Fallen leaves dot the cobblestone streets, jack-o-lanterns line rowhouse stairs, and a crispness accompanies a moonlit night. Spooky season has arrived, and we have compiled a few of the most haunted locales for you to either explore—or avoid—this October.
1. The Mary Surratt Boarding House
In the mid-1860s, Mary Surratt ran a boarding house on H Street, NW, that was frequented by Confederate sympathizers, most notable among them being John Wilkes Booth. After Booth assassinated President Lincoln, Surratt was charged as a co-conspirator and became the first woman to be executed by the federal government.
The execution was a particularly grim affair as well, with Surratt’s final words being a desperate plea, “please don’t let me fall,” before the trap door of the gallows swung open below her. How much Surratt knew about Booth’s plans is still debated to this day. The brutal end mixed with the possibility of innocence may be why some say her whispers and muffled sobs can still be heard around her former house, which is now home to a karaoke restaurant, Wok And Roll.
2. Halcyon House
The Halcyon House is perhaps one of the most credibly haunted places in the region. In the 1900s, the Georgetown home belonged to the especially eccentric Albert Clemens. A recluse, he refused to have his home outfitted with electricity. When he died, he had his heart pierced to ensure he wouldn’t be buried alive.
All this makes for the perfect ghost story. Tour guide Canden Arciniega no longer leads tours through Georgetown because, as she told Washingtonian’s Andrew Beaujon, Clemens seems to have taken an interest in her: “I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it still stalks me.”
3. The Capitol
There may be scarier things than gridlock and Speaker of the House fights happening in the halls of the temple of democracy. The building is said to contain a number of ghoulish residents, perhaps not surprising given the amount of history that has taken place within.
After John Quincy Adams served his term as the sixth president, he joined Congress as a representative of Massachusetts. This would be the last position he ever held, as during a vote in 1848, Adams made his opposition of a bill well known with a full-throated “NO!” Immediately afterwards he turned white and collapsed. Two days later, he was dead, but his story lives on. Capitol employees have reported hearing a lone voice shouting “NO!” late at night.
There are even tales of ghosts with tails, like the “Demon Cat” of DC. One night, a guard saw a cat that began running straight towards him, growing to the size of an elephant while he howled a noise more akin to a train than a tabby. There are reportedly cat prints on the Senate side that are said to have been left by the creepy creature.
4. Old Stone House
Built before the Revolutionary War, this house is the oldest unchanged building in DC. The National Park Service preserved it because it was thought to be the meeting place of George Washington and Pierre L’Enfant as they planned the layout of the District, but that was later proven to be at Suter’s Tavern just down the road from the house.
The NPS had already paid for renovations, so today it still stands, home to as many as 11 spirits, including the most wrathful wraith of all: one called George. This phantom has no relation to the president and is said to have been a murderer in his past life. People have claimed to have had hostile encounters with him on the third floor, where he is said to have shoved, strangled, and supposedly even once stabbed someone. George apparently attacks women more than men.
5. The National Theatre
Meanwhile, across town at the National Theatre, a benevolent spirit may be spending his afterlife doing what he loved. According to legend, in the late 1800s, actor John McCullough was murdered by a fellow actor in the basement of the theater, and his body was then hidden in the walls. A writer for the Washington Post offered some evidence that complicates the tale, but current employees such as Madeline Meszaros say the legend of McCullough is alive and well. Last year the theater even released a video exploring the legend of the ghost.