It's fair to say that many, if not in fact most, buildings older than, say, a hundred years old have their share of peculiar happenings and are perhaps even haunted. It's also not terribly difficult to find reference to ghosts in the District of Columbia, especially in the older neighborhoods. But a vampire? Now, that takes some doing.
I'm pleased to report that I have found at least one vampire in Washington, DC, and that despite their kind's known aversion to publicity and the harsh glare of, well, anything, our vampire has made it into the historical record at least once. A Washington Post article from the 1920's goes into some detail about the story and I share it with you in the hopes that, with Halloween fast approaching, we can remain on guard and armed with knowledge against the undead.
There's little reason a tourist would find themselves in the section of town we discuss here today, but some of my local readers might want to keep their garlic handy as they walk down Florida Avenue near Gallaudet University, in Northeast Washington. Florida was once known as Boundary Avenue, as it was the dividing line between the City of Washington and the rest of the District of Columbia. That distinction has long since disappeared, but at the start of the nineteenth century, farms and empty space prevailed here. Just over Boundary, supposedly on the site of Cogswell Hall (itself haunted), was the mansion of Robert Brent, first mayor of Washington, DC. He left it to his daughter, Eleanor Pearson, and it remained in the family (more or less) until it finally burned in 1917, after a long period of decay.
At some point, in it's heyday in post-Civil War Washington, a young lady of the Pearson family was found dead with the requisite two puncture marks in the death. Whether this was inflicted by a stranger, or she had been having an affair with a dark-haired European prince as some allege, is unknown. As a side note, much of DC's social history in the Gilded Age concerns young, well to do, fashionable ladies falling in love with European "royalty", often with less than optimal results.
Anyway, the young lady was laid to rest in the Brent family vault and that's when the fun started. Remember, this area of town was largely rural at this time, in many ways a small hamlet in the woods in close proximity to the Captiol. Initially, a white-robed figure was seen to roam the area, but little attention was paid until a groom at the nearby stables turned up dead, with two puncture marks in his neck. The servants warned that this was the mark of the undead, and the local residents confirmed this when one night, the figure of Vampiress was again seen leaving the burial vault.
Once day returned, the vault was investigated, and the locals were horrified at what they found. The coffin had been remeved from it's recent resting place and the still freh flowers were distrubed. But most dismaying, the body of the young lady lay with rosy cheeks and "lips a bright red." Worse yet, the watchers "discovered the front teeth were as long and sharp as the teeth of a wolf."
The remains were re-interred, and quiet resumed in the sleepy hamlet. The locals slowly moved on, until one evening several months later a passerby came upon the vision of the young woman, who turned towards him and gave a terrible laugh. The man reported that "he caught the foul odor of the charnel house and saw the gleam of hell fire in the eyes of the thing that came forth from the dead to the eerie sound as of whispering among the dead, holding communion with the dead." The man was dead within a week of this report.
Shortly after this, the last resident, Eliza W. Patterson, fell on hard times and the house began it's drift downwards. The mansion, and it's associated vault, fell into disrepair and remained an object of fear to all who live around there. Eventually, the land was subdivided and sold off, and this portion was purchased for Galludet University, the nation's first school for the deaf. It's a beautiful campus, and nothing remains of the dark events of a hundred and thirty years ago. Still wouldn't wander alone under a full moon though...