10 Eerie & Real Haunted Places in Washington DC

Updated August 13, 2021
US Capitol building

Places steeped in history are almost always sure to have plenty of ghostly activity, and Washington, D.C. is no exception. Presidents, Congressmen, and socialites who walked the streets of the nation's capitol have lingered, still tied to the place where they spent their lives. Visit any of these places, and see if you catch a glimpse of one of their resident spirits.

Map of Haunted Places in Washington DC

The White House

The White House at Dusk

There have been many reports of ghosts haunting the White House ever since Mary Lincoln held séances that foretold of President Lincoln's assassination. The White House has a wealth of ghost stories that are mostly about dead Presidents.

Most notably, President Lincoln, is the most restless spirit in the White House spectral world. Residents and guests have claimed to see his ghost. Winston Churchill saw Lincoln sitting by the fireplace in the Lincoln Bedroom. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands answered knocks on her door and was greeted by Lincoln. She royally fainted. Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, and Jacqueline Kennedy all sensed Lincoln's presence, although none ever admitted to seeing his apparition. And, according to Carl Anthony writing for the National First Ladies' Library (NFLL), First Lady Grace Coolidge wrote that she caught a glimpse of President Lincoln standing in his former office (currently the Lincoln Bedroom), staring out the window.

One of the best documented encounters with a ghost is a September 9, 1946 letter President Harry S. Truman wrote to his wife, Bess. In it, he described hearing three distinct knocks on his bedroom door at four in the morning, but nobody was there when he investigated, searching the hall and other rooms. Returning to bed, he heard footfalls in his wife's room. Again, he investigated, but no one was there, something later verified with Secret Service. Truman wrote, "The darned place is haunted sure as shootin." He wrote that Bess and his daughter should come home soon to protect him before the ghosts carried him off.

Octagon House

Octagon House, 1799 New York Ave NW

Many people claim the Octagon House is the most haunted place in Washington, DC. Both daughters of Colonel John Tayloe II fell to their deaths from the spiral staircase, and their ghosts haunt the premises. Some spooky reports include ghosts climbing the staircase, the sounds of bloodcurdling female screams, and bells that ring on their own. People have also seen lighted candles floating down the staircase, and some encounter the ghost of a dead woman's body crumpled at the foot of a staircase.

Old Stone House

Old Stone House, 3051 M Street in Georgetown

Built in 1765, the Old Stone House in Rock Creek Park is the oldest structure in Washington, DC still on the original foundation. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is open to the public. It is also known for its large ghostly population that resides in the house.

Visitors and staff report encountering frightening phenomena, including the malevolent spirit named George who chokes and shoves guests. Others see apparitions such as a woman in a brown dress standing by the fireplace, women working in the kitchen, and a colonial man in the primary bedroom. People also hear ghostly sounds of laughter, disembodied voices, and children running through the house.

National Building Museum

National Building Museum, 401 F Street

Formerly known as the Pension Building, the National Building Museum is a National Historic Landmark. It's haunted by some very unusual ghosts. A man rides along the upper floors on horseback, and people report seeing columns morph into dead people. People also hear strange noises, see the ghost of a woman dressed in white in the main hall, and notice that objects go missing only to reappear in strange locations. The spirit of James Tanner, the stenographer for the Lincoln assassination witness testimonies, also haunts the building.

Lafayette Square

Lafayette Square

Andrew Jackson's ghost is said to roam Lafayette Square along with Francis Scott Key's son, Phillip Barton Key II. Daniel Sickles shot Key because he was having an affair with Sickles' wife. Lafayette Square is also commonly called "Tragedy Square" because of the number of duels, assassinations, and other tragedies that have happened there.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

A resident ghost is said to claim a specific seat in the main reading room of the Library of Congress. Anyone unlucky enough to sit there will either become too cold or too hot.

The Capitol Building

The Capitol Building

The Capitol Building is haunted by Senators and Representatives, a demon cat, John Quincy Adams' disembodied voice, and other paranormal activities. The ghosts of several congressional representatives who died either within the Capitol's walls or during their time in the legislature haunt the famed complex--John Quincy Adams, most prominently.

Congressional Cemetery

Congressional Cemetery

Ghosts are reported throughout the 65,000 gravesites in the Congressional Cemetery. Many deceased Congressmen appear to witnesses as well as the spirit of Marine composer John Philip Sousa playing his tuba, dubbed the sousaphone.

Hay-Adams Hotel

Hay-Adams Hotel

Marian Hooper Adams (nicknamed "Clover"), wife of writer Henry Adams, haunts this historic hotel. Clover was vivacious and clever, and many believe that she inspired heroines in her husband's books.

Clover and Henry bought property and designed a home with two close friends of theirs, another couple named John and Clara Hay. That house was at the site where the Hay-Adams hotel now stands, and though Clover passed before she was able to live there, her spirit clings to the home she helped design.

Unfortunately, after the death of her father, Clover became depressed and ended her life by consuming potassium cyanide, which is an almond-scented chemical used by photographers for developing film--she was an avid photographer. She passed away in early December, and strange activity in the hotel happens around that time of the year. Some of the things people have witnessed include locked doors suddenly unlocking on their own, chandeliers swaying, radios turning off, and objects flying through the air. Orbs and apparitions appear, and people frequently encounter cold spots. Witnesses also hear the sound of a woman crying and notice the sudden scent of almonds.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, just outside of Washington D.C., was President George Washington's home. He died there in his bedroom in 1799, and there are some indications that President Washington never fully left.

People who work at the house, which is now a tourist destination, have reported more than a few strange occurrences. People who lived in the house after the President's death claimed to hear his footsteps and feel his presence nearby.

Since becoming a museum, the strangeness has continued. One of these occurrences is tied to the spirit of President Washington himself. He was said to always carry a heavy ring of keys, and a museum guard reported that once, on the anniversary of Washington's death, the sound of keys jangling could be heard in the otherwise-empty building.

Many Ghosts Roam Washington, DC

There is no shortage of haunted places in Washington, DC, with colorful stories about the ghosts roaming the city. You can take a walking ghost tour or visit many of the public publics renowned for their paranormal activity.

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10 Eerie & Real Haunted Places in Washington DC