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The Octagon Mansion


Haunted Dwelling — The Octagon Mansion


1799 New York Avenue,
Northwest, Washington, D.C.


Built in 1800, this octagonal - shaped mansion originally was surrounded by fields & greenery. It is now located in an upscale, well-to-do neighborhood of Washington D.C., at the corner of New York Avenue and 118th Street, making it at the center of several avenues of mansions and expensive town homes.


The Octagon Mansion was originally owned by a Colonel John Tayloe and was used as his town home in Washington D.C. This beautiful monument has three stories. On the first floor, one finds a grand rotunda, where the staircase leads up to the second and third floors.

George Washington spent time here. The Octagon served as a temporary White House for President Madison and his wife, Dolly, after the British burned down our White House and occupied Washington D.C. temporarily during the 1812 War. This Octagon Mansion is where President Madison signed the peace treaty with Great Britain, ending the War of 1812.

In 1855, after Mrs. Tayloe died, the building became a school for girls. As the neighborhood went down hill, it gradually became a rundown, slum property. However, in 1899, the American Institute of Architects rescued the mansion from further decay by purchasing and restoring the building, and making the Octagon Mansion the Institute's Headquarters .The Mansion is open to the public as a museum, a treasured historical landmark.


The staircase is the center of ghostly incidents. Specifically, on the second floor landing near the Banister, on the third floor and on the ground floor, a long list of witnesses have given an account of hearing footsteps of a man and of a woman, hearing a melancholy, sorrowful female voice, seeing unexplainable, unusual occurrences and even feeling unseen presences, ever since the middle 1800s.

1) Footsteps & Light/Door Problems as Experienced By Superintendent, Mr. C. On Several instances, Mr. C has found the doors wide open, after he had just locked them up a few minutes earlier. (1900)

2) On several occasions, Mr. C has found the lights on, after he had just turned all the switches off. In one instance, the police had called Mr. C. in the middle of the night and told Mr. C about how the lights were blazing away in the Octagon. So, He had to come to the Octagon Mansion, go into the basement and again switch off the lights. While in the basement, he clearly heard, much to his shock, footsteps in the part of the mansion he had just walked through a minute before. After quickly running up the stairs, he found no visible person

3) The Assistant Curator of the Octagon Mansion , who was working on the second floor, heard foot steps on the closed-off third floor, walking up and down. When she quietly went to the third floor to investigate, she saw on the dusty floor some very light footprints, the "outlines of 2 delicate feet of an unseen woman." These foot impressions in the dust were far too light to be made by human feet, only ghostly ones.

4) Unusual Occurrences:

a) A carpet at the bottom of the main staircase flings itself back unassisted.

b) The chandeliers has been known to swing by themselves sometimes.

5) Many people have felt a presence standing behind them while they were visiting the third floor.


Hans Holzer & a professional medium visited the Octagon several times and have some clues as to who is haunting this mansion. Two presences are tied to the original builder/owner, Colonel John Tayloe. After Tayloe rejected his daughter's much loved beau, this daughter killed herself by jumping to her death from the second floor landing to the ground floor, at the same spot where the flinging carpet lies. The light footsteps have been linked to this daughter. The heavy footsteps are thought to be of the broken-hearted Colonel Tayloe who blamed himself for indirectly causing his daughter's suicide.

The 3rd ghost that was felt on the third floor is tied to the British occupation of Washington D.C., (1812 War) . An American servant girl chose to jump to her death from the third floor, rather than be forced to give into the sexual demands of a British Officer who was chasing her. Since the presence was felt on the third floor, which was where the servants slept, it makes sense that this presence is the servant who is earthbound in this area of the Mansion.

Still Haunted?

Probably yes.

No exorcism has been performed.