Washington, D.C., is known worldwide as the birthplace of the United States—but with history comes mysterious and inexplicable happenings, leading to whispers that the city is plagued with ghouls and ghosts of the past. Some places scream spooky from their core, and others just whisper it. But Secret D.C. rounded up 10 of the most haunted locations in D.C. known for scary sightings and paranormal activity. Give these places a visit and get in the mood for spooky season—if you dare!
1. Old Stone House
This inconspicuous stone house in Georgetown is actually the oldest building in the District. But don’t be fooled by its common and innocent appearance—Old Stone House is believed to be inhabited by at least 11 spirits! While a majority of the spirits are relatively benign presences, rather nasty ghost known as George, who isn’t too fond of visits, especially women, who he has often choked, shoved, and poked in their visits to the house. Yikes! Check out all 11 documented spirits below:
- A 1700s woman who frequents the fireplace.
- A younger woman with ringlet curls who repeatedly runs up and down the staircase.
- An antebellum woman in the kitchen.
- A man who dons short pants with long stockings, also in the kitchen.
- A long, blond haired man by the front window.
- A boy named Joey who hangs out in the third-floor hallway.
- A young African American boy who also hangs out in the third-floor hallway.
- A carpenter people believe to be Christopher Leyhman/Layman.
- A colonial-era man in the master bedroom.
- A colonial-era man on the second floor.
- George, the angry and nasty ghost who haunts the third-floor bedroom.
2. Hay Adams Hotel
The Hay-Adams Hotel is a lovely, luxury accommodation in the heart of D.C., but it also hides a dark secret: The hotel is actually comprised of the homes of two prominent statesmen of the 19th century, John Hay and Henry Adams. On Dec. 6, 1885, Marian Hooper Adams, known as Clover and wife of Henry Adams, died by suicide during a bout of depression following the death of her beloved father. In her lifetime, Clover was a prominent photographer and is said to have died after she consumed a lethal dose of potassium cyanide, a chemical used to develop old photographs. However, Clover’s death didn’t stop her from continuing mixing with D.C. socialites, as she’s been repeatedly been witnessed partying alongside hotel guests and spotted by employees on the fourth floor of the Hay-Adams Hotel. Guests have also reported smelling the lingering, almond-y scent of potassium cyanide, especially around the month of December, the anniversary of her death.
3. The U.S. Capitol
The iconic D.C. building is said to be haunted by a cute but equally terrifying feline who is said to have foretold some of the darkest happenings in American history. Have we got you hooked? The ghostly black cat—appropriately dubbed the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill—was seen haunting the halls of the Capitol right before the Stock Market crash of 1929, as well just prior to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The Demon Cat of Capitol Hill is also said to have appeared right before President John Quincy Adams’ death, who suffered a stroke and passed away in the Speaker’s Room in 1848. Quincy Adams himself is said to haunt the Capitol and can be heard screaming, “No!” in the speaker’s chamber every once in a while.
4. Cutts-Madison House
Fancy meeting one of D.C.’s most famous residents? She might not be very lively but First Lady Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison, can often be seen hanging out on her front porch, rocking back and forth in her chair at this bright yellow house in D.C. Just make sure to say, “Hi!” when you walk by!
5. The White House
The presidential home is believed to be full of famous spirits, including that of First Lady Abigail Adams, the first first lady to live in the White House, and President Abraham Lincoln. When the Adams first moved into the famous white home, there was no running water and so Mrs. Adams had to carry in water from outside to do the washing. She was so fond of doing her family’s washing, they say she can still be seen walking around the White House busy with the laundry. Staff have even reported seeing her walk through walls, leaving behind the scent of soap and wet clothes. Lincoln is another friendly recurring presence in the White House, with many reporting seeing him hanging around the Lincoln bedrooms. Meanwhile, the Oval Office has had its share of sightings, including President Theodore Roosevelt, First Lady Grace Coolidge, Winston Churchill, Maureen Reagan, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands!
6. The Smithsonian Castle
The beautiful Smithsonian Castle is said to be haunted by no less than the ghost of James Smithson himself, the Englishman who donated all his fortune to the Institution despite never stepping on American soil. In 1973, one of the museum’s curators decided to open up Smithson’s coffin and rebury him in his current resting place with a small ceremony. It seems he may have released more than the dust and cobwebs from inside Smithson’s coffin!
7. The Exorcist Stairs
OK, this one isn’t technically haunted, but it’s still spooky! These Georgetown scary-steep stairs have been terrifying Washingtonians and visitors alike since they made their horrifying appearance in cult-classic horror movie, “The Exorcist.” Looking for a place to stage a spooky photoshoot? These stairs are the perfect spot!
8. Mary Surratt’s Boarding House (now, Wok and Roll)
Now, it may seem like you inconspicuous Chinese restaurant/karaoke joint, but it was once the boarding home of Mary Surratt—a leading conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Surratt held many meetings discussing and planning the assassinations of Lincoln and other prominent figures within that building before she became the first woman to be executed by the U.S. federal government for conspiracy. Her ghost is said to haunt the building to this day, leaving a trail of muffled sobs, whispers, and creaking floorboards!
9. Walsh Mansion
Currently the home base for the Indonesian Embassy in D.C., this lavish home is said to be haunted by the outrageously fashionable ghost of Evalyn Walsh McLean, former owner of the house and of the equally-haunted Hope Diamond!
10. Rock Creek Park
Though beautiful, Rock Creek Park is said to be full of all kinds of ghosts and spirits who come out after sundown to haunt the land. You wouldn’t want to be caught there after dusk!
Article written by Ma Del Rosario Castro Diaz and Jenna Romaine