D.C.’s Secret Landmarks

While certain cities come to mind when words like “eccentric” or “weird” are mentioned, Washington, D.C. is generally not at the top of that list. Those words are reserved for the hoodoo of New Orleans or towns like Black Cat, Arkansas. However, there is more to see in D.C. than the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. In 1973 the horror film The Exorcist was released and has since inspired a long line of possession themed movies. You may recall the little girl named Regan and her unusual knack for causing death by tumbling down a staircase. This particularly steep and ominous set of stairs has been the root of urban legends, double dog dares and local mystery. During the making of the film, it is said that a priest was brought in multiple times to bless the set. The city even refused permission to use the steps again for the sequel. Every Halloween, Georgetown University replays the original Exorcist just a short distance from the supposedly haunted location were back in the 70s students charged $5 admission for the public to watch from the rooftops as the stuntman rolled down the padded staircase. It has become a tradition to revisit this location after dark for the ultimate scare factor.

Some people paint pictures of landscapes, others prefer writing poetry for relaxation. But the strangest of all hobbies have to be digging tunnels underneath the city. At the beginning of the 19th century, an entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture named Harrison Dyar took up residence near Dupont Circle. Beneath the streets, he had carved out an extensive labyrinth over a span of 10 years with sculptures of animal and human heads and strange carvings on archways lined with brick. “The way down to the lower world is easy” was one of his choice phrases for the archways illuminated by electric lighting. Posted on the ceilings were German periodicals which instantly sparked a spy theory. When pressed by reporters as to why these 24 foot deep passages wide enough for two men to walk shoulder to shoulder were built, he responded with an unconvincing answer, “I did it for exercise.” Though the tunnels are reported as being sealed off in concrete today, one has to wonder what else lies beneath our feet.

While every president’s link to the Freemasons remains shrouded in conspiracy and as speculation rises over the theories of why monuments are lined up meticulously to accommodate some numerical entity, one begins to size up the logicality of the things in town that are just a little “off”. From the disappearance of J Street to Robert E. Lee being carved into the back of Abraham Lincoln’s statue’s head reportedly looking back to his home at the Arlington National Cemetery, D.C. is the number one city of secrets.