July 25, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Ghosts Wander the Hill

Many people had the pleasure of hearing John Quincy Adams speak during the 17 years that he served in Congress, but Steve Livengood of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society says he’s had that privilege much more recently — more than 150 years after Adams’ death.

In fact, Livengood claims to have seen the ghost of the sixth president giving a speech in the Old House Chamber.

He’s not the only one to see ghosts. During the day, Capitol Hill is filled with hustle and bustle. But after the flocks of interns, pages and staffers make their way home, some say the spirits of the oldest and most respected politicians (and other Hill types) stick around.

In fact, some people say ghosts reign supreme over the Hill after the sun goes down. Various witnesses have reported hearing and encountering spirits late at night. They tell stories that would make any Hill staffer avoid being the last to leave the office.

Beware of the Demon Cat

One of the most frightening and infamous apparitions on Capitol Hill is the “demon cat,” affectionately referred to as “DC,” probably by those who have not encountered what is reported to be a terrifying tiger-sized black cat. Mostly seen by lone security guards on patrol in the Capitol building late at night, the demon cat tends to appear before national tragedies. It allegedly appeared before the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

Livengood, chief guide and public programs manager for the Capitol Historical Society, has heard a lot about the demon cat in his time at the Capitol. He has worked in Congress since 1965 and says he has seen and heard various spirits throughout the building.

Even so, he’s quick to debunk the legend of the frightening feline. According to Livengood, in the early 19th century, there were still cats roaming around the Capitol, brought in to take care of a rat infestation problem. After the rats were removed, a few cats seemed to have stayed behind. Also at this time, the Capitol Police force was notorious for hiring underqualified friends of Congressmen as favors.

Livengood says that after a “liquid lunch,” one of these inept security guards ended up horizontal on the ground when he thought he was still standing. One of the lingering cats licked his face, and convinced that he was still standing, he crafted a story of a giant cat who terrorized and attacked him after dark. Livengood credits the long life span of the story to the fact that “eventually the other guards found out that they could get a day off if they saw the demon cat.”

Donnald Anderson, former Clerk of the House and chief historian of the Capitol Historical Society, says the reported footprints of the demon cat are indeed feline footprints but were left there when a stray walked across the wet cement on the floor of the Rotunda.

The “demon cat in the Dome, that’s been around for a long time, and I haven’t had an encounter with it personally,” Anderson says. “Out of all the ghosts said to inhabit the Capitol, I suspect that would be one of the most frightening.”

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