Nightly Spirits Ghost Tour of DC's Haunted Bars Jun 2, 2019 19:07:59 GMT -5
Post by JoannaB on Jun 2, 2019 19:07:59 GMT -5
Nightly Spirits Ghost Tour of DC's Haunted Bars
Guests at The Occidental Bar and Grill munch on American cuisine and sip wine just steps from the White House. However, on May 10, a guest entered the restaurant wearing a powdered wig and knee-length red coat. No, it wasn’t an apparition from the distant past, but the guide for that evening’s Nightly Spirits DC Tour.
Nightly Spirits is a tour company that hosts weekly haunted-themed bar crawls in several major U.S. cities. The locally-based company began hosting tours in 2012 to explore the historic and paranormal roots of the nation’s capital through unique stories of haunted landmarks. “Every society that’s been studied had ghost stories,” said Steven, who was leading that evening’s tour.
The two-and-a-half-hour tour began at The Occidental and moved to nearby bars, including the Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th Street and The Hamilton on 14th. The area the tour traverses is now known for its rich gastronomic traditions at upscale bars and restaurants after years of blight during the 1960s and 70s, Steven said. According to Steven, there were 47 taverns between The Occidental and Capitol before prohibition hit the District in 1917. While many watering holes can still be found along this stretch, there are many more museums, hotels and government buildings.
The tour stopped at the Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar, where those in attendance heard stories about some of the hotel’s famous guests, who include, but are by no means limited to, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, General Tom Thumb, Samuel Morse, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Houdini, Gloria Swanson (paramour of Joseph P. Kennedy, father of JFK), Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, Bert Bell, Joe Paterno and Jim Sweeney. Steven Spielberg shot the finale of his film Minority Report at the hotel in the summer of 2001 and he filmed with Tom Cruise and Max von Sydow in the Willard Room, Peacock Alley and the kitchen. Those on the tour also heard the story of a young lad said to haunt the elevators. As the elevators were being tested, “the cable snapped,” Steven told his group. “It crashed all the way down to the ground, crushing the poor boy, only 13 or 14, who was operating it and to this day, around those elevators, sometimes people hear a long childish wail.”
An unexpected thunderstorm halted the tour for 30 minutes, forcing the group to huddle beneath the scaffolding of a building. In the meantime, Steven told ghostly tales about phantom black cats roaming the streets and why one may hear the faint sound of a child yelling down 14th Street.
Adam Curtis, who was on the tour that night, said he wasn’t put off by the weather’s disruption and the tour exceeded his expectations. But the drink prices were a different matter: “The scariest part was the tab at the end of the night,” he added.
Tickets for Washington, D.C. Nightly Spirits Pub Tours are $25 per person. You can book your tour here.
Nightly Spirits Tours also operate in Alexandria (Virginia), Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston and Tampa.
Sources: Marc Shapiro, The American University Eagle, June 1, 2019; Nightly Spirits; Louise Sweeney, "Restoring the Willard: Historic Hotel Again Reflects its Glittering Past," The Christian Science Monitor, June 26, 1986; and Willard InterContinental, Washington.