10 Haunted Locations in Washington D.C.

Posted on August 27, 2019

Washington D.C. is our nation’s capital. Not only is it the home base for America’s federal seat of power, but it is also home to many museums that commemorate the history of America and the world. Washington D.C. became the nation’s capital in 1791, replacing New York City. Since then, it has been the home of every American president (except for the man who bears the namesake, George Washington).

Although it is home to many of the most popular tourist attractions in the county (and maybe the world), there are some areas of DC that are haunted. You’d be even surprised that some of the most familiar and popular places people visit every year will have a haunting story or two in their own right.

Of course, there have been some tragedies that have occurred in the history of our country. One of those most notable is the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in 1865. But is Ford Theater one of the most haunted locations in Washington D.C? Maybe.

We will now go through the list of the 10 most haunted locations in Washington D.C. By the time you are finished reading this, planning a trip might be something in your future. That is if you are feeling quite adventurous.

10. U.S. Capitol

Source: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2015/06/30/23/20/us-capitol-building-826991_960_720.jpg

First on the list is one of the most iconic buildings within our nation’s capital. The Capitol building houses the chambers of Congress (and at one point in time, the United States Supreme Court). Many members of Congress have died in the building over the years. One of the most notable was John Quincy Adams — the sixth President of the United States. Adams suffered a stroke and later died inside the Speaker’s room. It is believed that the ghost of Adams (and the other members of Congress that have died within these hallowed halls) tend to haunt the place.

However, a black cat is believed to have appeared somewhere on the Capitol grounds. Many have said that it would only appear before some of the darkest times in American history. This cat was said to appear in a foretelling of Adams’ death. Some accounts go well into the 20th century. Sightings of a black cat were said to be reported before the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

It is uncertain if such sightings ever occurred recently, but some might take heed of dark times ahead of a black cat that somehow moves about on the Capitol grounds.

9. The White House

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The White House was home to 44 of the 45 US Presidents. Only George Washington did not occupy the White House. But who would have thought that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was a haunted house? Some have said that Dolley Madison may be a fixture in the hallowed halls even after her death nearly 200 years ago. Others say that another spirit might be present.

While it is a matter of debate, that spirit might be that of Abraham Lincoln. Bess Truman, who was the First Lady during the presidency of her husband Harry Truman, often heard some rattling outside of the Lincoln Bedroom. But Mrs. Truman was not alone. The first lady before her, Eleanor Roosevelt, said she would often feel a presence outside of the Lincoln Bedroom. Even Roosevelt’s dog Fala would bark for no apparent reason at times, thus confirming the likelihood of a presence of a spirit. This is only a sample of the growing list of dignitaries who have either visited or spent the night at the White House. The last known “presence” reported was when Maureen Reagan, the daughter of President Ronald Reagan, believed to have seen a figure standing in the hallway.

8. The Octagon House

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Ask any D.C. resident which place might be the most haunted in all of D.C. and this house might be the answer. If the spirit of Dolley Madison is not around on the White House grounds, she will probably be here at the Octagon House. Her husband, then-President James Madison, and herself resided here shortly after the White House burned down during the War of 1812. Before that, this was the home of Colonel John Tayloe and his family.

Aside from Dolley possibly milling about, some have heard various sounds like bells ringing and even some screams that belong to various girls. The screams could be from the spirits of two young girls that were the daughters Colonel Tayloe. One of the girls is said to have died after falling over a stairway railing. However, there was insufficient evidence to prove this happened.

7. The Smithsonian Castle

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Of all the museums that are all over Washington D.C., the Smithsonian is probably one of the most famous. But could it be one of the most haunted museums? The stories of ghosts wandering the halls of the Smithsonian have spanned many years. One of the most famous ghosts is that of James Smithson himself. The remains of the museum’s namesake are interred inside the castle. No one knows what other spirits may be roaming around other than Smithson. It can be anyone’s guess as to what other famous spirits may be present. Since there is a lot of history that is on display at one of the many museums of the Smithsonian, people are drawing their own conclusions.

In 1973, a museum curator at the Smithsonian took it upon himself to open the coffin that contained the remains of Smithson. The reason remains unclear to this day. Yet, it can be said for certain that one of the most popular museums in America is home to an inconspicuous gravesite.

6. Ford’s Theatre

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The famous theatre is famous for perhaps one of the most tragic events in American history. President Abraham Lincoln was watching a play on the night of April 14, 1865, when an assassin named John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln. Lincoln died the following day. It had been reported that the ghost of Lincoln was first sighted as early as 1869 or 1870. However, some actors that have rehearsed on the stage to this day have even reported some spiritual presence. One occurrence was the sighting of a shadowy figure that seemed out of place.

Lincoln’s ghost may have only been present in various parts of D.C. However, a woman who was present during the assassination was said to have been visited by Lincoln himself outside of her home in upstate New York.

5. Lafayette Square Park

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Even when you step off the grounds of the White House, another haunted landmark is not far behind. Lafayette Square Park is just across the street from the White House. And like the White House, a certain presidential ghost is said to be roaming around at night. Specifically, it is the ghost of Andrew Jackson.

However, the park is also the sight of a gruesome killing. Philip Barton Key II was mortally wounded in an altercation by a friend after the latter accused Key of carrying on an affair with his wife. Key was later taken to a home owned by Benjamin Ogle Tayloe. He then succumbed to his injuries there. Tayloe was a resident of none other than the Octagon House.

The friend was later identified as a Congressman named Daniel Sickles. Key was the son of Francis Scott Key, the man famous for providing the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem.

4. The Surratt House

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The Surratt House was a boarding home that hosted many travelers. One of those who stayed at the house was John Wilkes Booth. The proprietor was Mary Surratt. Booth was a frequent visitor of the house and had gotten to know Surratt over a lengthy period. In the aftermath of the Lincoln Assassination, Surratt was tried and convicted with conspiracy in her role with the death of Lincoln. She was executed by hanging on July 7, 1865.

Long after her death, she appears to be haunting the place. As of today, a Chinese restaurant named Wok N’ Roll occupies the place where one of America’s greatest conspiracies took place.

3. Decatur House

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The Decatur House was named after the Navy Admiral Stephen Decatur. This is one of the many stops along many people ghost tours down Lafayette Square. Another one of the stops is already on the list (the Octagon House). It was here that Admiral Decatur met his demise when he was challenged to a duel. One of the most unique features of the house is the boarded-up windows. It was said that the ghost of Decatur was seen looking out one of these windows.

2. Cutts-Madison House

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/Dolley_Madison_House_west_side.jpg

This was the home of Dolley Madison from 1837 to her death in 1849. And it is considered to be another one of the many places that her ghost might be roaming around. More specifically, she may have been seen sitting on the porch according to past reports.

The mortgage of the home was given to then former President James Madison in 1828. The 4th President of the United States would later die at his Virginia residence known as Montpelier in 1836.

1. Hay-Adams Hotel

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d4/Hay_Adams_Hotel.jpg

It is one thing to check out one of Washington’s haunted landmarks. Another is staying in one. The Hay-Adams Hotel was owned by Henry Adams. It was here where his wife Marian Hooper Adams, or “Clover”, committed suicide on December 6, 1885. Marian was a photographer in her own right during the course of her life. She used a chemical known as potassium cyanide for developing her photographic work. However, it would ultimately be responsible for her death as she swallowed a lethal amount. It is said that her spirit is quite active around the month of December (specifically, around the anniversary of her death).

References:

  1. https://scarydc.com/2017/04/03/the-demon-cat/
  2. https://mentalfloss.com/article/88007/12-people-who-have-supposedly-seen-or-felt-lincolns-ghost
  3. https://www.abandonedspaces.com/mansion/octagon-house.html
  4. https://www.neatorama.com/2016/01/16/Poor-James-Smithsons-Restless-Corpse/
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1990/06/17/the-ghosts-of-mr-lincoln/1e834a95-e37a-4088-a2fc-5bd36c9b5f5f/?noredirect=on
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/03/02/temporarily-insane-a-congressman-a-sensational-killing-and-a-new-legal-defense/
  7. https://www.scpr.org/news/2011/04/25/26050/the-conspirator-mary-serratt-still-haunts-washingt/
  8. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/naval-hero-killed-in-duel
  9. https://www.hauntedplaces.org/item/cutts-madison-house-dolley-madison-house/
  10. https://www.bu.edu/articles/2012/a-gilded-and-heartbreaking-life