Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Crime Scenes: Mercer House

Williams' Imprint on the House

First, let's consider the Mercer House itself. In preparation for our "haunted Savannah" feature, we toured the home, which yielded a distinct impression of who Jim Williams had been. His philosophy, we learned, was, "If you like it, buy it," and what he purchased revealed his taste in European and American antiques, oil landscapes and portraits, and refined décor. Items that jumped out included an iron sculpture of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," precursors to the world's end, as well as paintings of birds of prey, specifically vultures and falcons. Over the back of the couch in the vulture room, the preserved head and skin of a jaguar, staring with fierce eyes, lay draped. It had a startling effect as we walked into the room — even more so as we learned that Williams was not a hunter.

Jim Williams
Jim Williams

Clearly, he liked to align himself with the manly professions, probably to create an impression on Savannah society and deflect them from suspecting he was gay. We'd also seen a "cockfight chair," which gentlemen straddled so they could watch this vicious sport without cramping their coattails. The overall impression of this home was that Williams had exquisite taste, that he kept control over minute details, and that he was quite haughty.

Many people have mentioned how Williams sold fake antiques for exorbitant sums, and it's clear from everything we've learned that this man looked to his own advantage. Generally, his conning only involved swindling, but then a young man paid a higher price: his life. Only Williams knew what really happened on May 2, 1981, and he took his knowledge to the grave, once again protecting himself.

Williams's sister, Dorothy Kingery, described him as a risk-taker. In her book about his preservations, Savannah's Jim Williams and his Southern Houses, she stated that "challenge, risk, and a healthy dose of crisis were the ways Jim started his career in Savannah..." It seems that he ended his career this way as well.


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