Transcripts

Buried Treasure & Depressed Ghosts: Touring Haunted Capitol Hill

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:04
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And as we continue our exploration of haunted D.C., we head now to Washington's Capitol Hill neighborhood, where I met up with someone.

MR. TIM KREPP

00:00:19
How are you doing?

SHEIR

00:00:20
Good. How are you?

KREPP

00:00:20
Good, good.

SHEIR

00:00:21
Good to see you.

KREPP

00:00:22
You, too, you, too. How's it going?

SHEIR

00:00:23
It's going well.

KREPP

00:00:24
It's going well, yes?

SHEIR

00:00:24
Who not only lives in this neck of the D.C. woods...

SHEIR

00:00:26
How long have you called Capitol Hill home?

KREPP

00:00:29
We moved here in 2001.

SHEIR

00:00:31
But is intimately familiar with the area's otherworldly legends and lore. Tim is a licensed guide who's led many a ghost tour of the neighborhood, especially the area around the Marine barracks and Navy Yard. So we met up at the Eastern Market Metro Stop.

SHEIR

00:00:45
Shall we go off and have some adventure?

KREPP

00:00:46
Yes. Let's wander around, find us some of our -- a couple of ghosts here. Yes, 'tis the season.

SHEIR

00:00:52
And we did a little ghost hunting or ghost story hunting anyway, starting at the oldest public building in continuous use in the nation's capital, the stately Commandant's House, at the north end of the Marine barracks.

KREPP

00:01:04
The house you see, the Commandant's House, survived the British coming here in 1814, which is a very panicky time for the Americans. The British are coming, they're coming to burn Washington. And at that time, sailors and Marines were paid coinage, paper money was unreliable. So as the legend, two Marine sergeants were given the task of guarding this payroll while all the rest of the Marines hurriedly ran up to Bladensburg to defend it from the British.

KREPP

00:01:30
In that process, being good Marines, they didn't want to be left out of a fight. They figured, you know, why don't we just hide the gold, there's buried treasure somewhere on the Marine barracks here. So they dug it up, they put it somewhere in there and they went up to the battle and were both killed. So no one knows where that treasure is. But that's not really where the story ends.

KREPP

00:01:51
Marines have reported seeing the two sergeants and for a while, they thought they were perhaps leading them to the treasure. But now they seem to believe that the ghosts of the sergeants are leading them away from the treasure and to this day, they're still guarding the treasures.

SHEIR

00:02:03
Valiant and diligent even in death.

KREPP

00:02:05
Absolutely. They were given a task to do and, you know, they're not going to let death get in the way of that. So we'll walk over this way and we got about a couple of blocks to the next one here.

SHEIR

00:02:17
So where are we now?

KREPP

00:02:18
So we're on the corner of 7th and G. And if you look down 7th Street to the Navy Yard, you can just make out a bit of the roofline of what's called The Tingey House. It was named after Commodore Tingey, the builder of the Naval Yard. He was a very important figure. He was the longest serving commodore of the Navy Yard. He built the house. The house is used as the home of the Chief of Naval Operations, who is the highest-ranking naval officer. We saw the Commandant's House, the highest-ranking Marine officer.

KREPP

00:02:43
Commodore Tingey -- he had to burn the place during 1814. He was the one that ordered the Navy Yard burned to prevent it from falling in the hands of the advancing British and he was the one that to rebuild it. Now, the CNO, Chief of Naval Operations, and often their wives have reported seeing Commodore Tingey walking around the house. And he's very distinctive when he walks around the Navy Yard. He's in a hurry, he's wearing all the symbols of his naval authority. He has a sword belted to him, he has his spyglass underneath his arm. He has his old foreign aft cap. You remember the old foreign...

SHEIR

00:03:14
Yes, yes.

KREPP

00:03:14
And you can tell that he's in a hurry because he hasn't had time to change from his full uniform. He has all these things clapped over his nightshirt and so he's managed to get the sword and the spyglass and a hat, but he hasn't changed into uniform.

SHEIR

00:03:27
I like that one.

KREPP

00:03:28
It's a fun one. We'll walk up the street here and we're going to go visit the oldest existing house on Capitol Hill and it had a ghost that used to live there. And we'll talk about who that ghost was and what happened to, presumably, her.

KREPP

00:03:46
This is the Maples. It was recently purchased by a developer who's going to turn into condos, but the Maples was built by English businessman after the revolution in 1795. My favorite resident of this place is Emily Briggs. She was a journalist and this was a time when women journalists weren't that common. She wrote under the name Olivia Briggs. She came to Washington D.C. with the Civil War. Her husband was one of those followers, swept up in the whole Lincoln thing. He was from the Midwest, she was from the Midwest.

KREPP

00:04:17
They came to D.C. As so often happens here, their party had won and they came with the president. Sometime after she moved in, she felt a presence in the house, a very heavy sadness in house. And this was after her husband passed after. And it seemed to be centered in one room of the house. Not her bedroom, but a different bedroom. And she kind of, you know, gave that bedroom its space and she just coexisted with the ghost for many, many years and they became real comfortable with each other. And the ghost, if you will, wasn't scary, just seemed to be depressed and sad.

KREPP

00:04:48
And one morning she wakes up and the presence is gone and she kind of goes to this one room where it was always had -- and the bed has clearly been laid in. And in the pillow, there's a single white pearl and that was the last she ever saw or felt of the ghost. And she kind of felt that the ghost kind of got feeling a little better and has gone to wherever ghosts do when they stop being ghosts and that left a little of a thank you note.

KREPP

00:05:13
So Olivia never really looked to who the ghost was, but there is a story -- not a story, an actual historical record of another couple that lived here before the Civil War. Major Nickelson and he was the quartermaster of the Marine Corps, the person in charge of supplies and things like that. He met a young lady up in New York City, got married. She was from a wealthy family and he came down here.

KREPP

00:05:33
They had 11 children together and shortly after the birth of their 11th child, she accuses her husband, the major, of cheating on her, of running around with another woman, specifically Sally Carroll of the very influential and famous Carroll family who had a house called Duddington Place, it's about eight blocks over that way. The major, of course, denies everything, says no way possible.

KREPP

00:05:55
But Mrs. Nickelson doesn't believe him and kills herself in this house. Now, whether anything was going beforehand we don't know but Major Nickelson did end up getting married to Sally Carroll six months after the death of his wife so, yes, so we kind of put the stories together and we think that there was this tragic death of Mrs. Nickelson and Olivia Briggs feeling this horribly sad ghost and who would have a better reason to be horribly sad than Mrs. Nickelson.

KREPP

00:06:19
So even if you don't believe in ghosts -- and I wouldn't say I really believe in ghosts. The stories illustrate important parts of our history in ways that I think are funnier than just a textbook or things like that. Whether you really want to believe two sergeants hid the Navy's payroll in 1814 or not, there's a lot to talk about. The Battle of Bladensburg happened and how that story shows some of the hurried preparations we had to do to evacuate the city and things like that.

SHEIR

00:06:43
Well, Tim Krepp, thank you so much for this ghostly tour of Capitol Hill. It's been fun.

KREPP

00:06:48
Well, I'm glad and I have to say it's a whole different mood at night. So you got to come by and try one of the nighttime tours.

SHEIR

00:06:53
Once I build up the courage, I will try.

SHEIR

00:06:57
Tim Krepp is a tour guide and author of the blog, "D.C. Like A Local." To see photos of some of the spooky spots you just heard about, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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