Heard on the Hill: Capitol Thriller

Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:27pm

Don’t have plans for Halloween yet? Hang around the Capitol long enough and you might feel a few chills that have nothing to do with the temperature.

[IMGCAP(1)]Ghost sightings have “spooked the living daylights out of Hill staffers and Members alike— for decades, according to Anthony Wallis, who works for the House historian.

The eerie tales go back to the early days when the Capitol was first being constructed, including one legend involving the building’s crypt. Its origin is especially gruesome: One of the workers helping in the early stages of construction stopped to rest, caught a few Zs and then was buried (alive!) in the Capitol’s foundation.

“A lot of people think they hear scratching and pounding noises in the wall as a result of one of these spirits trying to break free,— Wallis said.

Another gruesome story takes place during the Civil War, when D.C. was heavily fortified. For a time, the Capitol served as a makeshift hospital for Union troops, where many surgeries were performed — and “the surgery practices back then were not as nice as they were today,— Wallis said.

Read: no anesthesia. Like, at all.

Many of the troops died on the operating table in incredible pain.

In the decades since, many have claimed to hear the sounds of a wailing soldier in the Capitol Rotunda. One staffer in the 1970s even claimed to see a man in a Civil War uniform walk across the entrance of the Rotunda, and many others say they watched the velvet ropes in the Rotunda sway all by themselves late at night, Wallis said.

Perhaps the most famous ghost story involves former President John Quincy Adams, who suffered a stroke while giving a speech on the House floor and died two days later in what is now the Lindy Boggs women’s reading room. Many have claimed to see Adams’ ghost back on the House floor, trying to finish his speech.

Wallis noted that the couch on which Adams died remains in the room. “It’s been reupholstered since then,— he added.

Bond, Kit Bond. Sen. Kit Bond certainly knows how to make an entrance.

The Missouri Republican strolled onto the Senate floor Tuesday night dressed in a very dapper tuxedo, according to an HOH spy. But Bond wasn’t just strutting his 007-like style — the Senator headed to a black-tie event immediately after the vote, HOH hears.

No word whether this Bond likes his martini shaken, not stirred …

Name Dropping. The House Financial Services Committee has been charged with overseeing bailouts of cash-strapped banks and other financial institutions over the past year — so much so that the panel apparently has changed its name to better reflect a new role.

Only not really.

In several editions of the Congressional Record Daily Digest this month, the committee is referred to as the “Financial Assistance Committee,— a particularly funny flub considering the panel played such a huge role in the government’s effort to prop up failing banks. HOH hears an employee in the Office of the Clerk, which is charged with overseeing the record, is responsible for the mistake.

A message left for the Financial Services Committee wasn’t returned. But House Administration Committee spokesman Kyle Anderson, who takes press calls for the Clerk’s office, tells HOH that the problem shouldn’t repeat itself. “The error has been caught, and they’ve expanded quality assurance efforts to make sure it doesn’t happen again,— he said.

Member Masquerade. Barackula? There would be three others in the beer line alone. Sarah Palin? Sooo last year.

HOH recommends those looking for a political Halloween costume idea go a little more obscure — as in one of our very own Members of Congress. To assist you, we’ve put together a list of five Members who would make great costumes sure to impress a party full of C-SPAN junkies.

• Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) — The ultimate in ease-of-wear: Simply wear a suit and yell “You lie!— every now and then.

• Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — Any kind of island duds (a Hawaiian shirt, or even a grass skirt) would be appropriate to mimic the Congressman, who spent a week alone on a Pacific island, “Castaway— style. A rubber fish on a spear or a pet crab is a nice touch.

• Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) — Grab a stuffed animal to play Sanchez’s beloved cat, Gretzky, and replicate one of the California Democrat’s famous holiday card poses. For the comfort factor, we recommend the one in which she sported flannel Victoria’s Secret jammies.

• Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) — Warning: This requires a little pre-planning. Either hit the gym hard to develop six-pack abs of your own, or just hit up a costume shop for a body-builder foam version. Then go shirtless, just like Mr. “Schock and Abs— did on TMZ.

• Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) — A colleague described the kooky Congressman as being “one fry short of a Happy Meal,— so carry around a spuds-less McDonald’s bag. If people don’t recognize you, accuse them of being “K Street whores.—

Born to Run (for Office). The Boss sure knows how to draw a Congressional crowd.

Several Members of Congress are scheduled to host fundraising events at Monday night’s Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert at the Verizon Center, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and John Carter (R-Texas).

Springsteen gigs have a tradition for drawing Members — around half a dozen raised cash at the singer’s concert in May.

But it’s the scheduled fundraiser for Rep. John Hall that caught HOH’s eye. The New York Democrat (and a former rock star himself) will host E Street guitarist Little Steven Van Zant before the show, offering donors the chance to mingle and take photos.

Overheard on the Hill. “He who spends time passing trivial legislation may find himself out of time to read healthcare bill.—

— Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) channeling Confucius, in a statement explaining why he voted against a bill honoring the Chinese philosopher. Republicans have hammered Democrats for taking up such trivial bills while there is more pressing business at hand.

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