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How much do you believe in ghosts and spooks? Demons and angels? Some people do and some people don’t. But they always make for some good stories around a campfire or to add some fun to Halloween even if you’re not actually into that sort of thing. Have you ever heard of any famous pet ghost stories? We’re not talking about Stephen King’s Pet Cemetary, but rather a demon cat that may haunt the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

The Demon Cat Legend in the U.S. Capitol

demon cat us capitol

Photo property of the U.S. Library of Congress.

There’s no doubt of legends and ghost stories plaguing the halls of all the government buildings in Washington, D.C. But this story even tops the legend of when Winston Churchhill visited the White House and was greeted by President Abraham Lincoln as Churchhill got out of the bathtub.

Over the years, the U.S. Capitol has had a lot of “odd” things go on inside its walls. At one point, it was legend that you could hear John Quincy Adams’ final words echoing through the halls at night. There are also many Civil War specters seen, as the basement was used as a bakery to help feed soldiers during the war.

And then there’s our demon cat. The “Demon Cat” as it’s called is the most believable legend because of the physical evidence left behind.

The “Evidence”

paw prints of us capitol floor

Photo by Bee Barnett.

It is said that when the Demon Cat is seen, it grows larger and larger. Going from the size of a normal house cat to a tiger and larger! One security guard in the mid-1930s had an encounter with this cat, and when it pounced, it disappeared. Many others have also stated this same occurrence.

The first instance of this Demon Cat ever being seen was in 1862, again, during the time of the Civil War. Was it really a demon? Perhaps there were bad grains in those baked goods those soldiers were eating?!

demon cat at capitol

Photo by White House Historical Association (Adapted using images from the New York Public Library and Library of Congress).

The next well-known appearance was in 1898 after the Washington Post published an article on the spook. Yet again, the cat grows larger, the “size of an elephant before the eyes of a terrified observer.” According to witnesses, the cat would either appear first as a tabby or a black cat. There’s even “scratches” on the floor of the initials “D.C.” of the building, and paw prints molded into the floor to further “prove” that D.C. exists.

Washington Post clip

Photo by The Washington Post Archives.

Supposedly, this Demon Cat appearance foretold the deaths of Presidents John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and right before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 causing the Great Depression. Yikes. Sounds like it’s there to help warn them! But the real scoop is yet to come.

Washington Post archive article

Photo property of the Washington Post Archives.

So What’s The Truth of This Demon Cat?

Most people still say it’s true. But one theory is the well-known roaming of President’s and First Lady Coolidge’s cat, Tige. Tige loved to disappear and roam around D.C., often visiting all of the different buildings. Well, if the first appearance was in 1862, that doesn’t add up does it? Well, Tige could have purrhaps furthered the story.

But Steve Livengood, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society’s public historian, has a different idea. According to Livengood, the story was just a bunch of ‘hoopla’ caused by some drunken night guards. During the earlier years of U.S. history, guards were usually family or friends of government officials or the president. 

Dc demon cat scratches

Photo by Steve Livengood.

“The night watchmen were not professionals. They would often be some senator’s ne’er-do-well brother-in-law that had a drinking problem.”

If you happen to be drunk and wake up to a cat licking your face while lying on the ground, that would probably make them seem larger than life. But how does that explain the scratches and paw prints on the floor?

The paw prints could have easily been made by a stray cat while the floor was being put in. Stray cats were introduced into the D.C. government buildings centuries ago to help reduce the rat and mice population.

John Dingell, a former congressman during World War II, noted how the rats in the basement of the Capitol were “as big as housecats.” No wonder they needed some cats to catch them! And the scratch of the D.C. initials on the floor? Maybe a masonry worker letting people know that’s where the floor was to go? Who knows! It’s mostly all theory. 

So what do you think? Is the Demon Cat legend just that, a legend with logical evidence to back up the theories? Or do you think it really is a spooky cat walking the halls?!

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