After living in the house for the past 16 years, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a ghost, but I’ve never really looked for one either. It’s not uncommon to hear a thud or for something to fall off a table in the middle of the night, but I think that’s typical in big old houses.
Some guests have seen and spoken to a ghost, but it’s usually after taking a late-night haunted Savannah tour and enjoying a few glasses of wine.
Then again, the house does have a history…
“Strangulation by Hanging – Suicide”
So reads the Cause of Death on the death certificate, dated Saturday, April 3rd, 1926, of the first owner Richard M. Lester and the coroner estimated the time of death to be 1 AM. At the time, most people died at home but if they were somewhere else there was a place to indicate where the death took place, for Mr. Lester this was left blank. Many people have asked me where this happened but I don’t know. Although, at the time there were exposed beams located in what is now the Turner Loft Suite, the Caroline Suite, and the basement of the main house.
The Death Notice in the morning edition of the local newspaper on Monday, April 5th, 1926 stated the funeral would be that afternoon at 4:30 if Mr. Lester’s father arrived via train from the Oklahoma Territory that afternoon, as expected, the service would be at St. John’s Episcopal Church but the afternoon edition of the paper stated the funeral would instead be at Mr. Lester’s residence. At the time most churches did not allow the funeral of a suicide victim but Rev. W. A. Jonnard came to the house to conduct the service and W. L. Gignillat delivered the eulogy, closing with “No friend of his can view his untimely end without profound sorrow-some may be too quick of speech, but those who have looked death squarely in the face and have pondered most on the eternal verities will leave this tragedy as all else which the finite mind cannot fathom with Him who is infinite Love and Wisdom and will only say softly to his own soul “the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away.”
Mr. Lester left behind his wife Victorine and their two daughters, Myrta and Margaret who continued to live in the house.
The obituary was titled “R.M. LESTER RESTS IN BONAVENTURE CEMETERY”
Mr. Lester grew up on Drayton St. across from Forsyth Park, attended Phillips Academy in Andover MA, earned his law degree from Yale, was a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Past Master Solomon’s Masonic Lodge.
In 2011 local historians Steve and Judy Dunn acquired a box of documents that all had the same name and one photograph was included. The name was Richard Martin Lester and the documents included his law degree from Yale University, written in Latin on parchment, his diploma from the nation’s oldest boarding school, Phillips Academy in Andover Mass, and his certificate of nobility from the Solomon’s Lodge of the Mystic Shrine of the Masons, this is the only document with his signature. On the back of the image was written “Richard Martin Lester (Attorney), My Grandfather, Mimi and Myrta’s Father & husband of Victorine Myrta Cooke Lester (Dower). The Dunn’s brought these to the house, handed them to me, and said “I think these have been here before”, it had been 85 years since Mr. Lester’s death and 7 days before what would have been his 136 birthday.
In the 1950’s and 60’s the 2nd floor of the house was occupied by Ansa-Call Inc., a telephone answering service.
Hayman-Futrell Funeral Home
In the 70’s Hayman-Futrell Funeral Home occupied the first floor. Shortly after buying the house a former employee told me how he’d delivered bodies through the kitchen door, performed the embalming in the back bedroom, and then laid out the deceased in the bay window of what is now the Remington Suite. In the middle of the night, a guest from Michigan saw a man standing at the foot of the bed watching her, she screamed, he vanished.
For some unknown reason, a previous owner installed deadbolt locks on both sides of every door, including every closet, pantry, and bathroom door. One morning a few years ago, a guest found the bedroom doorknob in the bathroom sink.
The house as it looked about 60 years ago.
We found this little headstone in the backyard, we cleaned it, put it back where we found it and we don’t know if there is anything beneath it. A local historian said that as there’s no name or date, the child was most likely “born out of wedlock”.
“Haunted Homes for Your Next Vacation”
“This 1895 mansion may still be home to its original owner. Guests have reported hearing doors close when no one was there, seeing objects move on their own, and seeing a man at the foot of the bed. This man is thought to be the home’s original owner, Richard Martin Lester, who committed suicide in it in 1926. The mansion is divided into four guest suites.”