Don't Go In The Basement: Inside Brooks Mansion (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Don't Go In the Basement: Inside Brooks Mansion

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We head across the city now to another historic home owned by another well- to-do Washingtonian. The Brooks Mansion dates back to the 1830s. It was built by Colonel Jehiel Brooks. And since those early days, the building on Newton Street Northeast has been a school, it's been a convent. The D.C. government eventually bought the historic landmark, but for a long time, it was abandoned.

MS. NANTZ RICKARD

00:00:25
It was disgusting in here. There was trash. I mean, it was really deteriorated from water damage. It was really moldy. I mean, there were dead things lying around.

SHEIR

00:00:34
Nantz Rickard is President and CEO of DCTV, the city's public access television station. DCTV has been headquartered in the Brooks Mansion for the past decade and during that time, nearly everyone on staff has witnessed something mysterious in another worldly kind of way. Emily Friedman takes us to this historic home to find out, is it really haunted?

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

00:00:57
If you go there now, you'll see the Brooks Mansion doesn't look particularly menacing. It's painted yellow, surrounded by bushes and flowers. But back when DCTV first took over the space, it was a different story.

RICKARD

00:01:10
Well, the first I really heard of that was an experience when we were bringing a general contractor in through here. He walked up to the building and he put his hand on the front door and he said, there's nothing you can pay me to go in that building, I am not going in that building. It's haunted. Once I heard that story, then I started hearing other stories. You know, people saying, yeah, yeah, you know, it's haunted.

FRIEDMAN

00:01:35
So do you think it's haunted?

RICKARD

00:01:37
So -- well, I don't know.

FRIEDMAN

00:01:42
These ghost stories were new to Rickard, but to her staff, especially Mark Leeke who grew up around Brookland, it was all very familiar.

MR. MARK LEEKE

00:01:51
When I was a child, I was probably about five or six, I remember my grandfather bringing me and my siblings over and we did trick or treating in the neighborhood. And, you know, he said, it's haunted by Colonel Brooks. And I said, okay. Now, there's another story about a little girl. And the little girl supposed to be in the basement. Now, that kind of freaks me out.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:21
Leeke says he's never seen the girl, but he still gets a little nervous every time he goes down there.

LEEKE

00:02:27
Okay, we are in the basement of Brooks Mansion.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:31
I was expecting, like, a dungeon. Jacquie Rearden often works the nightshift, sitting alone in the building for hours on end. Reardon says it's pretty common for the elevator to go up and down on its own and sometimes, she says, it gets even stranger.

MS. JACQUIE REARDEN

00:02:47
I was here by myself and I was looking at something on the monitor and I leaned forward to get a closer look and some entity touched my right shoulder. I picked up my bag and I locked the door behind me and I left.

REV. SUE GREER

00:03:06
I haven't visited the Brooks Mansion in quite some time, but from what I've heard, they are aware of Colonel Brooks. He's definitely still there.

FRIEDMAN

00:03:13
That's Reverend Sue Greer. She's a ghost expert and DCTV President, Nantz Rickard brought her in for some consulting before they moved everyone into the Brooks Mansion. She says, as soon as she walked in the building, she felt a strong presence, many strong presences actually.

GREER

00:03:31
Colonel Brooks was the first and he kind of followed me around. He was very curious about what was going on.

FRIEDMAN

00:03:36
There were spirits in every room, practically every corner of the house.

GREER

00:03:40
There were probably about 10 or 12 in the basement alone.

FRIEDMAN

00:03:43
All together, she found about 40 different ghosts. And because each ghost needs to be dealt with individually, the Brooks Mansion became a long term project.

GREER

00:03:53
Some of them really want to tell their stories, you know. They want to tell you why, you know, why they're hiding. They're not even aware that they've died sometimes. And then that's important to help them move out, to move on.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:04
There were ghosts from every era, homeless squatters from the '80s, nuns from the convent, children, an entire family of slaves who had worked on the plantation. Some of them, she says, left more easily than others.

GREER

00:04:18
During the clearing, we had things fly out of our hands. It was some resistance there. They didn't want to want to go.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:25
According to Reverend Greer, the only spirit that should still be there is Colonel Brooks.

GREER

00:04:30
He's been there, probably, the longest. There was some respect, you know, that he has a right to be there, it was his home.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:36
And that confirmation is pretty much all it takes to keep this ghost story alive, at least among the younger generation of staffers. When did you first find out about the situation with the ghosts?

MR. JAMAL JEMISON

00:04:47
Yeah, I came here and then my co-workers told me the same deal, like, yeah, you know, this is a haunted mansion.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:53
Jamal Jemison was initiated with tales of Colonel Brooks, the little girl, the slaves in the basement. Jemison says, until he sees something, he's not concerned.

JEMISON

00:05:02
If I saw a ghost, I'd be like, what happened to you? What was your life like? I ain't going to be like, everyone watch out, this is "Poltergeist." I ain't going to do all that.

FRIEDMAN

00:05:10
When something does happen to him, Jemison says he'll be the first to admit it, but until then it makes a great story to tell the interns, especially since, according to Reverend Greer, it's true. I'm Emily Friedman.

SHEIR

00:05:32
If you've had an encounter of the spooky sort, here in the D.C. region, we'd like to hear about it. Send a note to metro@wamu.org or find us at facebook.com/metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:05:53
Time now for a quick break. But when we get back, it can be a teacher's worst nightmare to get a good review and still lose your job.

MS. EDWINA RIDDICK-BUSH

00:06:02
You know, I said, how I'm going to make it? You know, I'm struggling. You know, I don't know how I'm going to make it. You know, I need a job badly.

SHEIR

00:06:09
That and more in just a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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