A Skeptic’s Guide to D.C.’s 'Haunted' Octagon House - Atlas Obscura

Washington, D.C.

A Skeptic’s Guide to D.C.’s 'Haunted' Octagon House

Step inside this 19th century home to learn the truth behind the spooky legends.

Join us as we go on an alternative ghost tour with Octagon House Manager Maggie Phalen. One of the most mysterious abodes in the nation's capital, the historic Octagon House, has a disreputable history of untimely deaths and forlorn souls.

Designed by Dr. William Thornton (the architect of the U.S. Capitol) for Colonel John Tayloe, the oddly-shaped house was one of the buildings spared in the city when the British burned Washington in 1814. After the destruction of the White House, the home became a temporary residence for President Madison and the First Lady. Through the years, the house has seen much tragedy, including the supposed deaths of two of Tayloe's daughters.

Yet, despite stories of hauntings and ghostly sightings, a sharp-eyed skeptic sees only rational causes. 

We will explore the sordid history, unique architecture, and dark reputation as we are given access to parts of the house not normally open to the public. The old well in the Octagon House basement may be creepy, but is it actually haunted? 

Before starting the tour we will toast to the Octagon House architect with a ginger beer tasting, a favorite beverage of Dr. William Thornton.

Additional Details:

  • There are two tour times for this event, 10:00 am & 11:45 am. Your ticket grants you entry only to the tour time that you've selected.
  • This event is accessible via public transportation. The closest Metro is Farragut West on the blue, orange and silver lines.
  • For those who do decide to drive, street parking is available. 
  • Please note the house has several staircases that we will climb. 
  • This event is family-friendly! 


Contact Matt Blitz at matt@atlasobscura.com.

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