As yet another stately mansion in one of the District of Columbia’s oldest and most expensive neighborhoods, the Halcyon House hides its secrets well.
Few passing by would ever know that the home on the corner of 34th and Prospect—just a block away from the high-end boutiques that line Georgetown’s famed M Street—is a regular contender for the title of “the most haunted house in Washington, DC.”
Built in 1787 by Benjamin Stoddert, America’s first Secretary of the Navy and a pallbearer at George Washington’s funeral, ownership of the Halcyon has passed through a number of hands over the last 230 years, collecting just as many spirits along the way.
A nephew of Mark Twain’s named Albert Clemens purchased the home from Stoddert’s daughter in 1900. Believing that continually expanding the lavish property would somehow help him escape death, Clemens proceeded to make a dizzying array of bizarre changes to the home, including constructing staircases that led nowhere, installing an assortment of secret trap doors, and building tiny rooms that served no real purpose—some of them so small they could hold nothing more than a single table and chair.
Unfortunately for Clemens, the construction spree was not the secret to immortality, and the Halcyon’s third owner died in 1938. Today, the 21,000-square-foot home is owned by a Japanese philanthropist that uses the building as the headquarters of a non-profit science, art, and entrepreneurial startup incubator aptly named Halcyon.
Despite the home’s new identity helping young entrepreneurs develop tech-friendly companies, the Halcyon is still said to be haunted by its first owner, Benjamin Stoddert, who is frequently sighted on the property, along with a number of other figures, including the building-mad Clemens, the spirits of a group of runaway slaves that perished in the building’s basement after escaping from the South, and a mysterious unknown woman who can sometimes be seen through an upstairs window.