Exorcist Steps

When you think of an iconic horror movie, The Exorcist (1973) immediately comes to mind. Written by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist follows a tormented young girl and the skeptical priest who tries to help her. Several scenes were filmed in Georgetown, Washington, DC, where it’s set.

At the end of the film, Father Damien Karras allows the demon to possess him and he throws himself out the window down a flight of stairs. Those stairs are located in Georgetown leading from the intersection of 36th Street NW and Prospect Street NW down to Canal Road.

The Exorcist (1973)

Looking from top down, it’s easy to see how long, narrow, claustrophobic, and steep they are. I wouldn’t want to even walk up or down them, let alone jog like a group of cross fitters were doing when I visited.

Wisdom of Shadows

This cloistered memorial dedicated to Marian Hooper Adams (1843-1885) is by far the most famous in St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, 201 Allison Street NW, Washington, DC. Historian Henry Adams commissioned this sculpture of a hooded figure from artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens in honor of his wife, Marian “Clover”. The statue, though Adams requested it remain nameless, has been called “Grief”, “Angel of Death”, or “Peace of God”. There is no inscription.

Marian Hooper Adams (1843-1885)

Things get weirder… According to John Alexander, author of Ghosts: Washington’s Most Famous Ghost Stories, visitors have reported feelings of extreme loneliness at the memorial. Stranger still, some say the spectral image of a frail woman appears there at dusk. Is this the ghost of Mrs. Adams reaching out for human companionship from an anonymous grave?

Scary DC Tours Shows an Eerie Side to Capitol Hill

It promised to be “the Spookiest Ghost Tour in Washington DC.” I don’t know whether it was the spookiest, but it certainly was informative. Scary DC Tours doesn’t cover a lot of ground, physically speaking, but you will get your money’s worth on this 90-minute tour around Capitol Hill. 

My wife and I signed up on a chilly Friday night and ended up with a small group of three other couples. Our tour guide dressed in colonial attire as the ghost of Samuel Chase (1741-1811), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and early Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (subsequently impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate). He was personable but visibly upset by the death of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier that evening, so his performance was a little off.

We met outside the Starbucks at 237 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, walked north past the Library of Congress, around the Supreme Court Building, and ended at the Capitol Building. Our first stop was at the intersection of 2nd Street SE and Independence Avenue, where an unfortunate accident involving a young boy named Thomas and a tumbling cable spool is replayed. From there, our tour guide asked us whether we wanted to hear historical stories or more recent ones. We all enthusiastically agreed hearing new stories would be most interesting.

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Reflections from Washington, DC on the Occasion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Passing

It’s strange how you can get caught up in historic events on an otherwise normal evening. Last night, my wife an I just happened to go down to Washington, DC for dinner and a tour. We ate at Hawk ‘n’ Dove pub on Pennsylvania Ave SE, then we walked down to Starbucks where we waited for the tour guide to show up. Signs of the times were everywhere: people wearing face masks and sitting outside bars on hastily erected tables on the sidewalks. Black Lives Matter signs and professions of support hung in the Starbucks’ window.

We were still waiting around 8pm; Kayla was on the phone with her cousin when I saw an article from NPR on Facebook reporting Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) had died. I didn’t believe it at first because every year there are fake articles about Ginsburg’s death or impending death. It fit too well–the kind of fake news story designed to sew outrage and divide people in an already contentious election year. But it was true.

U.S. Capitol Building the Night of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Death in Washington, DC
Flag flies at half-staff outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, with a view toward the capitol.

When the tour guide showed up, he mentioned the news. He was visibly upset, more so by the political implications of Ginsburg’s death. The tour took us past the Supreme Court building, where a crowd was quickly gathering as news spread. Flags were already half-staff at the Supreme Court and capitol building. The vigil was quiet at first, with people paying their respects by laying flowers and lighting candles.

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Magdalene’s Eyes Opened

Bronze monument to Charles Mather Ffoulke (1841-1909), his wife, Sarah Cushing (1852-1926), and their children in St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, 201 Allison Street NW, Washington, DC. Charles was a merchant, investment banker, and art collector. Titled “Rabboni”, this sculpture of Mary Magdalene emerging from Jesus’ tomb on Easter was designed by Gutzon Borglum in 1909. The epitaph reads:

“THE END OF BIRTH IS DEATH \ THE END OF DEATH IS LIFE AND \ WHERFOR MOURNEST THOU”

Charles Mather Ffoulke (1841-1909)

Moments of Grief

Monument to Samuel H. Kauffmann (1829-1906), owner and publisher of the Washington Evening Star newspaper, in St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, 201 Allison Street NW, Washington, DC. Titled “Seven Ages” or “Memory”, this seated bronze figure holding an asphodel wreath was designed by William Ordway Partridge in 1897. The seven bronze panels depict scenes illustrating Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” from As You Like It. A large urn that stood in front of the bench has been removed.

Samuel H. Kauffmann (1829-1906)

D.C. Cherry Blossoms 2020

My wife and I finally made it to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., something on my to-do list since moving to this area over a year ago. Despite fears of Covid-19, official cancellation of the festival, and warnings to stay away from large groups, hundreds of people couldn’t resist the allure of the blossoms.

Tidal Basin Blossoms

A plummeting stock market and fears of pandemic were a stark contrast to this beautiful spring morning and the bright pink cherry blossoms. We did see some visitors wearing masks, but otherwise it was just a typical day.

Leo Longs for Pets

Our corgi, Leo, was upset he couldn’t get any pets from passersby.

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Last Illumination

Monument to Thomas Trueman Gaff (1854-1923) in St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, 201 Allison Street NW, Washington, DC. This bronze figure in a hooded robe was sculpted by Jules B. Dechin in Paris, 1922. Gaff’s epitaph reads “EXCEPIT ILLUM MAGNA, ET AETERNA PAX”, which is Latin for “Welcomed by a great and everlasting peace”.

Thomas Trueman Gaff (1854-1923)