WASHINGTON — It takes quite a bit to strike fear into the hearts of D.C.’s bravest, but with Halloween approaching, odd experiences in one firehouse are leaving some firefighters shaken.
Some believe the home of Engine Company 3, just blocks from the Capitol, is haunted by a ghost — or ghosts.
“I’ve had several people who have gone upstairs and said they’ve heard noises, where they won’t go back upstairs again,” said veteran firefighter Margie Dickey, who has spent her entire career in the 1916 firehouse.
One incident involved a person who had been sleeping in the pitch-black bunk room.
“He woke up and he was screaming, enough that he woke the other guys up,” she said.
He described seeing a man with a beard, wearing a jacket with gold buttons, spectacles and a hat. No one else saw a thing.
According to legend, the spirit could be that of Benjamin Grenup, who served in the Columbia Fire Co., the predecessor to the current company. He died in the line of duty in 1856 when he fell off a fire wagon and was run over by it.
Dickey said she’s never been bothered by the spirit, perhaps because it’s not sure what to make of a woman in the firehouse.
The stories are not just about human spirits, either — some members claim to have heard horses or horse chains. In 1890, a horse assigned to Engine 3 suffered a gruesome injury. Part of its leg was ripped off in an accident on the way to a fire, but the horse continued on, managing to pull its fire wagon to the blaze before it was put down. The horse was called a hero, and its severed hoof belongs to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
The stories, especially the one about the male ghost, appear to be well-known parts of the company’s folklore.
“I’ve heard about it — that there’s supposed to be a spirit here in this firehouse,” said Jim Embrey, curator of the D.C. Fire and EMS Museum, which is on the third floor of the firehouse.
“I’ve never experienced it.
“I think sometimes the stories of who’s supposed to be haunting different places — the stories themselves are interesting. Whether or not they’re actually here or not, that’s another thing.”