- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 30, 2004

The top floor of the downtown Hotel Monaco is now the Paris Ballroom, but some people swear it still carries the murmurings and movements of doctors and nurses from when it was a Civil War operating room atop the original General Post Office Building.

Jorge E. Trevino, the hotel’s general manager, said guests and employees say the voices are sometimes accompanied by a cool, rushing breeze. But they see nothing when they turn to look.

The roughly 200-year-old hotel, at 700 F St. NW, is one of about 200 places in the area that are considered haunted.

They are the subjects of numerous books and Web sites that retell such paranormal experiences as chairs rocking on their own, a window opening and closing, spirits rising out of lakes in which teenagers have died in car accidents and strange figures beckoning people to follow.

Some people insist the stories are more than myth or legend.

“I have seen ghosts in just about every park I’ve worked,” said U.S. Park Service employee Joe Burns, manager of the Clara Barton House in Glen Echo.

Barton was a Civil War nurse who founded the American Red Cross in 1881. She retired to the home about 23 years later and died there in April 1912.

The house, which sits above the Potomac River, near the once-abandoned Glen Echo Amusement Park in Montgomery County, is listed on several Web sites, including the one for the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association.

However, Mr. Burns lived in the house for three years and never saw her ghost, so he thinks there is little truth to the legend.

Historic landmarks from the Civil War are often considered haunted, which does not surprise professional ghost hunter Jacqueline LeRocca.

“For true hauntings, the theory is, there needs to be unfinished business that leaves the ghost restless and unable to enter the next life,” Miss LeRocca says. “In times of war — especially the Civil War — you had a lot of untimely deaths.”

Stories about the Hotel Monaco resurfaced in 2001, when a construction worker reported seeing a beautiful woman standing in the courtyard’s entrance, which was off-limits to the public. He also said the woman was dressed in Civil War-era clothing and was staring longingly toward the street before she vanished.

One theory is that the woman is unable to rest until a letter arrives from her lover, who was fighting in the war.

Some hotel guests, unaware of the building’s history, have reported seeing the ghosts of the doctors and nurses hurriedly walking the halls, then vanishing.

Mr. Trevino says some guests get a little anxious over the sightings, but none has left because of them.

“They are good ghosts,” he said. “We have never had an angry ghost.” He also called some of the sightings “pretty convincing.”

Folklore swirls around almost every historic site in the District, especially if it is connected to Abraham Lincoln.

Ford’s Theatre, on 10th Street NW, where Lincoln was assassinated, is among them.

Many ghosts are said to frequent the Capital Building, including what is known as Demon Cat — a creepy creature whose appearance supposedly signifies national disasters.

The White House is said to have many ghosts, which guests such as World War II-era British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands have reported seeing. Abraham Lincoln himself is said to haunt his old bedroom.

“We love Lincoln,” says Trent Duffy, the White House deputy press secretary. “It’s the ghost written memos, fake documents and paranormal media pranks that are giving us the creeps this Halloween.”

Miss LeRocca said that in her experience as a paranormal investigator, few people want to get rid of the spirits causing supernatural events.

“They mostly want to understand them,” she said.

However, Miss LeRocca has heard some hair-raising tales of unexplained horror.

In such cases, she and her colleagues advise their clients to call a priest or religious leader to come and bless the house or property.

Prayer, she said, “is the only thing that works in such cases.”

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