The Haunting of Washington DC
Ghosts in Unexpected Places
An address people know well is The White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW the home of America’s presidents. There have been many presidents, who while residing in the White House have expressed feeling somehow strongly connected to past presidents especially to the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln. Some of the reasons behind this might be that Lincoln met with an untimely and violent death and his spirit has returned to the White House. His wife Mary Todd Lincoln, once held séances in the Green Room to try to contact her dead son, Willie. After her husband’s death, she also tried contacting him and at one time felt she had succeeded.
Lincoln’s ghost most often appears in the vicinity of the Lincoln Bedroom in the second-floor corridors. His spirit paces along the corridors with his hands clasped behind his back as if in deep thought. During President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, Lincoln’s ghostly visits were frequent. During this time there was one unfortunate incident while Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was visiting at the White House. She apparently fainted when she came face to face with Lincoln’s ghost.
Staff members and visitors have reported echoing footsteps and knocking on doors during the night. A White House staff member reported that after he turned off the chandelier in the Lincoln Bedroom it turned on again by itself. He hurried back into the bedroom hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous ghost but instead was met by an icy cold spot usually attributed to the presence of an entity. Early one morning, another staff member was greeted by a clear ghostly image of Lincoln outside of his former office. The apparition was gone in the blink of an eye. He learned that other staff members have reported similar encounters.
Other ghosts that have been spotted at the White House include an angry Dolly Madison who confronted First Lady Ellen Louise Wilson who wanted to remove the Rose Garden, Andrew Jackson laughing in his former bedroom the Red Room, Abigail Adams going through the motions of doing laundry and a menacing British soldier trying to set a fire with a blazing torch.
Ghosts of the Capitol Building
At The United States Capitol Building located on Capitol Hill, there is the legend of the Demon Cat. Most Washingtonians have heard of this frightening legend.
The best version is the one that a supernatural black cat lives in the basement of the Capitol possibly in the room known as the Crypt. Other versions say it is in the basement of the White House or in the shadows of the National Mall. Years may go by without a sighting of the Demon Cat however when it appears a national disaster is likely to occur in a short time period. The cat supposedly first appears as a helpless, kitten and as one draws nearer to it, it grows in size and menace.
Another interesting story associated with the US Capitol Building is that there have been haunted nights when all of the statues in the National Statuary Hall come to life and dance around the room.
There is a Civil War soldier, who now and then dashes through the Rotunda, which was used as a hospital during the Civil War and finally the ghost of an unfortunate worker who was mistakenly sealed into a wall where he died.
Ghostly Figures in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
One of the most grandiose buildings in the nation’s capital is the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (formerly known as the Old Executive Office Building) located at 17th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW (next to the West Wing of the White House). The design of the building is based on an addition to the Louvre and is in an ornate style known as the French Second Empire Style.
In the early morning hours, staff members have reported seeing apparitions wandering the halls. The ghostly figures prefer the corridors of the building and have not been seen in any of the private offices.
The Ghost of Stephen Decatur
Stephen Decatur House Museum is located on Lafayette Square Park, which is considered among paranormal enthusiasts to be Washington’s most haunted area. If you inquire people will tell you that the shadowy figure peering out of the second-floor window or quietly leaving the house through the back door is the ghost of Stephen Decatur.
In 1816 celebrated Naval hero, Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. and his wife, Susan Wheeler moved to Washington, D.C. They purchased a plot on Lafayette Square to build their new house. The Decatur’s had Benjamin Henry Latrobe design a home that would reflect their prominence and social position. This was the first private residence built on the President’s Park, neighboring the White House.
They moved into the house in 1819 but their happiness was short lived. Years earlier Stephen Decatur had sat on the trail of his former friend and colleague James Barron and agreed to a guilty verdict, which expelled Barron from the Navy. A 13-year quarrel ensued and culminated with a duel at the Bladensburg Dueling Ground in Maryland and so 14 months after moving into his new home Stephen Decatur was fatally wounded in the duel and died several hours later at his home.
Not only have there been sightings of the sad ghost of Stephen Decatur but also unexplained mournful weeping has been heard. Many think this may be Decatur’s widow, who moved out of the house following his death.
Tragic Deaths and the Ghost of Dolly Madison
The Octagon House Museum is located at 1799 New York Avenue, NW. The Octagon House was designed by architect William Thornton (the first architect of the United States Capitol) for John Tayloe III. This unusual house is six-sided. In the 18th century, the term “octagon salon” was often used to describe a round room created with 8 angled walls, as the Octagon House entrance hall.
During the War of 1812, the White House was known as the President’s House and when it was destroyed during this time James and Dolly Madison accepted John Tayloe’s offer to live at the Octagon House for a while. The Tayloe family established a permanent residence there in 1817.
Tayloe had 15 children. After many arguments with her father one of his daughters jumped to her death through the center of the grand winding staircase and later a similar happening claimed the life of a second daughter.
There have been tales surrounding these tragic deaths. Some of which are a strange candle-shaped shadow on the staircase and the faint sound of a falling scream. A more pleasant ghost appears to be Dolly Madison, who enjoyed her stay here and is seen dancing and enjoying the lilacs.
The Spirit of Marian Adams
There have been strange and recurring incidents at the Hay-Adams Hotel at 1 Lafayette Square. It is thought that the occurrences have been caused by the ghost of Marian Hooper Adams. Close friends and family members called her Clover. She was married to Henry Adams, who was a presidential descendant, political journalist, and a Harvard professor. Both husband and wife spent their winters in Washington, DC.
At that time Lafayette Square Mansion was located on the site of the present day Hays-Adams Hotel. Marian Adams would suffer from bouts of melancholy and depression which led to her suicide in December of 1885. Her husband Henry Adams erected a statue in her honor. The statue was that of a hooded female figure sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Rock Creek Church Cemetery. This statue was originally named “The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding” and is today referred to as “Grief.” People say that looking at the statue causes a feeling of great sorrow and weeping.
The ghost of Marian Adams visits the Hay-Adams Hotel usually in early December around the time of her death. Staff members have reported hearing their names called by someone unseen and having a sensation of invisible arms around them. Locked doors open by themselves and there is a scent of Mimosa in the air on certain floors at night and on occasion, a tearful woman has been heard asking “What do you want?” Perhaps she feels the hotel guests are trespassing in her own house which once stood on the site.
Tormented Ghost at Fort McNair
One of the co-conspirators of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, Mrs. Mary R. Surratt was the first woman to be executed by the United States. She was hanged along with three other co-conspirators, at Fort McNair in Southeast Washington on July 7, 1865.
Mary Surratt’s lawyers made a last-minute effort to save her life because of her sex and requested that she be imprisoned for life instead but this request was denied by President Andrew Jackson. Mary Surratt’s ghastly facial expression as she ascended the steps to the hanging platform was horrid and now her tormented ghost roams the grounds of Fort McNair still proclaiming her innocence.
The Spirits of Healy Hall
There have been stories told of tormented spirits wandering the fifth floor of Healy Hall Georgetown University. The building has a Victorian design and was constructed in the late 1870s during the presidency of Patrick Healy. Officially the fifth floor of Healy Hall does not and never did exist. However many past and present students say differently and say that the fifth floor is the source of frequent supernatural moaning and wailings.
Two of the most popular legends of Healy Hall go back to the days when Georgetown was a liberal arts college. Supposedly one young Jesuit student accidentally opened the Gates of the Underworld by reading forbidden chants in a book on exorcism and another Jesuit was crushed to death by the hands of the clock while working in the clock tower.
And other Georgetown ghostly tales tell of trapped spirits lost forever in the University’s underground tunnel system.