American Folklore: Washington, D.C.

American Folklore: Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital city, and it has some truly intriguing folklore that goes along with it. From the supernatural to conspiracy theories involving everything from the Illuminati to hidden treasure, this is a city of mysteries and secrets. Here are some of the highlights of the folklore of Washington, D.C.

Click Here to listen to the weekly podcast.

Washington, D.C. is our nation’s capital city, and it has a long history. People have lived there for thousands of years, maybe longer. Previously a piece of swampy land, the government of the new United States decided to make it the nation’s new capital during George Washington’s time as President. At the time, the capital was in New York City, and Philadelphia served as the capital for a while, too. Washington, D.C. was a better location, it was determined, because of its centrality among the states. It would be easier for legislators from all states to get there than to go any farther north or south of where they lived.

While George Washington never got to live in the White House, as it was under construction during his time as President, the second U.S. President, John Adams, did, and he was the first U.S. President to call the White House and Washington, D.C. home. The city is the seat of government for the United States and as such, one can expect some dark and intriguing things that have happened there. Because the land that it sits on is so much older than the actual city, there are interesting stories from the land and nature in the city, too. Here are some of the most interesting folklore from Washington, D.C.

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond, considered to be the biggest diamond made into a piece of jewelry in the world, is said to be cursed. Many people believe that the infamous diamond will bring terrible things to those who own or wear it. People such as finance Minister Nicholas Fouquet, Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid, and the Princesse de Lamablle of France are said to be among the most famous victims of the priceless diamond. It would be rare for anyone to wear the diamond today, as it is in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum (though the Smithsonian does not seem to be any the worse for wear for owning it).

The Real Life Exorcist

The author of the novel and screenplay for the movie The Exorcist says he was inspired by a real-life case in Washington, D.C. In this case, a fourteen-year-old boy in the city was supposedly possessed by an evil spirit, some even say the actual devil himself. A front-page news article on the possession and exorcism appeared in the Washington Post in 1949. An exorcism of the boy really did take place and was deemed to be successful. No one actually fell down the stairs in Georgetown in the real story, though, as they did in the movie.

The Curse of Tippecanoe

While this curse is said to be broken now, it is still a famous bit of local folklore in Washington, D.C. The curse supposedly meant that U.S. Presidents would die or be assassinated while in the office if they were elected to the presidency in a year that was divisible by twenty. Victims of the supposed curse include William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. Ronald Regan, who was elected in 1980, came near to being killed when he was shot while in office, but he survived. The curse was broken with George W. Bush, who survived both of his terms in office.

The Demon Cat of the Capitol Building

Did you know there is a demon cat who wanders the halls of the US Capitol building? Many Congressional members and their employees would tell you it is true. According to the story, there were once cats who, in the early days of the US capital being at Washington, D.C., were brought to the basement tunnels at the Capitol building to take care of the rats there; one of these cats never left the tunnels. It is now somewhat of an evil ghostly cat who appears in the building before tragedies in Washington, D.C. and before presidential elections.

The Curse of the Three Sisters

The Three Sisters are not actual people, but three rocky islands that are located in the middle of the Potomac River. The legend associated with these islands says that there were once three real sisters who were Algonquian Native Americans. They tried to cross the river to secure the release of their brothers, who had been kidnapped by a nearby rival tribe.

The sisters tried to swim across the river but drowned trying to do it. Before they crossed over, they cursed that place in the river, so that no one else would ever be able to cross it there. The curse has supposedly brought down ships, ferries, people, and animals that tried to cross near the Three Sisters. Those who are “in the know” say that a strange moaning sound is heard from down below the surface waters of the Potomac before the curse claims someone or something else.

The Secret of the Ellipse

Ellipse Park is a park shaped like an ellipse that is located behind the White House and is said to mark the center of Washington, D.C. In fact, it has been so accepted as the city’s center, that a small plaque marking the park as the “meridian” was erected there in 1890. The legend of the park is that there is a secret chamber someone or a group of people built underneath it that contains a vast trove of jewels and other valuable treasures.

The Evil Street Designs of Washington, D.C.

There is a famous conspiracy theory that says that Pierre L’Enfant, who designed the first street layout of Washington, D.C. was also a member of the Illuminati. As such, he incorporated demonic symbols into his street design of the city. Among these symbols is an inverted pentagram that points pedestrians toward the White House. Believers in this conspiracy theory say that the design of the streets of Washington D.C. is supposed to point the devil the way to the White House.


About the author

Ancestral Findings

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has been involved in helping genealogy researchers for over 25 years. Click Here to request a Free Lookup.