| Decatur House
By Jason McCurry
Our nationís capital has its own blend of haunted history and ghostly manifestations. Many of the apparitions documented here were prominent citizenís of the area. Such is the case at the Decatur House, where dark clouds of conflict still hover over this distinguished neo-classical structure.
The Decatur House is located on Lafayette Square. This grand mansion was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe often referred to as the father of American architecture. In the 1800ís, this area, directly north of the White House, was the heart of the social scene in Washington, D.C. Stephen Decatur and his wife, Susan, enjoyed celebrity status during their lives here, that is, until a violent confrontation ended Decaturís life abruptly.
The duel between Stephen Decatur and Commodore James Barron is a historical fact. Barron was the commander of the ship, the Chesapeake, and had been the subject of a scandal in 1807. According to history, Commodore Barron failed to prepare his ship for battle and it was easily defeated by a British warship. This incident led to Barronís court martial in 1808. Decatur's naval duty at the time was to attend this court martial.
Decatur agreed to a verdict that discharged Barron from the Navy for a period of five years. This action led to a thirteen year dispute between the two that eventually ended in death.
A letter written by Barron to Decatur stated ď You have hunted me out, have persecuted me with all the power and influence of your office; and for what purpose or from what other motive than to obtain my rank.Ē He then requested that their dispute be settled by a duel.
"If we fight, it must be of your seeking,Ē replied Decatur, in a letter addressed to Barron.
Barron responded with this statement, "Whenever you will consent to meet me on fair and equal grounds, that is, such as two honorable men may consider just and proper, you are to view this as that call."
On March 22, 1820, Stephen Decatur and James Barron met on the dueling ground in Bladensburg, Maryland. The duel that followed mortally wounded the Naval hero, Decatur. The nation mourned.
"The night before the duel Stephen Douglas stood at his window silently peering out.. After his death he was spotted so many times by onlookers at this window that it was eventually walled up.
Douglasís wife, Susan, also haunts the residence. So upset was she when her husband died that, to this day, you can still feel a sense of sadness in the air when you enter the house, and you can hear the sound of her desperate cries.
From former presidents to war heroes, Washington, D.C. is a hot spot of paranormal phenomena. Violent confrontations abound in this great city. Desperate men who died here continue to haunt its houses and tree-lined pathways.
Decatur House is located one block north of the White House on Lafayette Square.
(previously published in Encyclopedia Of Haunted Places)