Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Octagon - Lafayette Square - District of Columbia

In 1799, Colonel John Tayloe III who was owner of the luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington D.C., built a mansion at the corner of New York Avenue and 118th Street in Lafayette Square.  The house was an unusual shape, however contrary to it's name, it has six sides, not eight.  This is because then entryway to The Octagon is a round room.  During the time it was constructed, the method if building a round room was to use an eight sided wall to construct it.  They were known during the period as an octagon salon.  Tayloe lived in the home with his wife and family. The Tayloes had fifteen children in all. However, it would be the death of two of the Tayloe daughters that would give The Octagon it's haunted reputation.

The Octagon - Lafayette Square - District of Columbia

At one point in time, The Octagon served as temporary White House, so to speak, as President Madison and his wife Dolly lived there while the White House was being rebuilt after being destroyed by the British during the War of 1812.  James Madison actually signed the documents that would end the war right there in The Octagon.

When the Tayloes lived in The Octagon, one of the daughters, allegedly got into an argument with her father about a man she wanted to marry.  John Tayloe, being a very strict and choosy man, forbade her from marrying him.  His daughter stormed up the stairs and was in such a distraught state, she supposedly flung herself off over the railing and fell to her death to the floors below.  At a later period in time, another daughter, knowing of her father's discretion, ran off and married a British soldier.  After returning home to break the news to her father, a fight broke out after he became enraged, and somehow the girl ended up tumbling down the same stair case that her sister died on. She too did not survive and ended up in a lifeless, twisted heap at the bottom of the stairs.

Colonel John Tayloe III

Other deaths in the mansion include a gambler who was playing cards at the home and after being accused of cheating, ran to the exit and was struck down.  As he was collapsing, he grabbed the bell chain, ringing the bells as he fell to his death.  It is also rumored that a British soldier killed a servant in the house and hid her body in the walls and was then possibly in turn, killed himself by the owner.

The most common manifestation in the house is a shadow that has been seen moving on the stair case.  The spot at the bottom of the staircase where one of the daughters died, features a carpet that always has the corner flipped over just as it did when the girl's body flipped it when it came to rest there.  Occasionally a faint scream has been heard as if someone was falling.

In the garden, the apparition of Dolly Madison has been seen roaming through the flower beds.  She loved flowers and gardening and spent a lot of time there.  She has been spotted in the White House gardens as well.  Dolly liked to host parties and sometimes the faint sound of a party can be heard echoing through the halls of The Octagon even when no one is around.  The distinct smell of lilac can be smelled in certain spots of the home.  Dolly Madison loved lilac perfume.  It was her favorite.

 Dolly Madison as she may have appeared while living at The Octagon

Unnatural occurrences such as disembodied female voices, foot steps on the stairway who many believe to be
John Tayloe pacing in his guilt over his daughter's deaths, and chandeliers swinging on their own and other paranormal events have been experienced in The Octagon.  The building served many used over the years including a school for girls. It sat abandoned for a while deteriorating to the point where no one wanted it, but was restored for it's former grandeur by the American Institute of Architects and now uses The Octagon as it's headquarters and is now open to the public as a museum.

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