The story of the Demon Cat dates back to the days when cats were brought into the basement tunnels of the Capitol buildings to kill rats. Legend states that the Demon Cat is one who never left. Its home is supposedly the basement crypt of the Capitol which was originally intended as a burial chamber for President George Washington.
According to legend, the cat is seen before presidential elections and tragedies in Washington, D.C., allegedly being spotted by White House security guards the nights before the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. The cat is described as fully black and the size of an average house cat; but witnesses report that the cat swells to "the size of a giant tiger", 10 feet by 10 feet, when alerted. The cat would then either explode or pounce at the witness, disappearing before it managed to catch its 'victim'.
In the 1890s the cat is said to have inexplicably vanished when some Capitol Hill guards fired at it, and another supposedly died of a heart attack after seeing it.
The last official sighting of the black cat was in the 1940s. The U.S. Capitol Historical Society has stated that at this time the Capitol Police force was notorious for hiring unqualified relatives and friends of Congressmen as favours, and that these men would frequently be drunk whilst on patrol.
The society's version of the story states that a security guard was once licked by a cat when he was lying down. Being drunk, the man thought he was still standing at the time and was frightened by the apparently giant cat, thus spawning the 'Demon Cat' legend. As for the rest of the sightings, Steve Livengood of the society said that "eventually the other guards found out that they could get a day off if they saw the demon cat".
In popular culture
- Sheila Edmundson (October 30, 1999). "Halloween: Many things go bump in the still of night in D.C.". The Patriot Ledger.
- Lee Davidson (October 27, 1999). "Plenty of spooks on Capitol Hill for Halloween". Deseret News.
- Terry Sue Shank (November 1, 1992). "Nation's capital can be a haunting place". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
'The demon cat would usually meet someone alone in a dark corridor. It had large yellow eyes that seemed to hypnotize, and it would snarl. It would seem to grow larger and larger until it would make a final lunge toward its victim and then either explode or disappear over the victim's head,' Thayn said. Historians recorded stories of guards firing guns toward the hissing cat as it disappeared only to find they were shooting into an empty hall. 'It was said to appear only on the eve of a national tragedy or the change of administrations.' The cat even has a nickname among Capitol workers: 'D.C.'
- Catherine Avery (May 28, 1993). "Ghost Story ;There's a supernatural tale at most every corner in town". The Washington Times.
- Elizabeth Jordan (July 13, 2009). "Ghosts Wander The Hill". Roll Call. Retrieved October 7, 2010. (subscription required)
- Jordy Yager (March 4, 2009). "Haunted House - and Senate". The Hill. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
- Tom Kelly (October 26, 1989). "We live in a ghost town!". The Washington Times.
- Jim Abrams (October 31, 2003). "U.S. Capitol is not without its own ghostly tales;‘Demon cat’ is said to appear at times of national crisis, vanish suddenly". The Herald-Sun.
- "Some of the nation's spooky spots". Gannett News Service. October 16, 2008.
- "DC RollerGirls". Retrieved October 11, 2014.