Haunted history: 10 spooky places in DC

The Walsh Mansion in Dupont Circle
10 spots in DC with a haunted history 

WASHINGTON — The scariest thing about D.C. may be the perpetually large population of politicians. But the District’s large collection of famous monuments, buildings and landmarks often come with some creepy back stories.

With Halloween approaching, WTOP dug up some of D.C.’s haunted history. Scroll through the entire gallery to learn more about two supposedly haunted hotels, where the friendly ghost of Dolley Madison has been known to haunt and the Dupont Circle mansion (pictured above) whose supposedly haunted history crosses paths with the “cursed” Hope Diamond.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

The Octagon House

The oddly shaped brick mansion was built by the architect of the U.S. Capitol, William Thornton in the late 1700s for a rich Virginia plantation owner. James Madison used the residence, which is in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood as a temporary headquarters after the British burned the White House to the ground in the War of 1812.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

Ghosts rumored to haunt the irregularly shaped house include the two daughters of the original home’s owner, one of whom is reputed to have died after arguing with her father and falling down the stairs. Visitors say they’ve heard ghostly sounds of rustling silk and ringing bells and seen apparitions dressed in old military uniforms.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

The Decatur House (what’s up with those bricked-up windows?)

The simple Federal-style brick house on the Northwest corner of Lafayette Square was built in 1816, and its first occupant was Stephen Decatur, the famed U.S. naval hero.

Tales of hauntings have clung to the house’s history ever since Decatur was killed in a duel in 1820. According to urban legend, passers-by claimed they could see the pensive figure of Decatur peering out the upstairs windows after his death, eventually leading some of the windows to be bricked over. (However, some experts say those are simply “blind windows,” and the bricks had always been there for architectural reasons.)

(This slide has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to the Revolutionary War).

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

(WTOP/Jack Moore)
Hello, Dolley

The colonial-style brick house just a few blocks away from the White House was the home of the widowed Dolley Madison between 1837 and 1849.

In the late 1950s, the Cutts-Madison house, as it’s known, was slated for demolition to make way for an office building, but personal lobbying by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy helped save the historic building.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

Since the mid-1800s, witnesses claim to have seen the ghost of Dolley Madison rocking on the porch on the west side of the home.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

Cursed by the Hope Diamond?

Built in 1903 by self-made mining millionaire Thomas J. Walsh, the 60-room mansion was the most expensive private home built in D.C. at the time. Walsh’s daughter Evalyn, lived in the Dupont Circle mansion for many years along with her husband, the publishing heir Edward Beale McLean (The Washington Post’s owner from 1916 until 1933). McLean famously acquired the supposedly cursed Hope Diamond for his wife while they lived in the home. Tragedy and misfortune soon beset the family, of course.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

Since the 1950s, the mansion has been the site of the Indonesian embassy. However, an unknown female apparition — perhaps the ghost of Evalyn? — is still reportedly seen trailing down the grand staircase.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

Haunted Hay-Adams?

The ghost of Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams, the wife of the author Henry Adams (himself the grandson of President John Quincy Adams), is reputed to haunt the halls of the luxury hotel on Lafayette Square. Distraught over the death of her father, Marian Adams committed suicide in 1885 by drinking a fatal dose of potassium cyanide just before she was to move into the Victorian mansion on the land where the famous hotel now sits.

Guests and hotel staff have reported the sounds of a woman sobbing, doors slamming shut and other mysterious goings on.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

The Congressional Cemetery

A 10-minute drive from the Capitol, tucked away on 35 idyllic acres on the west bank of the Anacostia River, sits the Congressional Cemetery. Built in 1807, the private graveyard is the final resting place for lawmakers, dignitaries, diplomats and veterans. Those interred include William Henry Harrison, Dolley Madison, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Marion Barry.

(Tim Evanson/Wikimedia Commons)

The cemetery fell out of use in the late 1800s and by the 1970s had fallen into a state of disrepair; weeds choked the plots, gravestones crumbled and vandals ran rampant. The site has since been restored and is well maintained. But groundskeepers still tell of creepy happenings.

Among the lore surrounding the cemetery: A dirty pink silk scarf that keeps appearing on the arm of a 12-foot-tall angel statue sitting over the graves of the mother and sister of an infamous 19th-century Capitol Hill madam, Mary Hall.

(Courtesy Congressional Cemetery)

The Old Stone House

The Old Stone House on M Street is the oldest structure in its original foundation in D.C. — so there are bound to be a few ghosts knocking around, some believe. The house was built in 1765.

Originally a clock shop, the building was being used as car dealership when the federal government bought the property in 1953.

According to myth, people have seen a little old woman tending the fireplace and heard the unexplainable sound of children laughing.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

The front of the Old Stone House on M Street in Georgetown seen in an  1890 photograph. (D.C. Public Library Commons)
The front of the Old Stone House on M Street in Georgetown seen in an 1890 photograph.

(Courtesy D.C. Public Library Commons)

The Woodrow Wilson House

Woodrow Wilson retired to this Georgian Revival brick mansion on S Street in 1921 after the ailing 28th president left the White House in 1921. He died in the house in 1924; his widow Edith Wilson lived in the house until her death in 1961 after which the home became a museum to Wilson’s presidency.

Staff and visitors over the years have reported spooky happenings, including the ghost of the president himself rocking in his chair.

(WTOP/Jack Moore)

(Jürgen Matern/Wikimedia Commons)
The haunted eighth-floor suite at the Omni Shoreham

The Hay-Adams isn’t the only reportedly haunted hotel in D.C. The Omni Shoreham hotel in Woodley Park has a haunted history the hotel has embraced.

A suite on the eighth floor occupied by a wealthy businessman and his family was the scene of a number of strange and unfortunate incidents, including the mysterious death of a housekeeper and later the businessman’s daughter. The businessman’s family left in the 1970s and the hotel shut off the suite from the rest of the hotel.

Since then, hotel staff have been spooked by a number of strange disturbances, such as unexplained noises, the sound of a piano playing and flickering lights. The hotel renovated the “ghost suite” in the 1980s.

(Jürgen Matern/Wikimedia Commons)

The Walsh Mansion in Dupont Circle
(WTOP/Jack Moore)
The front of the Old Stone House on M Street in Georgetown seen in an  1890 photograph. (D.C. Public Library Commons)
(Jürgen Matern/Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON — With Halloween approaching, WTOP dug up some of D.C.’s haunted history. Scroll through the gallery to learn more about some of the District’s haunted places.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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