Being a historical place and the home of many important public figures, DC is a natural hotspot for ghosts. The Capitol is supposedly haunted by many deceased government officials, as is the White House– President Harry Truman once swore he saw an apparition of Abraham Lincoln. These buildings are world famous and have hosted countless historical figures, so it’s understandable that ghosts may appear. We wondered if our own Tenleytown had any paranormal activity, and decided to investigate.
We started out by researching if anyone in our community had spotted unusual activity. Sadly, we found very limited information, with the exception of a “Tenleytown Ghost Walk” held by the Tenleytown Library in 2015. We decided to start there. After exchanging emails with librarian Megan McNitt, she explained that the best ghost story was about a woman named Evalyn Walsh McLean, the owner infamous Hope Diamond.
McNitt referred us to Carolyn Crouch, the person who originally told the story. According to Crouch, McLean moved to Washington with her family into a mansion on Massachusetts Avenue. In 1908, she eloped with Edward Beale McLean, heir to the Washington Post fortune. Her husband bought her the supposedly cursed Hope Diamond for 180,000 dollars (around 4.5 million today.) The curse may have had a hand in what happened next. Two of the four McLean children died prematurely; Their eldest, nine-year-old Vinson, was struck and killed by a car on Wisconsin Avenue in 1919, and their youngest,19-year-old Evalyn Washington, was found dead of an apparent overdose in 1941. The McLeans’ marriage ended bitterly, with allegations of infidelity, erratic behavior, and uncontrolled spending on the part of Edward. He forced to sell The Washington Post and in 1933 was declared legally insane and committed to a psychiatric hospital in Towson, Maryland, where he died in 1941.
In 1951, Evalyn McLean’s childhood home on Massachusetts Avenue was sold to the Government of Indonesia to be used as an embassy, and many have said that her spirit still lives there. She has been seen gliding down the mansions grand staircase. Clearly that diamond had an effect on her!
Not long after we learned of McLean’s story, an anonymous source tipped us off to a ghost living in Tenleytown: the Janney Ghost. Immediately we contacted Kassiani Anifantis, a recent Janney Elementary graduate.
“He lives in the boiler room,” Anifantis said, “his name is George the Janney Ghost.” We were curious to know how the myth started, so Anifantis explained.
“In… the 1920s there was this bully that pushed a kid down the stairs into the boiler room on purpose and the kid, George, died. Apparently the ghost has lurked the school ever since.”
“Staff members and janitors have claimed to see him in the basement of the school and also sometimes lights will randomly shut off,” said Anifantis. Sounds like Wilson does have a ghost nearby!
Tenley is far from the most haunted neighborhood out there, but we advise you watch out when you are walking down the street. Who knows, maybe George will decided to go for a midnight stroll around the neighborhood. Just remember to stay calm– ghosts can smell fear!
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ELLIE MELICK