Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy Halloween

On April 28, 1935, the Washington Post could have been printing stories about the lingering Great Depression, the escalation of fascism in Europe or the dust storms enveloping the great plains states. However a little research for my other hobby revealed what they felt their readers really wanted to read--Ghost stories.

The story references some of the more well-known haunted houses in Washington DC. There are a few paragraphs on the Tayloe House, better know to us as the Octagon. The author, Ms. Gaeta Wold Boyer, in very flowery language describes the numerous hauntings and poltergeists of that building before moving on to the Key Mansion. The home of Francis Scott Key was still standing at the time of her article. It was well known to contain the ghosts of several Key family members and, oh yeah, the ceiling was known to bleed from time to time which I'm sure hurt the resale value.

It's the initial section of her article I found most interesting. Ms. Boyer interviews the pastor of a church called "The First Spiritualist Church", who was living at 131 C Street NE where the Dirksen Senate Office Building now stands. Mysterious foot steps, doors inexplicably opening and shutting by themselves and floor boards that would creak throughout the night seem to be regular entertainment at his household. No wonder they tore it down. He then goes on to tell of the house in which he grew up and here's how his story unfolds.

When still a small boy he was sitting on the porch one night with his parents at his home on G Street NE. His father went into the dining room. They heard him strike a match to light the gas and then they heard a startled exclamation. The gas light flared up a moment, then slowly grew dim again, and the older Terry called his wife. The boy hurried in with her and there in the dim light he saw plainly the figure of a woman stretched at length on the couch, her long hair hanging over the head rest. He knew at once the woman was dead. As his father turned up the light to a full flame the figure vanished but as the light was dimmed it reappeared. As it reappeared came the distinct odor of gas fumes.
The Terrys started inquiries the next day and learned that many years before a young woman had committed suicide in that room by turning on the gas.*

Who knows whether or not that house is still standing. Only three blocks of G Street NE are not part of the Ludlow-Taylor Neighborhood so even though the article does not cite the address, it seems highly likely that it would be in our "in bounds" area. Who knows, it might even be your house.

Happy Halloween everyone!

**Gaeta Wold Boyer. "Old Washington Houses Harbor Many a Friendly Ghost of By-Gone Days." The Washington Post, April 28, 1935: FS3.

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