Tour Guide: Washington Walks’s Capital Hauntings

Though we set out for a good spook, we were disappointed by our ghostless jaunt through Lafayette Park. If a haunting thrill is what you seek, this may not be the tour for you.

What: Washington Walks's Capital Hauntings tour, highlighting the curses, stories, violence, and myths surrounding Lafayette Park, a downtown spot many believe to be the most haunted site in DC.

Where: The tour meets at the McPherson Square Metro station on the Orange and Blue lines (White House exit), swings around Lafayette Park, and ends in front of the White House—just a few blocks from the start.

When: Fridays at 7:30 PM—rain or shine—from April 1 through October 31. Special Halloween tours also given.

Ticket price: $10 a person, children under four free. You can pay with cash at the start of the tour or purchase tickets in advance online.

Length: Approximately one hour

Tour size: On our tour, 24 people joined us from all over the United States and overseas, but many more can be accommodated. Groups of 25 or more should call in advance.

Our tour date: April 25, 2008

The lowdown: Don’t expect the pageantry of a costumed guide, the ghoulish glow of a gas lantern, or even necessarily a ghost sighting—this “ghost” tour is more educational than creepy.

Our guide, Carolyn, while very friendly and knowledgeable about Lafayette Park’s murderous past, didn’t lay on the heavy theatrics as we’d hoped. But taking the tour gave us an excuse to spend a lovely evening in front of the White House, which was nicely lit and looked majestic. And even though most of the tour took place after dark, which ought to have made it seem creepier, nighttime just made Lafayette Park seem more peaceful.

Because the tour encompasses just the small park area and the White House, there’s not much walking involved. But with only a few blocks to travel and a whole hour to fill, expect a lot of standing and listening—not a great combination for children.

During the tour, we learned about a presidential curse that began with the ninth US president, William Henry Harrison, and an unsuccessful murder attempt on William Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State. At times the guide was engaging, encouraging tour-goers to ask questions, but as some stories ran long and the history lessons grew convoluted, it was clear that most of our fellow tourists had stopped paying attention and were simply enjoying the fresh air and warm, breezy evening.

Grade: C

Want the lowdown on more area tours? Check out our Guided Tours section.

This article is part of Washingtonian's Visitors' Guide. For more articles like it, click here.

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