Haunted Octagon Museum
Photo: Courtesy of The Octagon Museum
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Even Architects Can't Explain Everything

The 1801 Octagon Museum appears to have more spirits than sides. Designed with six sides to fit a triangular lot by the first architect of the U.S. Capitol, Dr. William Thornton, the Octagon helped anchor early Washington, D.C.'s map. But, according to Washington Walks, events inside the house have been unmooring. At least two women in original owner Colonel John Tayloe's household fell to their deaths from the oval staircase. This helps account for the disembodied shrieks and the carpet at its landing that flips by itself. The skeleton of a young woman, so it is said, was found behind a wall, putting an end to the years of supernatural rapping residents had endured. When the White House was burned during the War of 1812, James and Dolley Madison stayed here. Today the smell of lilacs in the building signals Dolley's post-mortal presence. Other hauntings include the ghost of a murdered gambler, the moans of the former slaves who escaped to freedom through tunnels beneath the building during the Civil War, and a full apparitional attendance of footmen and carriages at the front door. Though the building is considered one of the most haunted in a town full of horrors, the director of the Octagon, which currently serves as the museum for the American Architectural Foundation, would like you to know that the stories are hearsay.
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