Following is an article from the Savannah Morning News / USA TODAY NETWORK.
Meet The Galloway House Inn's Permanent Guest
Spectral former owner is known to chat up guests
Enocha Edenfield, Savannah Morning News / USA TODAY NETWORK
Savannah has no shortage of haunted hotels; inns, and B&Bs.
If you go on any of the ghost tours, you're bound to hear about the Civil War soldier wandering the Marshall House in search of his amputated arm or poor Wally, the unidentified body found in a wall during renovations. You may also hear about the Confederate soldiers sometimes spotted peering out of the windows of the Eliza Thompson Inn or how Lottie Churchill was driven insane with grief after she poisoned her mother and is now doomed to haunt the Forsyth Park Inn for eternity.
But one story you may not have heard is the tale of an unusually timed death that haunts a home-turned-inn just outside of the ghost tour routes.
Sitting in my car outside the Galloway House Inn on East 35th Street to wait out a summer morning storm, I had a chance to really look at the old home. If I hadn't already dug into the home's history before arriving, the thought that it could be haunted wouldn't have even. occurred to me. It looks cheerful which is probably how owners Keith Galloway and Jim Klotz prefer it.
Walking up the stairs to the front porch, I spot the only clue that there may be more to this home than it appears: dragon sconces on either side of the front door. Suddenly, I'm struck by the mental image of Gary Oldman's Dracula trading in the flowing capes and coats for a Mr. Rogers sweater to live as a quaint inn owner in Savannah.
Keith pops up from the nearby car-port to say hello and show me around, the home. He doesn't look like Gary Oldman or any version of Dracula I've ever seen, but he happily explains the history of the home and everything he discovered after buying it. Keith tells Me that soon after he bought the home in 2005 he met a man who said he had worked there. He assumed the man had been 'a gardener or handyman.
“He said, 'I brought the bodies through the kitchen.’"
Anything can be normal in Savannah, but I was unaware my home was lacking a body-hauling guy.
Keith explains that after the shock wore off the man went on to tell him how the house had been a funeral home for a while.
The dining room had been the viewing room and the back bedroom on the first floor had been the embalming room.
That's certainly creepy, but I've never believed that funeral homes are automatically haunted. In my personal experience, ghosts tend to pop up in locations where they had a significant tie.
Someone who definitely had a tie to the building was the first owner Richard Martin Lester.
Keith researched the home's history at the Georgia Historical Society and the Bull Street Library and found Richard's name to add to the inn's website.
“When I went to the library, I found his death certificate on file.”
The cause of death was listed as "strangulation by hanging suicide.” Nothing I've found or Keith has found points to a reason for Richard to commit suicide. He was 50. He was a successful lawyer with a wife and two daughters. As far as I know, no note was left.
While Keith admits he's never had an experience with Richard's ghost, he's definitely still around, and it seems he's collected some of his belongings.
Somewhere around 2010, some people who had bought documents at an auction reached out to him.
"All the documents had the same name on them, and there was one photograph: On the back of the photograph, it said Richard Martin Lester."
They decided the documents belonged at the Galloway house. "’ They just handed me this box and said, 'I think these have been here before.’"
Each suite now has one of those documents framed on the wall. Richard's picture, death certificate, and a diploma from Yale hang in a corner near the entrance.
Keith is clearly still perplexed about why Richard would kill himself, but he thinks there may be a connection to the timing of Richard's father.
According to old newspaper clippings covering the death and funeral arrangements, Daniel Lester was already on his way from Oklahoma to visit his son in Savannah. He was met at the train station, told of his son's death, and immediately led to the funeral.
Since it was a suicide, Richard's funeral was held in his home instead of at a church. He was buried in Bonaventure Cemetery.
Five years after his son's death, Daniel Lester would also be buried in. the same cemetery, but his large headstone would be put in front of Richard's, completely hiding it from the view of anyone passing by.
Was it Daniel's way of shielding his son from prying eyes? I'm not sure, but it did make it harder for me to find. Keith tells me that multiple guests have had experiences with Richard or at least spirit in the house.
"There were some women from Michigan who were staying in that back bedroom. One of them heard a noise and she sat up. At the foot of the bed, there was a man standing. She screamed bloody murder. It was like the neighborhood woke up, and he just vanished.
At the time, Keith shrugged it off as the power of suggestion and being in an old home that sometimes makes strange sounds. "Then I had a carpenter. His name was Kelly. He was a good old boy from small-town Georgia, drove a pickup truck, and didn't talk much.
"He just said to me, out of the blue one day, 'You know I've seen him. That Lester guy."'
According to the carpenter, Richard's ghost likes to hang out on the third floor in broad daylight. Keith tells me another Savannah group booked a room just to try to communicate with Richard. Because he was concerned about them accidentally burning the house down with candles or scaring other guests, he told them they could conduct their paranormal business in the backyard.
According to the couple, they were able to speak with Richard. He told them he liked the changes to the house, but as soon as they mentioned his death, he vanished.
The strange history of the home isn't promoted on the Galloway House Inn's website, but it isn't really hidden either.
Keith is upfront about the funeral home and Richard's death if people ask.
"I run a business. I don't really want to be 'entertainment'. I feel it's a sad situation. Somebody ' ended their own life. It’s a bit ghoulish to promote it. We just ask people to be respectful."
Richard Martin Lester was a real person. He clearly had troubles.
While I love hearing about people's ghostly encounters at haunted inns, the experiences here seem to have an undercurrent of tragedy that pulls at the heartstrings.
I can't speak for Richard, but personally, I'm happy his haunted home isn't on any of the ghost tours.
Enocha Eden field is no stranger to Savannah ghosts. You can find more of her ghost explorations on YouTube and TikTok.
Built in 1895 and restored in 2007, the Galloway House Inn is not an interpretation of Savannah history, it is a part of Savannah history.
The original owners of the house, the Lester family, were the subject of John Jakes's civil war novel “Savannah” and at the time were considered to be among the most prominent and wealthiest families in Georgia.
Today guests enjoy one and two-bedroom suites furnished in classic Savannah style, antique furniture, period oil paintings, and eclectic artifacts of local history, all coming together to create a special edge of style and history.
Located on a quiet residential street, just off Thomas Square and just 1.6 miles south of the Savannah River.
There is no shortage of history, sultry beauty, and architectural delights. And a visit needn’t cost you much.
* Following is an excerpt from a much longer article.
My Uber driver dropped me off at the beautifully restored Galloway House Inn, a Neoclassical plantation-style house built-in 1895.
One of the owners, Jim Klotz, met me on the wide, welcoming porch, behind a series of huge white columns, and took me around back to my apartment and it had everything I needed.
The price was right, too — $179 per night booked directly on www.TheGallowayHouse.com. For seasonal specials and promotions, check the inn’s website — which, by the way, has a section dedicated to its possibly being haunted.
I spent my first 30 years in Chicago, followed by 20 years in Manhattan, and since 2005 I've been in Savannah.
In early 1995 I was living and working in Manhattan, on a Friday afternoon, after a 3 martini lunch and a few months shy of turning 40, I quit my job in Manhattan, a month later I got on a plane headed east and 6 months later return from the west, having traveled through Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Morrocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Dubai, India, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan. I'd spent my 40th in a Casablanca nightclub watching belly dancers that were as old and large as they were talented. On other trips, I've traveled through most of Central and South America, Northern and Western Europe, parts of Eastern Europe, Iceland, and Turkey.
In 2005 I came to Savannah looking for a 2nd home and met Jim at a rug auction. A few months later I found this house, it had been vacant for decades and was in pretty rough condition. My real estate agent said I should buy it, fix it up and then rent out the apartments to college students who would pay enough to cover the mortgage! Then someone who lived nearby told me I shouldn't buy it because I was from New York and didn't know what I was doing, so the next day I bought it and moved in with two rescued Great Danes, Charlie and Moose. A year and 9 months later, I woke up on a Monday morning and told all the carpenters and painters that I had had enough, Friday was their last day, and anything left unfinished would just have to wait.
In 2006 and 2007 I rented a couple of the apartments to some grad students but realized the cost to maintain a house of this size was far more than most of them would pay, so I had to come up with a Plan B. I took up a couple of pictures of the outside of the house, copied some generic living room and bedroom pictures off of the Internet, and used them to create a listing on VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner.com). In July 2007 we got our first reservation and as the students graduated I added their apartments to the VRBO listing. From there things just took off, there was no looking back and I eventually sold my place in Manhattan.
Jim is from Baldwinsville, NY and was Exec. Director at Walt Disney World Hotels in Orlando, FL and later at the Weston Hotel in Savannah. He also has four great kids that he does everything for.
Over the last 20 years we've rescued 7 Great Danes, 5 have passed and now we have Emma and Hudson.
REVIEW: Galloway House Inn, Historic Savannah
"Take a seat on the porch, won’t you?"
Why did this hotel catch your attention?
It’s impossible not to be awed by The Galloway House Inn, a historic mansion. The huge, two-story pillars and immaculate topiary give visitors the impression that they’re about to experience something very special.
What’s the backstory?
The house dates to 1895 and after a succession of owners, sat empty for a while before it was bought by current owner-operator Keith Galloway, who runs the place with his partner Jim Klotz. The Galloway House has been a real labor of love, and that work has paid off in spades: It’s one of the finest inns of its kind in the South.
Tell us about the rooms.
This is an all-suite property with discrete entrances for every suite. Our Caroline Suite had a bedroom, living area, kitchen, and bathroom. The overall decor blended contemporary and rustic pieces. Each suite is different, though, with some filled with antiques and others more bohemian.
Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
The Wi-Fi is free and fast.
How was the service?
Galloway himself couldn’t be a more welcoming host, lending restaurant suggestions to everyone, regardless of whether they’re first-time guests or repeat visitors.
What type of travelers will you find here?
The hotel draws an affluent, mature crowd that values privacy and space, rather than the communal vibes of a huge full-service hotel.
What about the neighborhood? Does the hotel fit in, and make itself part of the scene?
The hotel, on the edges of the main historic district, sits in a quiet, residential neighborhood that fans of tranquility (and walking) will love. Forsyth Park is only a short walk away, and the rest of downtown is very accessible.
Any other hotel features worth noting?
A stay at a Southern mansion isn’t complete without sipping a cocktail on a front porch—and that’s particularly delightful here.
Bottom line: Worth it? Why?
If it’s your first time in the city, you might consider staying somewhere more in the thick of it, but if you’ve seen the delights of downtown before or want a different Savannah experience, this is the place. It’s hard to imagine a better version of local hospitality.
By Paul Oswell
Paul Oswell is a contributing writer for Condé Nast Traveler. He has been a travel writer and journalist since 1999, reporting from all seven continents for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Travel + Leisure, and Dorling Kindersley travel guides, among many other publications. He edits the online travel magazine Shandy Pockets. He has lived in New Orleans since 2010, and he now finds it hard to imagine living anywhere else.
Getting Around Town
Our cobblestone streets have been twisting ankles for centuries, so please wear sensible shoes!
Savannah's Fare Free Trolley - Begining July '22 it will be stopping just 50 feet from our front door, we have plenty of maps too.
Bikes – We have bikes for guests to use, $25 per day (sunrise to sunset) for two bikes and a lock. Please let us know when you’d like to reserve them either on your reservation or by calling us.
City Bus – The city bus system’s nearest stop is at the end of the block.
Foot – It’s 1.6 miles from the inn to the Savannah River, there are maps and Savannah guide books in every suite.
Guided Trolly Tours – Some tour companies will pick up guests at our inn and bring you back afterward, but ask us for current information.
Uber and Lift – Available via their apps.
Pedicabs and Horse Drawn Carriages are also available in Savannah.
1. Reservations of 30 or more consecutive nights are exempt from all taxes.
2. The housekeeper with change the bedding and bath towels every 4th day during the reservation.
3. A 25% discount is automatically deducted from the standard rate.
Promotional Rates Subject to Availability
3 Night Stays:
Save 30% Every Night
Save 35% - Book 7 Days or Less
Save 25% - Book 8-14 Days
As of June 22nd, 2022, due to an insurance company policy change, we no longer can accept any animals, including all Service Animals.
There is an exemption in the Americans With Disabilities Act, section 36.104 Definitions, Place of Public Accommodation (1), which states a "Place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a facility that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that actually is occupied by the proprietor of the establishment as the residence of the proprietor." The Galloway House Inn is owner-occupied and has 4 guest suites.
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."
Subject to availability, we have two bikes and a lock for $25 per day, sunrise to sunset.
Please let us know when you’d like to reserve them either on your reservation or by calling us.