Ah, Washington, DC. Our hometown is known by many names – The Nation’s Capital, The Federal City, Virginia’s Canada, The Fetid Swamp Of 10,000 Despairs, and many more.
What many people don’t know, however, is the secret history that lurks in the shadows, stretching from the government buildings and corporate offices of downtown to the murky shores of the Potomac and even murkier boundary with a place known only as “Mary’s Land”. Despite its casual North-meets-South charm, the District hides some sinister secrets. By some estimates there are more ghosts than affordable apartments within DC’s city limits and this seems likely since that would mean there only has to be 1 ghost in all of DC.
There are signs hidden in plain sight all around us – the Masonic imagery that dominates the landscape, the fact that the Metro system looks like rejected Blade Runner concept art, the booming voice that emanates from the Washington Monument every 4th of July and simply repeats “FREEDOM IS ITS OWN CAGE” over and over and over.
In order to illuminate and elucidate the true nature of the city we ventured out into the soupy summer air to explore three of the spooky-scariest locales we could stand.
The Smithsonian Castle
There are many interesting aspects of the Gothic Revival “castle” which serves as the nerve center for the sprawling Smithsonian empire that dominates the National Mall. Perhaps the most surprising is this – it does not exist.
Oh sure, they’d love you to believe that there is a red sandstone castle filled with administrative offices, and small exhibits, and even the tomb of the guy who established the Smithsonian in the first place (which seems pretty fucking creepy if you ask me.) But the truth of the matter is that despite a shared hallucination that has lasted for hundreds of years, no scientific proof of the Castle has been found.
According to the diary of Captain John Smith, who explored up and down the Virginia marshlands, the local Piscataway tribe spoke of a “red monolith” that was only an illusion, luring the young and curious into a pit of despair. As Washington grew before and after the Revolution most residents just assumed the shimmering red building was home to a local source of evil, such as a witch, banshee, Jew, goblin, or werewolf.
Then, in 1836, a large sum of money was delivered to the government of the United States via the will of a mysterious British scientist named James Smithson of whom almost nothing is known (Ed. Note: that shit is true). The stated purpose of the money was “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge (and blood magic)”. While Congress debated how best to use the money, a page reported that the chest containing the entirety of Smithson’s fortune had disappeared. The next day a missive was delivered announcing the establishment of “an institute” on the National Mall.
Think this is all bullshit? Have you been inside the Castle? No one has. Go try to touch it. See if it still seems real. I dare you.
Chinatown’s Friendship Arch
“What’s the deal with arc?” you ask, “is it home to a greedy and cunning dragon or something?” Stop being racist. A dragon? You should be ashamed of yourself. But actually this arch is pretty cursed. Like, hella cursed.
Unbeknownst to many, the original arch stood on the outskirts of Beijing. During the Taiping Rebellion a sympathizer was found in the city. They were paraded through the streets, all Game of Thrones style, and then hanged from the arch, prompting them to become a Diao Si Gui or “hanged ghost”. Then it was basically ghost central from then on. I guess they like hanging out together or something.
How crazy did it get? In Chinese mythology there are things called jiàn, which is basically the ghost of a ghost, and they are fucking everywhere! This had quite an impact on the local area, becoming a source of embarrassment for the community. You know that part in Ghostbusters where Slimer is running around with the hot dog cart? Imagine that happening ALL THE TIME. Actually that sounds pretty fun and wacky, but I guess it gets old.
So how did it end up in DC?
It all started in 1985, when the then-Mayor of Beijing Chen Xitong saw an opportunity to offload the haunted, cursed, and slightly garish arch (more a style issue than a paranormal one). Under the guise of ‘friendship’ he would be able to build ties with the United States and put a source of chaos, unpredictability, and screaming ectomorphs in the capital of China’s Cold War rival.
The arch was painstakingly disassembled one piece at a time which was then shipped across the Pacific and driven across the country, arriving a year later. Mysterious circumstances followed each piece and all of the workers who helped take it apart had their hair turn white and fall out. Of course, that happens to the people who assemble iPhones too, so maybe that’s from something else.
The two capitals celebrated the new symbol and things have never been the same. With further analysis most of Chinatown, and in fact DC’s problems since the 80s, can be traced back to one source: crazy scary Chinese ghosts.
Constant delays and breakdowns on the Metro? Ghosts. Marion Barry’s descent into drug addiction/bitch-set-up situations? Ghosts. Flocks of hipsters that flit across 7th Street, hustling back and forth from Urban Outfitters to Starbucks? Ghosts. This girl Melanie not texting me back even though she said we should hang out? Probably ghosts.
In summation, Chinatown has vengeful ghosts but is definitely worth the risk, especially if you snag dim sum from Tony Cheng’s (That’s not a sponsored plug. Send me free dim sum Tony!)
Meridian Hill Park
The park also features 4 unique statues – the poet Dante, Joan of Arc, our 15th President James Buchanan, and ‘Serenity’ which is either a statue of a muse or that lady who does nails in the mall. These sculptures are where things get weird. Some nights, when the moon is full, they will all rise from the stations for reasons totally unknown at go straight up murder anyone who walks through the park. Seriously, I googled it like 4 times, no idea what’s up.
I’m just going to take a wild guess and say that Satan cursed them while visiting DC for Bill Clinton’s 1st inauguration which is something I just made up but sounds pretty rad/likely. It is said that they take particular pleasure in catching graffiti artists, since a these would-be Banksy imitators have plagued them for years. But some nearby residents insist they’re not blood thirsty monsters.
In all honesty, Joan of Arc is the only dangerous one because she has a sword and a horse. James Buchanan just spends a lot of time complaining about how no one remembers him and taking not-so-subtle jabs at Lincoln and Dante wants to tell you all about hell, which sounds cool but is super boring and also in Italian. Serenity is chill, she’s not even upset that somebody took her nose off.
There you have it! Chilling stuff. As we travel around DC we will keep you posted on the mystical, mysterious, and just quite possibly made-up locales we encounter.
PS – if this site stops being updated then we’ve probably all been eaten by zombies or something so if you could send somebody to look for us that would be a big help.