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Don't Go In the Basement: Inside Brooks Mansion

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Brooks Mansion, a former plantation that now houses D.C.'s public access TV station, is allegedly haunted.
Tyler Nelson: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mediaslave/3554850383/
Brooks Mansion, a former plantation that now houses D.C.'s public access TV station, is allegedly haunted.

On Newton Street in Northwest, D.C., sits the Brooks Mansion. It was built back in the 1830s by Colonel Jehiel Brooks. Since then, the building has been a school and a convent. The D.C. government eventually bought the historical landmark, and now it's home to DCTV, the city's public access TV station. DCTV has had its headquarters there for the past 10 years. And during that time, nearly everyone on staff has witnessed something mysterious.

Ghosts of the Brooks Mansion

On the outside, the Brooks Mansion doesn't look particularly menacing. It's painted yellow, and surrounded by bushes and flowers. But back when DCTV took over the space, it was a different story.

"It was really gross in here," says Nantz Rickard, president and CEO of DCTV. "It was really moldy, it was disgusting, there was trash, it smelled, there were dead things lying around."

When Rickard brought in a general contractor to look at the place, that's when she first heard about the ghosts.

"He walked up to the building and he put his hand on the door and said 'there's nothing you could pay me to go in the building, I'm not going in that building. It's haunted!'"

To Rickard, these stories were new. But to her staff, especially Mark Leek, who grew up near Brookland, it was all very familiar.

"When I was a child, maybe I was 5 or 6, I remember my grandfather brought us over for trick or treating," says Leek. "He said 'oh, yes, it's haunted.' He said 'It's haunted by Colonel Brooks' and I said 'OK.'"

Leek mentions another story about a little girl who is supposedly in the basement. He says he's never seen the little girl, but from time to time, he notices little things and says there could only be one person responsible - Colonel Brooks.

"I will see something... the TV just changed channels... on it's own," says Leek. "Yes, I do believe that his spirit is in the building."

Jackie Reardon often works the night shift, 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.

"I was here by myself, and I was looking at something on the monitor," she says. "I leaned forward to get a closer look, and some entity touched my right shoulder. I said to myself, 'ok, this is a little weird.' I didn't panic, but I was very uncomfortable. I picked up my bag, I locked the door behind me and I left."

A mansion filled with many ghosts

Rickard brought ghost expert Rev. Sue Greer in for some consulting before DCTV moved into the Brooks Mansion. Greer says though she hadn't visited the building in some time, Colonel Brooks' spirit was still there.

And it wasn't just his spirit. There were spirits in every room, practically every corner of the house. All together, she found about 40 different ghosts. And because each ghost must be dealt with individually, the Brooks Mansion became a long-term project.

"A ghost is an earthbound spirit," she says. "They're not aware that they've died sometimes. They want to tell you why they're hiding, and that's important to help them move out."

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

"During the clean, we had things fly out of our hands, there was some resistance there," Greer says. "They didn't want to go. Definitely they can interfere in the-what you call it - the real world."

And that's why the stories of the elevators going up and down, and the TVs changing channels... they don't surprise her at all.

A ghost story for generations to come

To keep the spirits from returning, Greer suggested adding the fountain and fence around the property. As far as she knows, the only spirit that should still be there is Colonel Brooks.

"He's been there probably the longest, so there was a respect," she says. "He has a right to be there, it was his home."

And that confirmation is pretty much all it takes to keep this ghost story alive among the younger generation of staffers, such as Jamal Jemison and Gina Vontrez. Both were initiated with tales of Colonel Brooks, the little girl, and the slaves in the basement. Jemison says, until he sees something, he's not concerned.

"If I saw a ghost, I'd be like what was your life like, I can tell you what mine is like now," says Jemison. "And just talk about history."

"Not for me," says Vontrez says. "I'd be like, out the building!

When something does happen to him, Jemison says, he'll be the first to admit it. But until then, to him, it's just all part of the building's story. Plus, he says, it makes a great story to tell the interns. Especially since, according to Greer, it's true.

[Music: "Killing Spree" by The Chromatics from Night Drive / "I Put a Spell On You [Karaoke Version] [In the Style of Credence Clearwater Revival]" by The Karaoke Channel from The Karaoke Channel - In the Style of Credence Clearwater Revival - Vol. 3]

Photos: Brooks Mansion


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