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The Demon Cat of Washington D.C.

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story?

Funny enough, it was a headline I read on my morning Yahoo news feed a few months back entitled, “An elephant-sized demon cat is said to appear at the U.S. Capitol before national emergencies, according to reports as far back as 1862” that had me intrigued. I am a complete history nerd that investigates the paranormal. I’ve always heard about Lincoln haunting the White House, how come I had never heard this story? This had to be clickbait or a joke. Even if it was, I was intrigued enough to be sucked into the clickbait and read more. Combine an urban legend, intertwine it with American History, and add in a ghost cat... you have me hooked! Turns out, the article wasn’t a joke. A quick Google search turned up several websites, including the White House Historical Association, that all told the story of the Demon Cat.

Like most ghost stories, there are several variations throughout the years about the mysterious ghost cat that roams the Capitol. The Demon Cat, or D.C. as it has come to be known, appears at first to be a regular tabby cat though some have reported it to be black. Some have reported that after seeing the cat, they observed it growing in size almost as large as an elephant. In a 1935 account published in the Washington Post, one observer remarked that the Demon Cat’s eyes “glow with the all the hue and ferocity of the headlights of a fire engine.”

Stories of the ghost cat have been recorded as far back as the Civil War. At that time, the Capitol building’s basement was being used as a bakery to feed soldiers. The cat appeared, a guard reportedly fired his gun at it and the cat vanished into thin air. It is reported that the cat’s most frequent sightings are in the basement of the Capitol Building. However, the cat has been seen in both the Capitol Building and the White House. When it does appear in the White House, it is said that a tragedy has often occurred after the sighting. There were supposed sightings of the cat in 1929 before the stock market crash and again in 1963 just before the assassination of JFK.

Now great ghost story aside, I would not be a good historian and paranormal investigator if I did not explore the logical explanations for our friendly (or ominous) ghost kitty. According to United States Capitol Historical Society public historian Steve Livengood, the concept of the Demon Cat likely originated with a guardsman at the United States Capitol who may have drank a little too much during a long nighttime stretch. After sleeping off the bender, he likely woke to a basement mouser cat, who appeared larger than life since the guard was lying down. This would make sense. It is well documented that these cats roamed the Capitol basement as mousers, taking care of the vermin and living rent free. The story was likely perpetuated, and moved over to the White House, because of the numerous other ghost stories that have intrigued visitors for decades.

Personally, I would love to capture evidence of D.C. Until that day, I leave you with a great story.

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