October 24, 2006


Spotlights cast an eerie glow over the George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple on Shooter’s Hill. There are no hauntings associated with this building. I just thought it looked a little spooky with this lighting. Tomorrow the ghost fest continues.


Carlyle House Hauntings

October 23, 2006


There are several tales of strange deaths and hauntings in this place. Three men are known to have fallen to their deaths at different times but in a similar manner from an upstairs balcony.

In the basement, a cat was found entombed in a wall by archeologists while renovating the house in the 1970s. It was fully documented, then the mummified cat was returned to the wall, where it still remains. Some say it is an ancient Scottish tradition for good luck. Others say it is to ward off evil spirits. But the spirits of the dead are said to still be heard from time to time in the Carlyle House. This is what the docents at the Carlyle House don’t talk about or deny if asked.

A local paranormal investigations team investigated the Carlyle House in February 2004. They did record some paranormal activity that cannot be fully disregarded, including orb photographs, a sound recording and an inexplicable knock on the door when there was no one around. The lead investigator says, “Therefore it’s my belief that the Carlyle House has something unusual happening either in the house or on the grounds, but it’s a subtle haunting that may make his presence known from time to time but tends to keep to himself unless he’s searched out, and even then he’ll keep to himself after a possible walk down the hall or stroll of the gardens.” The full report can be found here.

Could that be one of the ghosts, in the upstairs window on the right?

The Dearly Departed

October 22, 2006


A reproduction of a painting of John Carlyle which hangs over the fireplace in the dining room at the Carlyle House. The original was sent to his home in Scotland. The portrait is draped in black for the funeral, as is the front door to the mansion (see the October 18th post).

There were a number of other deaths in the Carlyle House. Some were family members, some not. Some died from natural causes, some not. As for those things the Carlyle House tour guides won’t talk about… I’ll be talking about that tomorrow. Bring your garlic necklace, your crucifix and whatever else you have. It seems that some of the dead … just won’t stay dead.

Mourning Rituals

October 21, 2006


This is the entrance hall to the Carlyle House. On the table is a tray with black armbands for visitors.

After a death in the family, mirrors would be turned to the wall or covered in black cloth. Why? Because it was a time of sadness, not of your own vanity. Also, it was believed that uncovered mirrors were a portal through which demonic spirits could enter the house and steal the soul of the dearly departed. If you look back at yesterday’s photo, you’ll see another covered mirror on the wall above the coffin.

Death in the 18th Century

October 19, 2006


In October the Carlyle House commemorates the anniversary of John Carlyle’s death, which occurred in October some time after 1780. The exact date isn’t known, only the month.

This photo was taken in the bedroom where he died. The room was prepared to look as much like it would have back then, including a faux corpse.

The bowl to the right of the bed was for bloodletting. The best medical practice at the time was to cut the sick person and let the evil spirits flow out of the body by bloodletting, which was done as often as one would take an aspirin today.

The hand mirror on the table next to the bloodletting bowl was to check for signs of life. If you hold a mirror closely to the nose and mouth, condensation will develop on the mirror from the person exhaling. They didn’t know so much about checking for a pulse back then.

Carlyle House

October 18, 2006


The mansion on Fairfax Street was built by wealthy Scottish merchant John Carlyle in 1753. The family quickly dwindled as one member after another died from childbirth, disease or accident until there was no one left in the family to inherit the house. It is now a museum. Some say … well, never mind. People are always talking, aren’t they?

Daily tours are only $4 and quite — interesting, especially at this time of year. (Psst, they won’t talk about it and will deny it if you ask them.)

Those of you weak of spirit or faint of heart, TURN BACK NOW, WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!! The rest of you, return tomorrow, if you’re … brave enough … (Cue spooky laughter…)

Tale of the Female Stranger

October 17, 2006


One of several local legends involving hauntings takes place in Gadsby’s Tavern. It is the Tale of the Female Stranger.

As the story goes, late one night in September 1816, a very ill young woman was brought to the tavern by her distraught husband. They brought her upstairs, and a doctor was summoned. She died after several days. The man had an elaborate gravestone made for her and swore everyone at the tavern to secrecy as to both of their identities. The man disappeared shortly thereafter, leaving unpaid bills behind. All hotel records that might have borne his name were erased, and neither of their identities has ever been known. It is speculated that the woman may have been a member of the English royal family.

It has been said that the ghost of the female stranger has been seen at an upstairs window from time to time, holding a candle. Another story says that a man on a tour of the building saw a lit candle in an upstairs room. He went to get the manager and together they entered the room. The candle wick had never been burned, but when the manager touched the glass shade, it burned his hand.

A very good and detailed retelling of the full story can be found here. The author, Michael Pope, writes for one of the local papers.