Haunted Houses to Visit in Washington, DC

by Cassandra Pope

Founded in 1790, Washington has seen its fair share of battles, assassinations and untimely deaths, which have left many of its historic buildings harboring dark secrets. Reports of unexplained happenings and ghostly apparitions abound and even the most famous building of them all -- the White House -- is not without a reputation for the supernatural.

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Political Hauntings

Unsurprisingly among Washington's famous ghosts are those of former Presidents. Woodrow Wilson is reported to appear in two properties in the city. He has been seen at Blair House, now the official state guest house, rocking in a rocking chair in one of the bedrooms. He is also present at his residence in the northwestern area of the city, which he occupied after his presidency and is also where he died. His characteristic slow shuffle, aided by a cane, has been heard frequently. Woodrow Wilson House is open to the public. You won't be surprised to hear that Ford's Theatre also boasts a long-standing Presidential apparition. It was here that John Wilkes Booth shot and killed Abraham Lincoln in 1865. It is said that Booth's footsteps have be heard crossing the stage followed by a gunshot -- as if the event is being replayed. The ghost of Lincoln himself has been seen and also that of his wife, leaning over the balcony pointing at Booth. Lights are said to turn themselves on and off, laughter heard when the theatre is empty and cold spots have been felt throughout the building. Ford's remains a working theatre and also houses a museum.

Haunted White House

The White House is regarded as one of the most haunted homes in America. Hilary Clinton described it as creepy and President Harry Truman was convinced the building was haunted. The most haunted room is the Lincoln Bedroom where visitors, including Winston Churchill, have reported seeing the apparition of the murdered president. Churchill refused to sleep in there again. Lincoln has also been seen walking the corridors of the second floor hallway and standing at windows with his hands clasped behind his back. Footsteps have also been heard and he is even reported to knock on doors. If you wish to take a tour of the White House, contact your local congress representative to get you passes. Otherwise you may wait in line for a long time.

Ghostly Public Buildings

The National Building Museum offers a lantern-light ghost tour of this famously haunted building. Visitors include a sword-wielding soldier on horseback, however, it is perhaps most famous for the mysterious faces that appeared in the marble columns of the main court . George and Martha Washington were among the many faces to have been sighted in the columns before the decision was made to paint over them. The National Theatre is another public building reported to be haunted. Their ghost is that of the actor John McCullough who was reportedly shot by a fellow actor during an argument which took place backstage. His spirit is said to roam the theater on opening nights and has also been seen sitting in the audience.

Untimely Deaths

There are numerous other buildings in Washington with ghostly reputations. Decatur House was recently opened as the National Center for White House History and was built in 1818 by Commodore Stephen Decatur. However, Decatur was killed in a duel with Commadore James Barron. Decatur's presence can be felt in the room on the first floor where he died and he was reportedly seen be many witnesses standing at the window -- so many, in fact, that the window was eventually bricked up. The Octagon House on New York Avenue is another very haunted home, built in 1801 by Colonel John Tayloe. It is possible that the walled back yard was used as a slave market and the ghosts of African American slaves have been seen at the property. It is also haunted by two of Tayloe's daughters, who both met their deaths falling down the grand spiral staircase after separate arguments with their father. Today the house is a museum dedicated to architecture but tours of the house are available by appointment.

About the Author

Based in London, Cassandra Pope has been writing since 2006. She is assistant station manager of an online radio station and has written articles for the "London Student" newspaper, the culture blog Arts Attack and various other websites. Pope has a first-class Bachelor of Arts in war studies with film studies from King's College, London.

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