Things to Do

7 Places to Scare Yourself Silly Around DC

An abandoned hospital, a suburban monster, and more tales for a frightening Halloween.

Inside the Forest Haven asylum. Photo by Flickr user Will Fisher.

1. Clover’s Corner

Heartbroken over his wife Marion’s suicide in 1885, historian Henry Adams commissioned famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a memorial to the woman he called Clover. The shrouded, ambiguous statue in Rock Creek Cemetery embodies grief itself, and Adams could of-ten be found writing beneath it until his death in 1918.

Illustration by Phong Nguyen
Illustration by Phong Nguyen.

2. Nightmare on Fletchertown Road

Since at least 1971, some of the people who go walking through the woods near Fletchertown Road have reported encountering the Goatman. He could be a mad herder who squeals goat noises at passers-by, terrorizes lovers, chases teens, and decapitates dogs. Others believe he’s the result of an experiment gone wrong at a federal agricultural-research facility in Beltsville. “We just think it’s stupid,” a USDA spokeswoman said in 2013. A likely story.

Illustration by Phong Nguyen
Illustration by Phong Nguyen

3. DC Horror Story: Asylum

An abandoned mental hospital, full of crumbling walls and decaying equipment, sounds like something out of a horror movie. But it actually exists in Fort Meade. Forest Haven, which closed in 1991, attracts hordes of trespassing explorers looking to take haunting photos of the facility. Ghost hunters, beware, though: Security guards patrol the site for people trying to sneak in.

4. Capitol Crime

Kentucky congressman William Preston Taulbee started yanking on reporter Charles Kincaid’s ears and nose as payback after Kincaid exposed the congressman’s philandering in 1887. But the newsman snapped and shot Taulbee in the face on a stairwell in the Capitol’s eastern corridor. The marble still shows stains where Taulbee bled out, but whether it’s the lawmaker’s blood remains a mystery, while Kincaid was acquitted on self-defense grounds.

Illustration by Phong Nguyen
Illustration by Phong Nguyen

5. Afterlife of the Party

The Octagon House, at 18th Street and New York Avenue—completed in 1801 by Colonel John Tayloe—might be DC’s most haunted spot. Reported apparitions include two of Tayloe’s daughters, who some claim fell to their deaths from the staircase while arguing with their father over scandalous romances; a card cheat allegedly shot to death; and Dolley Madison, who lived there after the burning of Washington and, it’s said, leaves a lavender-scented trail.

6. Coughin’ Coffin

Like Forest Haven, shuttered Glenn Dale Hospital in Prince George’s County attracts ghost chasers and urban explorers eager to catch a whiff of its past as a respite for victims of a tuberculosis epidemic that swept Washington in 1934. The facility fell into disuse as TB cases declined, finally closing in 1981 and leaving behind 23 rotted buildings.

Illustration by Phong Nguyen
Illustration by Phong Nguyen

7. Bunny Man Bridge

An apocryphal story has it that a convict who escaped from a prison-bus crash in the early 20th century left a trail of gutted animals—and later teenagers—under a bridge in the middle of the woods. The truth may be even creepier: In October 1970, Fairfax police responded to a young couple eight miles away in Burke who said they’d been attacked by a man dressed in a white suit with long bunny ears who threw a hatchet through their car window. No one was ever caught.

This article appears in our October 2016 issue of Washingtonian.