Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Ghost of Alice Riley

Who was Alice Riley? She was an indentured servant who made the journey over to America in 1733 (Ghost City Tours). Alice Riley ventured to America with her husband, Richard White, along with 38 other servants from Ireland (Ghost City Tours). They made the move to America in the hopes of finding something better, but what they found wasn’t what they were looking for. Some could say they even regretted making the move over to America. 

According to Ghost City Tours, William Wise had a reputation for being untrustworthy and sketchy. This caused him to initially be declined permission to make the move to Savannah. However, this didn’t stop Wise from achieving what he wanted. He made the decision to sail from England to Savannah, and James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, didn’t want to punish England by sending him back, so they approved him to work on a cattle farm (Ghost City Tours). Alice Riley and her husband, Richard White were both placed with a man named William Wise who became their master.

Eventually, William Wise’s health started to deteriorate, and he needed to be taken care of, which became Alice Riley’s job. Wise took advantage of the situation and of Alice Riley. William Wise would beat Alice Riley physically as well as emotionally almost daily (Crabb). One night Richard White heard his wife’s screams and ran to her rescue. Alice could no longer handle the abuse she received from Wise. Therefore, together Richard and Alice murdered their master, William Wise on March 1, 1734 (Harris). The body of William Wise was found in his home on his bed (Harris). However, his head was detached from his body. The head of William Wise was later found in a pail of water (Harris). The cause of death for Wise was asphyxiation. The death of William Wise was the very first death in Savannah, Georgia (Harris). 

Richard White and Alice Riley ran away together, but were later found and the town of Savannah found them guilty for the murder of William Wise. The punishment for murder at the time was to be hung. Richard White was immediately hanged after he had been caught, however, before they could hang Alice Riley, they found out that she was pregnant. Of course, the people of Savannah weren’t going to hang a pregnant woman (Crabb). They allowed her enough time to give birth to her son, but right after she was hanged for the murder that she committed on January 19, 1735 (Crabb). Both of them were hung in Wright Square a located in Savannah, Georgia. This later became known as the “hanging square” (Harris). Riley became the first woman to be hung in the state of Georgia. The body of Alice Riley was left in Wright Square for a total of three days before it disappeared. Two weeks after the hanging of Alice Riley, her baby also passed. 

George R. Hicks “The Hanging of Alice Riley”

Many people believe that when Alice Riley’s body disappeared, she turned into a ghost. Her ghost appears in Wright Square wearing tattered 18th-century style clothing (Southern Gothic Media). The ghost of Alice Riley is attracted to pregnant women and women who have infants with them (Harris). It has been said that her ghost follows them to try and steal their babies to make up for what she lost (Harris). 

Works Cited:

George R. Hicks. “The Hanging of Alice Riley.” Murder & Lies: The Ghost of Savannah’s Wright Square, 30 October 2014, Accessed on 25 October 2022.

Harris, Michael. “Murder & Lies: The Ghost of Savannah’s Wright Square.” Savannah’s Morning News, 30 October 2014. Accessed on 18 October 2022.

“Savannah’s Most Famous Ghost Story: The Ghost of Alice Riley.” Ghost City Tours, Accessed on 18 October 2022.

“The Ghost of Alice Riley.” Southern Gothic Media, 19 August 2022. Accessed on 18 October 2022.

“The Hanging of Alice Riley.” YouTube, uploaded by Brittney Crabb, 19 September 2014. Accessed on 18 October 2022.

Links for Further Research:
“Ghost of Alice Riley.” YouTube, uploaded by Janie Mucciolo, 14 July 2011. Accessed on 18 October 2022. This video is narrated by a woman named Joan who is a licensed tour guide in Savannah, Georgia. The video focuses more on the historical aspect of this story. Alice Riley was one of Savannah’s earliest colonists that came over to the United States when Savannah was in its’ infancy in 1734.

“Wright Square (Savannah, Georgia).” Wikipedia,,_Georgia) Accessed on 22 October 2022. This article provides the history of Wright Square that is located in Savannah, Georgia. According to Wikipedia, Wright Square is named after the man James Wright who was the last British Royal Governor for the Province of Georgia. It also provides pictures that relate to the place.

“Ghost.” Wikipedia, Accessed on 22 October 2022. This article defines what a ghost is. Wikipedia defines ghosts as the soul/spirit of a dead person/animal that appears to the living.

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