) in another cemetery, Jim Williams and John Berendt met Minerva, a voodoo practitioner, who told them that to understand the living, one must commune with the dead. She described "Dead Time," wherein the good spirits come around during the half hour before midnight and the bad spirits for half an hour post-midnight. She hoped to persuade Hansford's spirit to forgive Williams, but it seemed not to have worked.
GHOST VOICE AUDIO
We went to Hansford's grave and I turned on a digital recorder, a device used to capture voices that the human ear cannot hear.
I often get no results at all and expected none on that afternoon, but to my surprise, after I asked if anyone wanted to communicate (meaning anyone dead), I recorded a voice that sounded like, "It ain't me?" or possibly, "It ain't D?"
Oddly, it sounded to me as though it was posed as a question. Some in our party thought it sounded like an elderly woman, and in fact the graves of four sisters were next to Hansford's (one of whom had died at the age of Ninety-eight) . Yet others in our party were certain it was the voice of a young man about Hansford's age. Personally, I can't decide.
When I listened to an enhanced version of this voice, it seemed less a question than someone insisting, "This ain't Dee." But that didn't enlighten me about what it means.
Mercer House Ghosts
Now, what about the Mercer House ghosts? A few years after Williams'death, people who'd come to view it on the anniversary of his annual parties reported that they had seen the house ablaze with lights and alive with the sound of revellers. Such an account was described in Nancy Roberts's Georgia Ghosts. However, there have been no parties like the ones Jim Williams used to throw in Mercer House since Williams died.
The famous statue of the Bird Girl
There are also reports of the ghost of Williams walking through another of his restored houses. While that apparently doesn't include Hampton-Lillibridge House, Williams did experience haunted incidents in one house he'd saved. In fact, the phenomenon fascinated him. He called in a local clergyman to perform an exorcism of the troublesome ghosts.
We have included the Hampton-Lillibridge House on our tour of Savannah haunted crime scenes.
Posted 22 July 2018 - 01:47 AM