The Octagon House


The story of the Octagon House.

The Octagon is a building that sits just one block away from the White House in Washington, D.C. The building has only six sides but that is not the only strange thing about this landmark. Just as the exterior of the building has a strange shape, there are many rooms and closets that are also unusually shaped. In the centre of the house sits an oval staircase. But perhaps the strangest thing about the Octagon is that it is known to have a sad history that has left many ghosts behind.

A man named Dr. William Thorton designed the house and Colonel John Tayloe III built it in 1801 to fit his family, which included fifteen children. Of these fifteen children were eight girls. Tayloe also used the house to entertain political figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and James Madison.

At the time of the War of 1812, one of Tayloe’s daughters fell in love with a British soldier and the couple started secretly seeing each other. She would sneak out of the house on many nights to meet her lover and would sneak back in. One night as she was sneaking back into the house, her father met her in the stairway. They had a vicious fight and the girl fell over the railing. The fall was fatal and the girl died immediately. Tayloe always insisted that her death was an accident but no one could ever be sure.

Tayloe couldn’t stand to be in the house where such an unfortunate incident occurred. He moved his family to a Virginia plantation. They invited the French embassy to occupy the house in their absence.

In 1814 British soldiers burned down the White House along with many other buildings leaving President James Madison and his wife Dolley were left with nowhere to live. Tayloe invited them to stay at the Octagon until the White House was rebuilt and they could move back in to their own home. They made themselves comfortable in the home and lived and entertained as though it were their own.

Once the White House was suitable for living again, the Madison’s moved back in and the Tayloe’s moved back into the Octagon. Another daughter of Colonel Tayloe fell in love with someone that he did not approve of and she too, was caught sneaking up the stairs one evening after meeting her lover. Not learning from past mistakes, the Colonel pursued an argument with her on the staircase and she too, fell to her death.

After the Tayloe’s sold the home in 1855, it was used for many different purposes. During the Civil War it was a hospital and afterwards, the rooms were rented out as apartments. In one of these apartments lived a man who liked to gamble and hold poker games in his apartment. One night, a man he had invited to his poker game got angry because he believed that the owner of the apartment had cheated him of his money. The apartment owner was shot dead on the spot.

All of these occurrences make for very strange happenings around the building. The first daughter of Colonel Tayloe that fell from the stairs has been seen coming back to re-enact her death. It is this re-enactment that has left questions in many minds as to whether her death was in fact, an accident. At first, only the light of a candle can be seen moving up the stairs. It stops suddenly and starts moving back down. Then a girl’s shriek is followed by a thump at the bottom of the stairs.

Dolley Madison’s ghost has also been seen wandering around the house. Even in death she is elegantly dressed with a big hat made of feathers that she wore constantly while alive because she believed that it gave the illusion of her being taller. Her lilac perfume can also be smelled throughout the home. The sounds of carriages being led by horses can also be heard coming up the driveway and it’s believed that this is the sound of the Madison’s guests coming for the many parties that Madison’s held.

The cold spot that lies at the bottom of the oval stairway is where Tayloe’s second daughter died and it’s believed that she is not only responsible for this cold spot but also for the rug that is often turned up on one end. People have also reported that they feel the presence of someone lying on the floor in the place that she died.

The gambler who was shot in his apartment has also been seen in the room that was his apartment. He is found in the same way he died, reaching for his gun. It was in 1902 that the American Institute of Architects purchased the house and began renovations. It was during the renovations that they found a skeleton of a girl hid in the walls with her fists clenched. It has been said that this girl was a servant in the house when it was occupied by the French embassy. She also fell in love with a British soldier and it was during one of their fights that he killed her and hid her body in the wall. This could be explanation for the thumping sounds that had been heard for almost the entire past century. Once the skeleton was removed and the girl was given a proper burial, the thumping sounds stopped.

Although activity at the Octagon has slowed down, spirits and ghosts still remain in and around the building. Today the building is known as the museum of the American Architectural Foundation.

The Octagon House

The Octagon House

The Octagon House

Page Sponsored By: Photo Editing Software