The Story of Rene Asche Rondolier
Born in 1777, Rene Asche Rondolier quickly became the terror of Savannah. He was said to have been over seven feet, five inches tall and by some accounts his body was covered in a thick mass of animal-like hair. The community at large feared Rene as a demon and black slaves held him in particular awe and apprehension.
When Rene began torturing and killing neighborhood animals the people of Savannah asked his parents to step in. Rene’s parents agreed to confine him to their property. A seven to eight-foot-high brick wall was constructed and the townspeople went so far as to mortar broken bottles into the top of the wall to keep Rene from escaping over it. Savannah city leaders posted guards at the property at night. However, this prison proved to be escapable.
Not long after Rene’s supposed captivity began the mutilated bodies of two young girls were found near the Rondolier property in what is now Colonial Park Cemetery - giant footprints led away from the scene. A mob was quickly assembled and Rene was taken - not from his home and makeshift prison, but from the maze of deep, dank catacombs below Colonial Park Cemetery. Called “Rene’s Playground” Rene had often concealed himself in these dark tunnels before the attempted captivity by his family.
The mob brought Rene out into the swamp and lynched him without hesitation. His mother collected the body and buried Rene on their family’s land. Following the hanging and burial two other children and a woman were found dead in the cemetery, each on separate days. As no other killer has been found the people of Savannah believe the ghost of Rene Asche Rondolier was responsible for these deaths.
In the early 1900s a builder doing work on the grounds of the old Rondolier home found the grave of Rene and opened it. No remains could be found. It was believed that the body had been moved to an unmarked grave on Hutchinson Island just across the Savannah River. During constuction of the Westin Resort on the island, skeletal remains were found in an unmarked grave. The skeleton was found to be over seven feet tall. The resort developer decided to leave the now ancient remains undisturbed, building the foundation over the gravesite.
Although some believe that Rene was just an innocent victim of the city’s fears and prejudices, most still maintain that his twisted, mishapen body reached far into his soul and mind making his thoughts dark and his actions evil. His spirit is still said to haunt the catacombs and cemetery at Colonial Park and the shadow of his body can sometimes be seen hanging from a tree in the swamps.