The Octagon

The Octagon is an unusually shaped building with many interesting ghostly
residents. It is situated one block from the White House in Washington DC.
The man who designed the US Capitol, Dr. William Thorton, designed the
house. Colonel John Tayloe III, who wanted a home near his political
friends, built it in 1801. Though called the Octagon, the house has only six
sides. It was designed this way in order to fit an unusually shaped lot.
Inside are many oddly shaped rooms and closets. The centerpiece of the
building is a beautiful oval staircase, the area where the Octagon's most
famous ghost is active.
Colonel Tayloe had 15 children, eight of which were daughters famed for
their beauty and wealth. Tayloe was also quite patriotic and often
entertained the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and James
During the war of 1812, one of the Tayloe daughters began having a secret
love affair with the enemy - a British soldier. As she snuck back into the
house one night after meeting her love her father caught her on the
stairway. They argued violently about the girl's behavior and somehow the
young woman lost her balance. She fell over the railing and plunged to her
death. Though Colonel Tayloe insisted it was an accident, his daughter's
ghost came back to re-enact her death. People have reported seeing a
flickering candle shadow moving up the stairs as though someone was
walking  upstairs with it. Then, there would come a terrible shriek and a thud at
the bottom of the stairs. 
Grief and perhaps this haunting caused Tayloe to move his family back to
his Virginia plantation. Rather than have the house sit vacant, Mrs.
Tayloe  invited the French embassy to occupy the home. A French flag was flown
It is this flag that people believe saved the house during the war of
1812.   In 1814 British Troops burned the White House and many other nearby
buildings.   Due to this arson, President James Madison and his wife Dolley were
homeless. The Tayloes offered them the Octagon, where they lived and
entertained happily until they could move back into the White House.
Dolley Madison's ghost has been seen roaming the house after her death. She is
still wearing her elegant clothes and the feathered turban, which she 
believed, made her look taller. People often smell her lilac scented
perfume. Also, sounds of horse drawn carriages coming up to the house are
believed to be long deceased guests arriving for Dolley's parties.
When the Madisons left, the Tayloes moved back in. Once again, a daughter
fell in love with a forbidden mate and again Colonel Tayloe caught her
sneaking up the stairs late one evening. During the ensuing argument the
girl's father shoved her in anger, and just like her sister she met death
in  a fall. It is this incident that people believe is responsible for the
cold  spot at the base of the oval staircase. People also get a feeling that
someone is lying on the floor on this spot. Also, the rug near this area
is  often found turned back by unseen hands.
The Tayloes sold the Octagon in 1855, after Mrs. Tayloe's death. The
building was put to many uses, though tenants never stayed long. During
the  Civil War the place was used as a hospital. People still hear the sobbing
and moans of the dead.
The house was also rented out as apartments. A gambler lived on one of the
floors. One night he was shot by a man whom he had cheated at cards. The
gambler's ghost is often seen as he was at the moment of his death,
reaching  for his gun.   In 1902 the American Institute of Architects purchased 
the property. During  their renovation they found the skeleton of a young girl
behind a wall, her  fists tightly clenched. This explained the thumping noises that
had been  coming from behind the wall for almost 100 years. The thumping sounds
stopped when the skeleton was properly buried. The young girl is believed
to  have been a servant of the house during the time the French Embassy
occupied  the house. She fell in love with a British soldier. During a lover's
quarrel, he killed her and hid her body in the wall.   The hauntings continue at 
the Octagon, but it is not as rowdy as it was in  the last century. A young man
in a US military uniform from the early 1800's  has been spotted on the stairs.
During the 60's the superintendent had  occasional problems with the police 
calling him to say that all the lights  were on and the doors were open. The man 
always made sure that everything  was properly locked and shut off at the end of 
the day.  The Octagon is now the museum of the American Architectural Foundation. 
It  is located at 1799 New York Ave. in Washington, DC. Hours are Tuesday to
Sunday 10AM-4PM.There is a $2 admission fee.  

by catmz

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