In fact, many of the area’s government buildings, historic homes and museums offer tales of murder, duels to the death, restless spirits and disembodied voices.
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Ghosts of the White House
On October 13, 1792, the construction of The White House began. President John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams were the first to live in the Executive Mansion in 1800. In 1814, during James Madison’s presidency, the British burned the building.
The building was immediately repaired and repainted and was called The White House from that point on. There are claims that a British soldier carrying a torch occasionally roams the halls.
Winston Churchill refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom after he purportedly witnessed the ghost of Abraham Lincoln walking the room. Another witness, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, fainted after seeing Lincoln in the room.
Maids, butlers and employees have claimed to see Lincoln. In one instance, a witness reported that Lincoln removed his boots over the bed.
According to various White House members of staff, Abigail Adams cleans her laundry in the East Room. When the wife of President Woodrow Wilson, First Lady Ellen Wilson, wanted to dig up the rose garden and the spirit of former First Lady Dolley Madison supposedly manifested and told the workmen not to ruin the garden.
Gary J. Walters served as the White House Chief Usher since his appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Although he’s never actually seen an apparition, he and several police officers shared a strange experience.
According to Walters, “I was standing at the state floor of the White House adjacent to the staircase that comes up from the ground floor. The police officers and I felt a cool rush of air pass between us and then two doors that stand open closed by themselves. I have never seen these doors move before without somebody specifically closing them by hand. It was quite remarkable.”
A common report by various members of staff claims that doors close by themselves all over the building.
Ghosts of the Capitol Building
Construction of the Capitol building began after President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson chose a winning design in 1792. The Captiol’s history of shootings and fire apparently invited in some unseen visitors along the way.
Legend tells that during the construction of the Capitol building, an irritable carpenter smashed the head of a stonesman and buried the body in a wall. The stonesman has allegedly been spotted walking the halls.
Like the White House, the Capitol building was burned in 1814 by the British. One story tells of a British soldier who runs the halls, torch in hand. The Rotunda was used as a hospital during the Civil War and the spirit of a soldier has sometimes been seen moving through that area.
In 1890, Congressman William Taulbee was shot by Charles Kincaid on the marble steps of the Captiol building. Taulbee died 11 days after the incident but the bloodstain can still be seen today on the marble stairs where he received the wounds that killed him.
Other stories include statues that come to life and dance in the night and a black cat that appears before a national disaster. The cat grows larger and more menacing when a witness approaches.
Ghost of the Decatur House Museum
Following a 13-year quarrel with former friend James Barron, Naval officer Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. was mortally wounded in a duel at the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds in Maryland in 1820. Decatur was brought back to his home and died there.
Legend tells that a ghostly figure can sometimes be seen leaving from the back door of the Decatur House. So many people have reported seeing a face in the windows, supposedly that of Decatur, that several windows have been covered up.
In addition to the numerous sightings of the ghost of Decatur, others have reported the sobbing of a woman. Believers attribute this disembodied sound to the ghost of Stephen’s widow, Susan.
Ghosts of the National Building Museum
The National Building Museum was originally built to house the Pension Bureau in 1985 and now serves as the country’s leading institution for the appreciation of architecture, design, engineering and urban planning. For paranormal enthusiasts, it’s another D.C. hotspot for good ghost stories.
A saber-wielding soldier on horseback allegedly roams the area, thought to be the building’s designer, ciil engineer and U.S. Army General Montgomery C. Meigs. Also, ghostly faces supposedly appear above several of the seventy-five foot tall columns in the Great Hall.
Ghosts of the National Gallery of Art
While tales of ghosts stories at the National Gallery of Art are harder to find, they can be verified by visiting the museum and asking around.
A security guard that chooses to remain unnamed has several creepy tales to tell.
This particular employee explained how he likes to say goodnight to his favorite paintings. One night, after saying goodbye to his favorite Van Gogh painting on display, a male voice responded by repeating “good night”.