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Tourists from around the globe visit Washington DC, and there are certainly enough unique sites to last a week or more. But there is one intriguing aspect most people miss. Washington is awash in ghosts. Someone once said, "if these buildings could only speak, what amazing stories they would tell." That's true of this beautiful city on the Potomac.

The White House is a popular stop on most tourist itineraries. Free guided tours are available, but you should plan to arrive early. On busy days in spring and summer, timed tickets are issued, good for that day only. These tickets may be gone as early as 8:30 a.m. Things are very changeable at the White House and tours can be cancelled on rather short notice, for private functions.

In 1792, George Washington laid the cornerstone at the mansion that has been the home of every American President...except him. Designed by James Hoban on a site selected by Washington himself, the 132-room White House is much larger today, than it was in 1800 when its first occupants John & Abigail Adams moved in. Burned by the British in 1814, the White House was not occupied again until 1817, when new white paint applied to the exterior walls gave it its present name.

But, the White House is home to more than just the current President of the United States. A variety of guests from the distant past come to call, right beside the tourists. More than a few people have seen Abe Lincoln and his small son Willy. Abe is most often seen in the Lincoln bedroom or walking through the halls. Others have seen the spirit of Abigail Adams. Apparently Mrs. Adams used to hang her laundry in the East Room and even now people claim to see her with arms outstretched as if carrying a load of laundry. Some have said her spirit leaves behind the smell of soap and wet clothing.

The U.S. Capitol manages to be two things at one time, a major monument to democracy and one of the most important places in the world, as the constant presence of reporters and photographers proves. Public, guided tours are offered, however they can be brief, depending on the crowds at the time. Thirty minutes is standard. Visitors see Statuary Hall, the House or Senate chambers (when they're not in session) and the low-ceiling crypt. You're also allowed to walk around on your own, which they call a self-guided tour. If you wish to view a session of Congress from the Gallery, go first to the office of your senator or representative and pick up a free pass. Legislative offices are located in six nearby office buildings, with convenient basement-level subways and walkways connecting them to the Capitol.

What the guides won't mention are the ghosts of the Capitol and there are a number of them. One of the most notorious isn't a human at all, but a cat.

In the past, cats were kept on the premises as mousers. But, over the years the cat population dwindled to nothing, except for one black cat who has over-stayed his welcome. Known as DC, for Demon Cat, the feline specter shows itself most often when the victim is alone and it's late at night. Security guards working the Capitol prefer to have no encounters with DC, as he's been reported to grow to the size of a panther and leap through the air, before vanishing.

The other apparitions seen in the Capitol include two workmen, a ghost known as the Invisible Guard, a World War I doughboy, and President James Garfield.

A house known as the Octagon was one of the first great homes built in the city. Today this historic home features period furnishings and a museum with changing exhibits of architecture and allied arts. Period rooms on the first floor offer visitors a glimpse of how the upper crust lived in the early days of Washington. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday. This is also the mansion where President James Madison and his wife Dolly took up temporary residence after the British burned the White House. Yet, the Octagon may be more well-known for its ghosts, rather than lovely furnishings.

The original owners were a family by the name of Tayloe. Colonel Tayloe and his wife had fifteen children, seven sons and eight daughters. Two of the daughters died accidently on or very near the huge, oval staircase. The spirits of both Tayloe sisters have been seen re-enacting their tragic deaths on this stairway, and a hanging lantern in the center is often seen swaying for no apparent reason.

Others believe the spirit of Dolly Madison is still in the Octagon. Occasionally, people will notice and comment about a cold spot, scented with lilacs, the scent Dolly always wore. A newspaper article of some years ago claimed her spirit was seen standing in front of the mantelpiece in the ballroom, where she used to receive her distinguished guests. Yet more sightings place her dancing through the entrance hall.

Fascinating legends such as these get handed down from generation to generation. In earlier times, newspapers routinely ran ghost sightings as news stories, although today we jeer at such things. But, just remember, when you visit the White House, look out for Abigail and her laundry.