Conrad Aiken (1889-1973) was a famous American poet and man of letters. He was also a child witness to the murder-suicide of his parents – in this house.
228 East Oglethorpe Avenue in Savannah, Georgia is listed for sale at $1,500,000. And if walls could talk, this place would be howling tragic poetry.
He sings of a house he lived in long ago. It is strange; this house of dust was the house I lived in; The house you lived in, the house that all of us know.
– House of Dust (1920), Conrad Aiken
Aiken was the son of wealthy New Englanders, William Ford and Anna (Potter) Aiken, who had moved to Savannah, Georgia when Conrad was a child. His father was an established and respected doctor who specialized in brain surgery. But rather suddenly, and without warning or reason, the good doctor turned violent and dark.
In the early morning hours of February 27, 1901, an eleven year old Conrad listened from his bedroom as his parents argued. He then heard his father count to three before shooting his wife and himself. Conrad ran from his room to find the deceased bodies of his parents.
The traumatic scene would haunt Aiken – and his writing – for the rest of his life. After the death of his parents, he was sent to Massachusetts where he was raised by his aunt.
As an adult, Aiken moved back to Savannah. And in a strange and rather morbid move, Aiken purchased the house next door to the one where his parents died.
The elegant southern row house where Conrad lived as a child overlooks Colonial Cemetery in the Historic District. It was built in 1842.
The home may be tightly packed against its neighbors, but it is actually quite spacious with 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms in 3,936 square feet.
This may have been Conrad’s bedroom as a child:
Could the room (below) be the master bedroom where his parents died?
The kitchen is interesting with low ceilings and what appears to be an original hearth:
The formal dining room:
The house also has an enclosed back porch that overlooks the rear courtyard.
Conrad Aiken died in 1973 at the age of 84. In recent years, the house was owned by another doctor who believed it to be haunted.
I’ve covered other ghostly murder scene mansions in Savannah, but this one I find particularly unnerving. It is just too perfect – I have the sense from looking at the photos that the walls may come unglued and crack at any moment.
It is moonlight. The garden is silent.
I stand in my room alone.
Across my wall, from the far-off moon,
A rain of fire is thrown.
– Evening Song of Senlin (1922), Conrad Aiken