Lafayette Square Park

Pennsylvania Ave NW &apm; 16th Street Northwest, Washington, DC

Don’t let the arcadian atmosphere fool you, there’s something wicked in President’s Park.

Did You Know?

  • Created by President Thomas Jefferson
  • Site of a District Attorney’s Murder
  • Linked to First Successful Use of Temporary Insanity
  • Former Slave Market and Soldier Encampment

Is Lafayette Square Park Haunted?

There’s a reason locals call this place “Tragedy Square.” Once a graveyard, slave market, and encampment for soldiers during the War of 1812, this seven-acre park is a paranormal hotspot.

Visitors to the haunted property spot partial-bodied apparitions and mysterious specters. Others hear inconsolable sobbing and the creepy clanking of chains.

Yet, it’s most chilling claim to fame involves one deadly sex scandal. Who are the poltergeists of President’s Park?

An American Affair

In 1859, Lafayette Square Park witnessed an all-American murder. The perpetrator was a Representative of the United States Congress who doubled as an unfaithful husband. The victim was a District Attorney and the son of the celebrated Francis Scott Key.

While Representative Daniel Sickles' infidelities were infamous, his adultery was met with clear conscience.

Sickles thought little of his own two-timing, despite how well-known his liaisons had become. Even Sickle’s wife couldn’t hide from the publicity of her husband’s sins.

Perhaps that’s what pushed Teresa Sickles into the arms of District Attorney Philip Barton Key II. They’d meet together in Lafayette Square Park in secrecy, indulging their feverish affections.

“Barton Key Has Had as Much Use of Your Wife as You Have”

Like a weathervane in a storm, they’d signal to one another by draping strings from the window of a nearby house.

Yet, this soon drew attention, and Daniel Sickles received an anonymous letter outing their affair. The notorious note alleged that “Barton Key has had as much use of your wife as you have,” humiliating the self-righteous Representative.

Once Daniel charged at his wife, Teresa desperately confessed her adultery. Records report that her hysterical sobs kept the house awake for days.

Daniel Seeks Revenge

Feeling cuckolded, Daniel feared Teresa’s affair had ruined his reputation. He sought revenge on Teresa’s beloved, plotting death for this dashing District Attorney.

His opportunity came on February 27 whenever Daniel witnessed his wife waving to someone from her upper window. Whenever he looked to spot the recipient of her affections, he witnessed Barton himself.

Thwarted Lovers, Thwarted Lives

Barton was unaware that their affair had been outed, and approached Daniel with candor. You can imagine Barton’s shock whenever Daniel offered not his handshake in Lafayette Square, but his loaded pistol.

Within moments, he began to gun his wife’s unassuming lover. Barton, who begged for mercy, was shot three times. He was bundled up and brought to the nearby Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House, dying soon after his arrival.

Temporary Insanity

Daniel’s trial was as historic as it was haunting. Although he was charged with murder, Daniel Sickles was never sentenced to prison. He instead pleaded temporary insanity.

Although it wasn’t the first time that temporary insanity was used as a legal defense, it was the first time it had been successful. Daniel Sickles had gotten away with murder.

Severed Legs and The Civil War

Karma always catches up with killers, and the aftermath of the homicide hit Daniel hard. He was later granted a military post in the Battle of Gettysburg, yet found he was no longer favored by fortune.

Not only was his battalion destroyed, his leg was severed by a cannonball. The amputated leg was sent to the Army Medical Museum, where it remains today.

Ghosts of Lafayette Square Park

Legend has it that Philip lingers in Lafayette Square Park today, stalking the streets where he was shot. Those sensitive to paranormal energies allege that Daniel joins him, limping in pursuit.

Does his half-legless specter haunt the lawn? Let us know if you encounter any paranormal activity.

The History of Lafayette Square Park

Named after the French Hero of the American Revolutionary War, Lafayette Square Park began in 1804 whenever President Thomas Jefferson split White House law. The White House grounds sat at the South Side while the new Lafayette Square sat at the North.

It’s known today for its usage as a graveyard, slave market, and encampment for soldiers during the War of 1812. It’s less macabre lineage includes a zoo and a racetrack. Visitors to the park will also find the first bronze statue cast in the nation.

Visiting Lafayette Square Park

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