The U.S. Capitol Building

First Street SE, Washington, DC

Designed by a failed necromancer, the U.S. Capitol Building is overrun with poltergeists. From demonic cats to phantom presidents, this is the Most Haunted Building in the World.

Did You Know?

  • Most Haunted Building in the World
  • Designed by a Failed Necromancer
  • Site of Numerous Deaths
  • Cursed by John Lenthall
  • Home of a Demonic Cat

Is the U.S. Capitol Building Haunted?

Once declared the Most Haunted Building in the World by the Philadelphia Press, this property has demonic entities, phantom presidents, and spectral soldiers. There’s everything from blood stains on the staircase to the poltergeist of an infernal feline.

Oh, there’s also an alleged curse on the property as well as Washington’s creepy crypt. If you’re looking for ghostly ongoings, the Capitol Building’s got you covered.

The Demon Cat

It turns out that politicians weren’t the only rats on Capitol Hill. The poltergeist of this former mouse-catcher is now the property’s spectral stray.

Best identified by his phantom paw prints, this fiendish feline appears suddenly before tragic or national events. Known as "Demon Cat," he prowls the halls of the Capitol Building, terrifying guards and Capitol-goers alike.

Cave Entrace

Demon Cat was first spotted by a nightwatchman in the early nineteenth century. He, like later watchmen in 1862 and 1898, unsuccessfully shot at the mysterious specter. Each time, the devilish entity grew panther-size before disappearing down the Capitol's dark corridors.

Demon Cat most famously materialized before President Lincoln and President Kennedy's assassinations, leading paranormal enthusiasts to believe he's an ominous energy. He was even spotted before the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

More eerily, Demon Cat is witnessed in Washington's Crypt.

In the early 1930s, the “Stygian feline” was reported to have “the generous proportions of Mae West plus the disposition of Bela Lugosi.” While that’s one hell of a mixed metaphor, visit the Capitol Building if you’re into creepy cats.

The Ghost of John Quincy Adams

While Washington D.C. has no shortage of presidential poltergeists, this former head of state died in the Capitol Building. John Quincy Adams had been giving a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives whenever he suddenly suffered a stroke.

Although he was rushed to the Speaker’s Lobby, he lost complete consciousness. Never to recover from his abrupt and unexpected coma, John Quincy Adams died two days later.

Cave Entrace

Even if his body left, his spirit stayed behind. Today, staffers claim to hear his mournful cries throughout the premise. Some even allege that they can still hear him declare his deliberate “NO” – the last words he uttered during his desperate debate.

Do the residual energies from this phantom president remain?

Civil War Specters

In 1862, the US military briefly repurposed the U.S. Capitol into a Union Hospital for enlisted Civil War Soldiers. Over one thousand cots were placed in Statuary Hall, allowing slews of servicemen to pass throughout the property, bloody and bandaged and barely alive.

They were later removed from the property, but the specter of one Civil War Soldier decided to stick close. This poltergeist paces the property today, where staffers witness his shadow stalk among the statues.

Blood Stains on the Staircase

Demonic entities and dead presidents aren’t the spookiest thing in the Capitol Building. There are bloodstains on the staircase, too.

You can credit that to an absurd assassination.

Cave Entrace

In 1890, Congressman William Preston Taulbee was shot on the steps of the establishment by a reporter he had previously bullied. The correspondent, Charles Kinkaid of The Louisville Times, had outed Taulbee for an alleged affair.

Kinkaid’s headline infamously read, “Kentucky’s Silver-Tongued Taulbee Caught in Flagrante or Thereabouts.” Naturally, Taulbee backfired through ridicule.

He would often publicly tease the correspondent, picking on the reporter’s scrawny size. Taulbee was a foot taller than Kinkaid, which he relentlessly mentioned.

We guess Kinkaid decided he was no longer getting the short end of the stick, because he shot Taulbee on the Capitol staircase. Taulbee died eleven days after the attack.

Kinkaid, who had fired in Taulbee’s face, was acquitted on the basis of self-defense.

Is that why Taulbee’s specter stalks the Capitol Building today? Taulbee is known to trip reporters near the staircase, the site where his blood still stains. Perhaps he seeks vengeance upon his (miniature) murderer.

The History of the U.S. Capitol Building

While George Washington famously laid the cornerstone to this formidable building in 1791, it wasn’t until William Thornton was hired as designer that things began to take shape. Literally, but also metaphorically.

The blueprint was just the beginning of the building’s bizarre history.

Resurrecting the Dead George Washington

Thornton was not a professional architect. Instead, he was a distinguished polymath and, perhaps more controversially, a doctor.

Whenever he was called to save the dying George Washington, Thornton was unable to arrive until after his death. Not wanting to appear totally useless, Thornton proposed he bring him back to life. Thornton’s infamous idea was as follows:

I proposed to attempt his restoration, in the following manner. First to thaw him in cold water, then to lay him in blankets, & by degrees & by friction to give him warmth, and to put into activity the minute blood vessels, at the same time to open a passage to the Lungs by the Trachea, and to inflate them with air, to produce an artificial respiration, and to transfuse blood into him from a lamb.

Thornton concluded that he was not seconded in this proposal, since it was deemed unavailing. Despite Thornton’s optimism and belief in his ability to resurrect the dead, Martha Washington declined.

That’s just how the Capitol Building began. Like the majority of American History, it gets worse.

Walter Gresham, sitting in his library in Gresham’s Palace

Failed Necromancer, Failed Architect

The only thing more embarrassing than being a failed necromancer is being a failed architect. Thornton’s designs for the Capitol Building were so impractical that a professional architect from Great Britain was hired to complete the project.

You know things are bad whenever you’re calling upon the country you’ve just fought against for help.

The new architect was Benjamin Latrobe, who completely changed the property’s layout. He was largely successful in his reimagining of the Capitol Building, but his tenure was not without tragedy.

Construction Manager Crushed by Collapsing Beam

Like all prestigious nepotists, Latrobe hired his close friend John Lenthall to supervise the building’s construction. Lenthall was by all accounts a notorious cheapskate, regularly taking the most inexpensive route possible.

This proved to be more than a costly endeavour, ultimately taking Lenthall’s life.

Whenever Lenthall mistakenly went to remove wooden supports from the building, the vaulting collapsed upon the construction manager. Latrobe later reported that this had been a miscalculation on the part of Lenthall.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and Lenthall was crushed until death. John Lenthall died beneath the very establishment he had helped construct.

Lenthall’s Curse

Legend has it that John Lenthall cursed the building with his last breath. The Capitol Building now experiences unexplained structural crumblings such as decrepit columns and mysterious collapses.

Whether Lenthall’s Curse is real depends on you. Perhaps the building was cursed before Lenthall, and Lenthall never stood a chance. Perhaps the Capitol's former streak of bad luck was coincidence. You’ll have to ask Demon Cat next time he makes his rounds.

Expansions, Renovations, and Roofing Catastrophes

As America grew, so did the Capitol Building. Architect Thomas U. Walter was later hired to expand the establishment, who added two new wings and a 288-foot cast-iron dome.

Most remarkably, Abraham Lincoln was notably sworn in before the unfinished dome in 1861. The construction of the dome continued until 1866.

During the dome’s reconstruction, Pringle Slight was hired on to complete the project. Slight even constructed the temporary wooden roof above the Rotunda floor to protect the Rotunda during the dome’s development.

He was an invaluable asset to the Capitol Building’s renovation.

Pringle’s son Robert Slight was also hired to help finish the formation of the dome, yet Robert was less lucky. During construction, Robert fell through the wooden roof, undergoing catastrophic injuries. He died several days after his accident.

Cave Entrace

Dead Presidents and Poltergeists

Robert is said to haunt the Rotunda today, but his poltergeist is one of many. The bodies of twenty-nine Americans have been put on display on the Rotunda’s Lincoln Catafalque.

National figures in particular are exhibited within the Rotunda, most recently President Ford.

Their spirits linger among the Capitol Building’s imposing pillars, forever tethered to this historic complex.

Visiting the U.S. Capitol Building

Visitors are encouraged to explore the U.S. Capitol Building Visitor’s Center. Let us know if you encounter any paranormal activity!

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