MS. REBECCA SHEIR
First, though, on last year's haunted D.C. show, we visited what many say is the second most haunted house in Washington, right after the White House, the Octagon House. It was built by a super wealthy Virginia Family, the Tayloes at the turn of the 18th century. And not only did the Octagon gain fame for sheltering President James Madison and his wife Dolley during the War of 1812 and for being the place where Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent which ended the war.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The house also gained notoriety for supposedly harboring, yes, ghosts.
MR. RAY RHINEHART
Let's go downstairs because when it comes to ghosts, this is very upstairs, downstairs.
Ray Rhinehart is with the American Institute of Architects. AIA bought the Octagon House in 1902 and now runs it as a museum. And when Ray gave me a tour one crisp sunny day last fall, he told me tenants after the Tayloes claimed that down in the basement, they'd hear well...
A pounding on the wall.
A pounding or a tapping. Supposedly the wall eventually was excavated.
And they found the skeleton of a servant girl with fingers clasped like a fist as if you were knocking on the other side to get out.
And there are other stories, too, about Dolley Madison's ghost gliding through the rooms or two of the Tayloes daughters tumbling down the staircase to their deaths so now you'll see candles floating on the steps and a bloodstain at the bottom. Most historians will tell you, though, these legends are bunk and yet, at the end of our tour, when Ray extended a rather generous invitation...
I can see if I can arrange for you to spend an evening by yourself in this house. Do you want to take me up on that?
I kind of -- honestly, well, I kind of choked. I don't know if I could handle that. Which is why...
...one year later...
MS. ERICA GEES
Welcome to the Octagon.
MS. TARA BOYLE
...I decided to redeem myself. But I wasn't alone. With me was Tara Boyle...
You go first, Rebecca.
Thanks Tara, so kind of you. "Metro Connection's" trusty managing producer and Erica Gees.
What's interesting is, we are the first persons to sleep in this house since probably 1901.
Are you serious?
Erica has been directing the Octagon House museum for about a year.
And I've been wanting to spend a night in the Octagon since I found out it was the second most haunted house because I didn't know that when I took on this job.
Would you have taken on the job if you would've known?
After depositing our sleeping bags in the elegant dining room, where, by the way, you'll see much of the original solid wood furniture.
The table is not set, but the chairs are ready and waiting for our guests to arrive. Maybe they'll pay us a visit this evening.
Erica toured us around the house. As the clock neared midnight, we carried our vintage lanterns across the creaky first floor…
Let's take a look here.
...ascended that legendary staircase.
A (sounds like) hung stair, it's called, because it's cantilevered out from the walls. But as you can see, that baluster is very low, which is a problem for someone who might be a little too close to the baluster and may fall down, which is where one of the ghost stories comes from.
Indeed. And we visited the Treaty room.
And this is where the Treaty was signed, on this desk.
The master bedroom.
This is where Dolley Madison slept when she was here.
And I got to say, I was doing fine until it was time to head back down.
So shall we go to the basement?
All the way down. You're asking me? Don't ask me because you know what I'll say.
See, yeah, I could discount most of the Octagon lore, but something about that wall tapping story had me totally wigged out. Oh, boy. So when we reached the basement and Tara stopped dead in her tracks.
Wait, can we just stop for a moment? Wait.
Well -- what?
Do you hear that? It's tapping, do you not hear that?
I do not hear tapping, no.
You guys are freaking me out. You guys are freaking me out.
I hear tapping, I swear to God there's...
You guys are freaking me out. And once we headed back up to the dining room, Erica Gees didn't exactly calm my nerves. So, Erica, when we suggested that we wanted to do this, did you think -- honest here, did you think we'd see anything or hear anything?
No. I did not. But we did hear that noise downstairs. I mean, let's face it. And it's interesting, we have this moisture problems in the building now. We know where they're from, except there's one wall that we can't explain. And it's that same wall where we heard that sound coming from.
No, I'm not kidding. I can go take a peek.
I'm not going to let you go by yourself, though.
And I'm not letting you guys leave me in here alone. So instead, we set up camp near the empty fireplace. Do you mind if we, like, put our sleeping bags kind of close to each other?
Sure, that's fine.
Okay. And just before the witching hour of 3:00 a.m. -- okay, I'm going to sign off for now. Say good night everybody.
We somehow fell asleep. Okay. So it's 7:00 -- is it 7:00?
It's 7 o'clock.
It's 7 o'clock in the morning. And we just spent the night in the Octagon House. Good morning, Tara.
Hello, good morning. I still want to see Dolley Madison.
Yeah, we didn't see Dolley Madison. We didn't see the candle going up and down the steps. We didn’t see the stain at the bottom of the steps. As for the tapping -- we heard tapping. Did we hear the tapping? That's where I'm still uncertain. And that's why, perhaps, we here at "Metro Connection" haven't seen the last of the Octagon House. Erica Gees actually invited us to come back for another slumber party next year. As for whether we, and by that I mean I, have the guts to take her up on that offer, well, you'll just have to stay tuned. You can see photos of the Octagon House and read up on its history on our website, metroconnection.org.
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