A Ghostly Slumber Party: One Night At The Octagon House (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

A Ghostly Slumber Party: One Night At The Octagon House

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
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

00:00:27
The house also gained notoriety for supposedly harboring, yes, ghosts.

MR. RAY RHINEHART

00:00:32
Let's go downstairs because when it comes to ghosts, this is very upstairs, downstairs.

SHEIR

00:00:37
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...

RHINEHART

00:00:55
A pounding on the wall.

SHEIR

00:00:58
A pounding or a tapping. Supposedly the wall eventually was excavated.

RHINEHART

00:01:03
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.

SHEIR

00:01:11
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...

RHINEHART

00:01:33
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?

SHEIR

00:01:40
I kind of -- honestly, well, I kind of choked. I don't know if I could handle that. Which is why...

SHEIR

00:01:49
...one year later...

MS. ERICA GEES

00:01:50
Welcome to the Octagon.

SHEIR

00:01:52
Thank you.

MS. TARA BOYLE

00:01:53
Thank you.

SHEIR

00:01:54
...I decided to redeem myself. But I wasn't alone. With me was Tara Boyle...

BOYLE

00:01:59
You go first, Rebecca.

SHEIR

00:02:01
Thanks Tara, so kind of you. "Metro Connection's" trusty managing producer and Erica Gees.

GEES

00:02:08
What's interesting is, we are the first persons to sleep in this house since probably 1901.

SHEIR

00:02:15
Are you serious?

BOYLE

00:02:16
Oh, my God.

SHEIR

00:02:18
Erica has been directing the Octagon House museum for about a year.

GEES

00:02:22
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.

SHEIR

00:02:31
Would you have taken on the job if you would've known?

GEES

00:02:33
Oh, yes.

SHEIR

00:02:35
After depositing our sleeping bags in the elegant dining room, where, by the way, you'll see much of the original solid wood furniture.

GEES

00:02:42
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.

SHEIR

00:02:49
Erica toured us around the house. As the clock neared midnight, we carried our vintage lanterns across the creaky first floor…

GEES

00:02:57
Let's take a look here.

SHEIR

00:02:59
...ascended that legendary staircase.

GEES

00:03:01
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.

SHEIR

00:03:14
Indeed. And we visited the Treaty room.

GEES

00:03:16
And this is where the Treaty was signed, on this desk.

SHEIR

00:03:19
The master bedroom.

GEES

00:03:20
This is where Dolley Madison slept when she was here.

SHEIR

00:03:23
And I got to say, I was doing fine until it was time to head back down.

GEES

00:03:30
So shall we go to the basement?

SHEIR

00:03:32
All the way down. You're asking me? Don't ask me because you know what I'll say.

GEES

00:03:36
(unintelligible) .

SHEIR

00:03:38
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.

BOYLE

00:03:50
Wait, can we just stop for a moment? Wait.

SHEIR

00:03:52
Well -- what?

BOYLE

00:03:54
Do you hear that? It's tapping, do you not hear that?

SHEIR

00:04:00
I do not hear tapping, no.

BOYLE

00:04:01
I hear it.

SHEIR

00:04:02
You guys are freaking me out. You guys are freaking me out.

BOYLE

00:04:06
I hear tapping, I swear to God there's...

SHEIR

00:04:08
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?

GEES

00:04:27
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.

BOYLE

00:04:45
You're kidding.

GEES

00:04:46
No, I'm not kidding. I can go take a peek.

BOYLE

00:04:51
I'm not going to let you go by yourself, though.

SHEIR

00:04:53
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?

BOYLE

00:05:04
Sure, that's fine.

SHEIR

00:05:05
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.

GEES

00:05:14
Good night.

BOYLE

00:05:15
Good night.

SHEIR

00:05:16
We somehow fell asleep. Okay. So it's 7:00 -- is it 7:00?

GEES

00:05:23
It's 7 o'clock.

SHEIR

00:05:24
It's 7 o'clock in the morning. And we just spent the night in the Octagon House. Good morning, Tara.

BOYLE

00:05:37
Hello, good morning. I still want to see Dolley Madison.

SHEIR

00:05:41
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.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.