Transcripts

The Location: Is Historic Heurich House Actually Haunted?

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and this week we're bringing you a very special trick and treat, our annual haunted D.C. show. Earlier in the hour, we strolled through Haunted Annapolis and met a group of actors whose job is to creep you out. And in just a bit we'll explore a photo exhibit about a town that once attracted Hollywood starlets and is now, more or less, a ghost town.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:00:32
First though, it's our regular series, "The Location."

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:00:37
In which Kim Bender, author of the blog, "The Location," helps us explore the hidden history of Washington's places, people and culture. And this week we return to a location we visited in 2011, on our Feeling The Heat show.

MS. KIM BENDER

13:00:50
Well, hello.

SHEIR

13:00:51
Hello, Kim Bender.

BENDER

13:00:53
Welcome to the Heurich House Museum.

SHEIR

13:00:55
Thank you. The Heurich House, also known as The Brewmaster's Castle, is located just off Dupont Circle in Northwest D.C. Christian Heurich, the German-born beer magnate who built the place, was a total pyrophobe. So his house was the first fireproof residence in Washington. These days Kim Bender directs the Heurich House Museum, which, I gotta tell you, is beautiful. But I'm not gonna lie, it's also kind of spooky. I mean, you've got this enormous Victorian mansion, where eh Heurich family lived from 1894 to 1956. And the place is immaculately preserved with its original furniture, carpets, light fixtures. And yet, says Kim Bender--

BENDER

13:01:33
I do not think that this house is haunted. Obviously because it's dark in here, it's an old Victorian, there's lots of woodwork, the shutters are closed and it's--it gives a little bit of a spooky vibe. People always ask, is it haunted? And I think they really want it to be, but it's not.

SHEIR

13:01:50
But there are sort of still some stories here that have to do with superstitions...

BENDER

13:01:53
Yes.

SHEIR

13:01:53
...supernatural.

BENDER

13:01:55
Well, so just because I don’t think it's presently haunted doesn't mean that there are not some really interesting Halloween appropriate stories to tell. We can start off looking to our left over here to the reception room, where Mr. and Mrs. Heurich would spend a lot of their time. It was like their den. And they actually were spiritualists, which meant that they would have séances at the house with a medium in the reception room.

SHEIR

13:02:20
Do we have any stories of who they reached out to?

BENDER

13:02:24
Well, the one story I really know in detail is that Mr. and Mrs. Heurich were having a séance in the reception room and the medium said that she was in contact with Matilda, who was Mr. Heurich's second wife who had died in the house. And she apologized to Christian for breaking a vase and blaming it on the servant. And then all these years she has felt so guilty that the servant got blamed for breaking this. And Christian Heurich would have been the only person who knew the other side of that story and it meant something to him, it made sense to him. So maybe Matilda came and gave him a message just to clear her conscious.

SHEIR

13:03:06
Hum, and he was doing this with the third Mrs. Heurich who was Amelia, right?

BENDER

13:03:09
Amelia. His first and third wives were actually Amelia.

SHEIR

13:03:13
In name, not the same woman.

BENDER

13:03:15
Right. So the first Mrs. Heurich was with him when he purchased the land that this house is built on and she died of pneumonia soon after. Six years after Matilda, the second wife died, he married another Amelia who was the first Amelia's niece. We can go in here. I remember something else. Okay. So now we're in the echoey conservatory. And there's a fountain that's made of marble and it has etched on the top an angel baby. Now, that was Anna Marguerite, who was the Heurich's daughter, who died when she was nine months old. So this is a memorial fountain to her.

SHEIR

13:03:58
Now, did she die in this house?

BENDER

13:04:00
She didn't. She died on their farm, which was called Belmont and it was in Prince George's County. Actually, on a site of the Prince George's Plaza.

SHEIR

13:04:09
Does anyone talk about the baby haunting this house?

BENDER

13:04:11
Well, I mean, I've heard people who say they used to work here and they heard the baby's cries. And I have to be honest, I don't believe it because the funny thing about this building is that even though it's made of concrete and steel and it sort of protects the sound, if people walk by the house you can actually hear them. So I'm sure that that's what happened.

SHEIR

13:04:32
Yeah.

BENDER

13:04:34
Debunking the myths.

SHEIR

13:04:36
So where shall we go next, if we're gonna debunk some more haunted Heurich House myths?

BENDER

13:04:43
So we can go up to the second floor which is the living quarters and also has the bedroom where anyone who has died in this house, they died in this bedroom. So I'm gonna be truly honest, it was the one room that has ever given me a little bit of pause in a sense.

SHEIR

13:05:00
Okay. Now, she confesses.

SHEIR

13:05:04
So let's go on up. So here we are in the master bedroom. This is the room where Mr. Heurich died when he was 102, almost 103. And it's the room where Mrs. Heurich, Amelia, died in 1956.

SHEIR

13:05:20
And you're saying this room did give you a bit of pause when you first started working here.

BENDER

13:05:25
When I think of every room in the house, this is one where I might feel something.

SHEIR

13:05:32
So we've seen several rooms at this point and you've told stories that, you know, border on the supernatural and superstitious, but not so much ghostly and yet, I know, when I walk by this house I see other people walking by this house and I'm sure they're talking amongst themselves saying, what is that big scary thing? There have gotta be ghost stories in there.

BENDER

13:05:50
I mean, it looks like it could be a haunted house.

SHEIR

13:05:51
It really does.

BENDER

13:05:52
Because it's so dark and Victorian. I mean, we can't discount some of the things that happened. Not every family had séances in their front reception room, but I think this house has a peaceful feeling. And I really think the stories about it being haunted, that anybody has ever experienced are not really--have never been proven to me and I've been here for two years. And my predecessor was here for almost six years and he actually lived in the building and he never experienced anything. So I'm gonna stick with that story until something proves otherwise.

SHEIR

13:06:26
Well, Kim Bender, thank you as always, for taking the time to show me around another location.

BENDER

13:06:31
Thank you, Rebecca. Thanks for coming by.

SHEIR

13:06:45
Want to decide for yourself whether the Heurich House is haunted? You can take a free guided tour on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We have more information, along with photos of the old Victorian home on our website, metroconnection.org.
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