Washington Possessed

Considering it’s now seven days til All Hallow’s Eve (if you’re partying Saturday instead, it’s only five!), I thought I’d continue to do my part to freak you all out by telling a classic Wasington ghost story. Apart from President Lincoln’s haunting the White House, there is possibly no more famous local ghost story than that one that spawned the book and the movie, “The Exorcist.”

Everyone in DC is familiar with the “exorcist stairs” in Georgetown, featured in the film, and some might know that William Peter Blatty got the idea for the book from local news articles he read as a Georgetown student in the forties, about a possessed boy who lived in Mt. Rainier and had to be exorcised by a local priest. Supposedly the priest’s journal on the case was stored at the archdiocese. This journal features prominently in a story that is still told at my alma mater, Catholic University, where apparently the journal ended up being held under lock and key in a small room on campus, with a fiendish will of its own…

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs
When I was a student at Catholic in the early nineties, I went to a house party in Mt. Rainier and was shown the empty lot where the boy’s house allegedly stood until it burned down. (Mark Opsasnick has written a fantastic in-depth article on the boy’s exorcism and the urban myth that grew up around it.) This was also the night that I first heard the enduring story about the student who stole the exorcist journal. I’m not sure when the story first came about, but it has persisted, and usually goes something like this:

Caldwell Hall is one of the oldest buildings on campus, the sort of place you really don’t like being in at night, with creaking floors and a creepy little chapel. There is a small locked room on the utmost top floor. It’s light is always on, at all times, and visible from outside. It’s rumoured that the journal of the priest who performed the exorcism is kept there, along with other secret church documents. So one night a student decides to prove whether or not this rumour is true, and he breaks into the room and steals the journal. Sneaking back to his dorm room (some versions say Spellman Hall), he settles in to read them. Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. It’s shadowy, grim-faced priests. They demand the journal’s return, but somehow the student can’t seem to release it from his hands. He freaks out, and starts screaming. Clutching the journal, he backs away and flings himself out of his window, falling to the ground and shattering his ankle.

One of my co-workers is also a Catholic grad, and he has an interesting addition to this story. While a student he got hurt playing rugby and had to go to Providence Hospital for stitches. He’s tended to by an old male nurse, who scratches his head and says, “Now, the last time I treated a student from Catholic he was hurt real bad. Ankle all bashed up, bones shattered. He had some tale about hiding some old papers from the authorities. Yes, indeed, he was messed up.”

I love the fact that this DC ghost story has continued to grow, and still has the power to scare.
Got any of your own to share?

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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