I’ve shared in previous posts that I’m fascinated by the dark, the spooky, and the macabre. When my cousins invited me to tour Graveface Museum I jumped at the opportunity! This creepy collection of artifacts and memorabilia is a trip. If you enjoy learning about the darker, more mysterious side of life, this is the spot for you. It has a little bit of everything— Savannah’s Voudon ties, ufology, circus freaks, Odd Fellow artifacts, a pinball arcade, cult leaders’ personal possessions, and an entire room dedicated to artwork from notorious criminals with violent histories.
Before you continue reading, I feel like it is important to explain that this is not Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not. More importantly, this Savannah experience is not for everyone and definitely not for young children. Some of the museum’s exhibits contain gruesome crime scene photos and/or nudity.
It’s human nature to be curious about the morbid memorabilia displayed in Graveface Museum. (It’s why we slow down to look at car accidents and why true crime podcasts are so popular right now.) While the museum offers plenty of content for those with an interest in life’s more shadowy subjects, it does so tactfully. I appreciate that there is no glorification, disrespect, or unnecessary exaggerations for shock value.
Location of Graveface Museum
Graveface Museum is located on Lower Factor’s Walk. Its entrance is actually in the alleyway that holds the staff entrances for many of the storefronts and restaurants that line River Street. Something about walking down this cobblestone alleyway adds to the mysteriousness. The museum is not difficult to find, but you have to know about it to know it’s there. (Mind you, there is plenty of signage if you’re paying attention.)
Factor’s Walk is the former hub of Savannah’s cotton industry. It was the home of cotton warehouses and ground zero for the men selling and buying cotton and tobacco— the “factors.” Graveface Museum is located in an old tobacco warehouse a few blocks down from the location of the original Cotton Exchange. These buildings are old. Keep that in mind, it’s going to come back up later.
Graveface Museum Shop – Records & Curiosities
My first experience with the Graveface “brand” was the Graveface Records & Curiosities store on West 40th. If you’ve been to the record store, you can expect much of the same quirky darkness upon entering the museum. Taxidermy, records, spell bottles, quippy true crime greeting cards, and cult-themed t-shirts line the walls along with more interesting items like jars of teeth and retro pop culture paraphernalia. Personally, my favorite is this “Paint-Your-Own Pogo” set.
The store ends where the museum begins…at the large carnivalesque devil doorway in the back of the shop. It sets the scene for the creepy entertainment that awaits beyond its curtain.
The Graveface Museum Collection
Note: I won’t be giving away everything in this museum. To know all of its secrets, you’ll have to visit for yourself.
For me, the most mind-blowing part of the Graveface Museum is the realization that this is someone’s personal collection. A literal lifetime of accumulating macabre artifacts and oddities. Conveniently, the owner’s wife was available as a curator of sorts during both of my trips to the museum. She will happily answer questions and chat about the collection and its history.
How does one end up with the vintage Disney Snow White tchotchkes from inside John Wayne Gacy’s house? How do you get your hands on an Odd Fellow ritual skull with intricate carvings? Where does one acquire a pair of Charles Manson’s prison sweatpants? Her answer: “by getting close to weirdos.” While I’ve never met or spoken with the owner, Ryan Graveface, a quick Google search will tell you a lot about him. He must have spent what I can only imagine is a startling number of hours building this collection by forming relationships with individuals directly tied to many of the museum artifacts.
Graveface Museum Exhibits
The museum contains what feels like eight distinct areas, each containing a variety of objects with cards detailing the history behind them.
1. Roadside Attractions, Taxidermy Gaffs, and Savannah Voudon
This section of the museum contains a large collection of taxidermied animals and a collection of gaffs from Homer Tate. The corner contains a section dedicated to Savannah’s rich Voudon/hoodoo history. Photos and items from the former home of a well-known local clairvoyant, “Madame Truth” (aka Ophelia Baker) rest in the corner. The wood on the wall came from her home that mysteriously burnt down.
Remember the previous mention about the museum being built in an old building? While renovating for the museum a false wall was discovered with some pretty interesting objects behind it. No spoilers– you’ll have to visit to see what they found for yourself.
2. The Flux Liner
Mirrors line the space that holds Savannah filmmaker James Allen’s personal possessions surrounding the Flux Liner. Allen died after a brief illness while completing his film Zero Point: the Story of Mark McCandlish and the Flux Liner. It’s a long and twisty story that will thrill fans of ufology.
3. Circus Sideshow Freaks
A large section of the museum is dedicated to circus freaks and sideshow attractions. You’ll see lots of famous sideshow acts and an entire section dedicated to conjoined twins. There is even a cast of Grady Stiles Jr.’s hand. Stiles, a sideshow freak and murderer was the inspiration for the character Lobster Boy in American Horror Story Freak Show.
4. Secret Societies and Funerary Practices
A small section of the museum contains ritual items from fraternal organizations. Specifically, there are several items including a ritual skull, banner, and ritual masks from the Odd Fellows. An embalming machine from the notorious Milledgeville Asylum sits adjacent to a coffin containing the skeleton of the owner’s great-grandfather, an Odd Fellow member who donated his body to his home lodge. His remains were returned to the family after the lodge closed and he now resides in the museum.
A large collection of horror-themed pinball machines sit beneath neon eyes painted on a black brick wall. Visitors to the museum play as much free pinball as they like. You’ll find everything from Elvira to Freddy Kreuger-themed machines.
6. Cults and the Occult
After your brief break for pinball, it’s upstairs where you’ll find all things cult and occult-related. Charles Manson’s loopy handwritten letters are hung next to a pair of his gray prison-edition sweatpants. An eerie tv plays Marshall Applewhite on a loop next to items purchased from the Heaven’s Gate auction in 1999. An actual human spine belonging to Anton LaVey hangs on the wall across from a section dedicated to Aum Shinrikyo.
7. Prisoner Artwork and Ed Gein
The final room of the museum contains death row artwork from many well-known and high-profile murderers. It also contains two of the museum’s most impressive displays on two of the most notorious murderers in American history.
The first is a very large collection of death row artwork and personal possessions from John Wayne Gacy. His instantly recognizable Pogo the Clown artwork lines the walls along with various paraphernalia from the time around his court trial.
The second is the Ed Gein exhibit. It contains original interview transcripts from the polygrapher who interviewed Gein. A keychain containing hair from Ed Gein’s mother hangs in a shadowbox. (Yes, this is the man who inspired Psycho.) If you plan to ask questions, this is the room to do it in as there is tons of backstory on the Ed Gein display.
Planning Your Trip to Graveface Museum
The Graveface Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from 12 pm to 7 pm. Give yourself at very least an hour to get through the museum, two hours is even better. Entry costs $20, but (at the time of my visit) includes 2 days of museum admission. Entry to the museum includes free pinball play.
Location: 410 E Lower Factors Walk
If you’re planning a visit to Savannah, be sure to check out my other posts about what to do when you’re here!