Guests at The Occidental Bar and Grill can munch on American cuisine and sip on glasses of wine just steps from the White House. However, on May 10th, a guest entered the restaurant wearing a powdered wig, a red knee-length coat and 18th century-like trousers. This was the tour guide for that evening’s Nightly Spirits DC Tour.
Nightly Spirits is a tour company that hosts weekly haunted-themed bar crawls in several major cities across the country. The D.C.-based company began hosting tours in 2012 that explore the historic and paranormal roots of the nation’s capital through unique stories of haunted landmarks.
“Every society that’s been studied had ghost stories,” said Steven, the evening’s tour guide.
The two-and-a-half-hour tour began at The Occidental and moved through nearby bars, including Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th Street and The Hamilton on 14th Street. The area the tour traverses is now known for its rich gastronomic traditions at upscale bars and restaurants after years of plight during the 1960s and 70s, Steven said.
There were 47 taverns between The Occidental and the Capitol before prohibition hit the District in 1917, Steven said. While many bars can still be found along this stretch, museums, hotels and government buildings are more prominent.
The tour stopped by the Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar, where attendees heard stories about some of the hotel’s famous guests, like former President Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as some details about the young ghost that haunts the hotel elevators.
“[As they were testing the elevators] the cable snapped,” Steven said. “It crashed all the way down to the ground, crushing the poor boy only 13 or 14 who was operating it and to this day around those elevators sometimes people hear a long childish wail.”
An unexpected thunderstorm halted the tour for thirty minutes, forcing the group to huddle under the scaffolding of a building. In the meantime, Steven told guests more haunted tales about black cats roaming D.C. streets and why one may hear the faint sound of a child yelling down 14th Street.
Adam Curtis, a tour attendee, said that he wasn’t put off by the weather’s disruption of the tour. He said that the tour’s content exceeded his expectations, but the drink prices were a different story.
“The scariest part was the tab at the end of the night,” Curtis said.
Tickets for Washington, D.C. Nightly Spirits Ghost Tours are $25 per person. You can book your tour here.