Haunted DC and New Orleans Spaces

Because of their rich history and local folklore, Washington, DC and New Orleans (our interior design stomping grounds) are well-documented hot spots for the paranormal. Does it get more spooky and fun than an old-fashioned haunted house?

Let’s take a look at some haunted DC and New Orleans spaces…

The Walsh Mansion

The Walsh Mansion, now the Embassy of Indonesia, is a stunning old house in the heart of DC.

The Walsh Mansion was built by gold-mining magnate Thomas Walsh in 1907 for his eccentric socialite daughter, Evalyn Walsh McLean. Known as one of DC’s greatest real estate bargains, the house cost an estimated $853,000 to build (around 20-million today), and was sold to the Indonesian government in 1951 for $335,000.

To impress his daughter, Thomas Walsh installed a gold bar in the archway above the door, included gold-flecked marble in the mansion’s pillars, and legend has it that he even buried a gold nugget in the foundation.

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One of the design touches that makes this mansion so unique is that it is meant to resemble an ocean liner. Architect Henry Anderson created a staircase worthy of any ship, and an open deck layout throughout with carved mahogany. The mansion also boasted a ballroom and personal theater.

 

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What makes this place well-known by ghost busters is the story of what happened to Evalyn. Evalyn died in 1947 and although the stories differ, it is said that she was a bit of a spend-thrift, and died tied financially to the home. The mansion was sold to cover her debts, and to this day, her ghost still haunts the embassy. She can be seen floating down the grand staircase, walking the halls and scaring the Ambassadors who have lived there throughout the years.


The Octagon House

This DC home was built between 1799 and 1801. It’s known as one of the most haunted homes in DC.

Originally designed by William Thorton, the first architect of the area, this home was once owned by a rich VA planter by the name of Colonel John Tayloe III; purchased at George Washington’s suggestion.

The building once included a smokehouse, laundry house, stables, carriage house and an ice house. The home is three stories and has been adapted to fit in an irregular shaped lot – a dramatic break from the traditional but with hints of the Federal architecture of its time.  It is now surrounded by updated office buildings.

Early 1900s interior shot. Courtesy Library of Congress

Early 1900s interior shot. Courtesy Library of Congress

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It is said that in a fit of anger over a love affair with a British officer stationed in the city, Tayloe’s daughter became enraged and fell down the stairs, killing her instantly. Later, another one of Tayloe’s daughter’s eloped with a young man, igniting her father’s wrath and, somehow, leading to her death. His two love-sick daughters still haunt the famous staircase. The Octagon was well-established as a “haunted house” by 1888, when 12 men were reported to have spent the night to prove legends wrong.

A firsthand account was printed….

“The hours wore quietly on. The party were dispersed from garret to cellar. At the hour of midnight, as I and two others were crossing the threshold of a room on the second floor, three feminine shrieks rose from the center of the room. Aghast we stood. From all quarters the party rushed…Too brave to desert, yet cowards at heart, we watched the gray light of morning dawn, and each man of us thanked God his night among ghosts was past. After those screams our band was closely knit together…collectively we listened through the waning hours of night to the clanking of sabers and tramping of footfalls.”


The Old Stone House

A true testimate to the importance of historical restoration, The Old Stone House stands today as it did back in 1767 when it was built by Christopher Laymen, a cabinetmaker.  It is located at 3051 M Street in Washington, DC.

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The home was constructed in three phases and serves as an example of Vernacular Architecture. Vernacular architecture is an architectural style that is designed based on local needs, the availability of construction materials, and local traditions. The home now stands as a house museum to show local history.

Locals have said that an “exceptionally large number of spirits” haunt the small home. A few examples of the lively spirits in the home are a woman in a brown dress that stands near the fireplace, a man with long hair that roams the home, a woman in a rocking chair on the third floor, a small boy who runs down the third floor hallway, colonial-era men and women that stand near the bedrooms, and a little girl with curly hair. The spooky house is also known for housing one of DC’s only “malevolent spirits”. This spirit, known as George, has been known to choke and push visitors. People have reported feeling cold spots and an intense feeling of dread.


LaLaurie Mansion 

This is LaLaurie Mansion, one of New Orlean’s most notable and sinister haunts.

Known as the “Cruel Mistress of the Haunted House”, Delphine LaLaurie was a wealthy Frenchwoman with a bad reputation. It is said that her third marriage was to a man 20 years her junior. When he left her, she took up a terrifying past-time. Reports of her abusing her slaves spread accross the city.

In 1834, a fire broke out in the home and it was discovered that Madame LaLaurie had 7 slaves chained in the upper part of the building. They were freed and given medical attention, food and water. Appalled at the treatment of these poor people, the townspeople called for her arrest. The later-turned mob tore the house apart, stripping it of its valuables.

When the home was renovated, bones were found. For 200 years, this home has been considrered one of the most haunted places in America. The mansion has been an apartment complex, a school for girls, a conservatory for music, and is now a private residence for a very design-savvy new owner!

The new interior:

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Images via Chris Granger at Nola.com

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The Gardette-La Prete Mansion

This is The Gardette-La Prete Mansion, one shrouded in legend and myth. It is a testament to how architecture can lend itself to the imagination.

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The Gardette-La Prete mansion is located in the French Quarter and is rumored to have once belonged to a rich man from Turkey who was known for throwing glamorous paties in the mansion. It’s been said that he was also the keeper of a “harem,” giving him the nickname of “the Sultan”.

Legend has it that the Sultan was a lavish and cruel man. One day, as townspeople strolled by, they noticed blood flowing from underneath a door. Upon arrival, police saw that all the guests had been murdered. The culprit was never found, and it was spread that the Sultan’s ghost still stalks the premises. The echoes of his victims can be heard from the street of the now-private condominiums.

Don’t be afraid of the dark!

Margery Wedderburn

 

 

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