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Haunted Halls of Congress: 5 Creepy Capitol Legends

Working on Capitol Hill you hear your fair share of myths, mysteries and folklore about the historic buildings and its previous (we think) inhabitants. Given that the Capitol was once expected to be the final resting place for George Washington, replete with a crypt, should we be surprised that multiple Capitol-related ghost stories exist?

Here are five of the creepiest legends about the Capitol Building.

1. Demon cat terrorizes Capitol employees in the building at night.

A ghost cat that supposedly haunts the Capitol Building, appears before historic or tragic national events and has even left a set of paw prints outside of the Old Supreme Court Chamber. While the paw prints are indeed in the floor near the entrance of the chamber, they are more likely from cats once used to kill vermin at the Capitol rather than a demon.

2. Wounded Civil War soldier wanders through Statuary Hall.

In 1862, the military briefly converted the U.S. Capitol into a hospital for wounded Union soldiers. More than 1,000 cots were placed in Statuary Hall before patients were removed later that year. According to legend, at least one soldier never left the building. Over the years, staffers have claimed they have seen the shadow of a soldier among the statues.

3. John Lenthall, clerk to architect Benjamin Latrobe, cursed the building with his dying breath.

Lenthall was working on what is today referred to as the Old Supreme Court when he mistakenly removed wooden supports during construction of the space. An arch in the room collapsed and killed him. Folklore proclaims that as Lenthall lay dying he cursed the building before ultimately expiring.

4. The voice of John Quincy Adams can be heard shouting "No!" near the Speakers Lobby.

During a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, Adams loudly voted "no" on a resolution then promptly collapsed at his desk. He was moved to the Speakers' Lobby where he fell into a coma and died two days later. Some Capitol employees claim to hear someone shouting "no" late at night.

5. A moaning William Preston Taulbee, who was shot by a reporter for The Louisville Times, is occasionally heard mumbling in a Capitol stairwell.

In 1887, Taulbee's career ended after a correspondent for The Louisville Times wrote an article alleging an affair. Over the next two years the former member, who now worked as a lobbyist, and the reporter bumped into each other. Often, Taulbee would tease the reporter, a much smaller man. By 1890, the reporter had enough of the harassment and shot Taulbee on the stairs. He died 11 days later. A stain on the stairs in the Capitol building is often attributed to the former congressman's blood.

While these five oft-repeated tales around Capitol Hill are the creepiest to us, they are certainly not the only ghost stories to infest the halls of Congress. As darkness falls this Halloween we hope your imaginations run wild!

Comment below with your creepiest Capitol Hill story. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, be sure to vote for your favorite creepiest story on the Architect of the Capitol's social media accounts.

Editor's Note:
The votes are in! See the results below.

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Connie Miller (not verified)
I was in Washington DC for the first time this past Sept. 2016. I'm looking forward to a return visit in 2017. I love the place, you have very kind people and a ton of rich history! I want to visit the haunted halls!

David Linn (not verified)
A former tour guide told me she was alone in the Old Senate Chamber in the early 1980s and one of the books on the desks opened. Thank you for the interesting article!

Brenda Conway, RN (not verified)
Enjoyable read while riding the commuter bus into work. Thank you!

Michael Lilly (not verified)
Just maybe these events happened along with many more. Thank You for relating these.

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