The story of the Demon Cat dates back to the mid‑1800s when cats were brought into the basement tunnels of the United States Capitol Building to kill rats and mice. Legend states that the Demon Cat is one of these cats who never left, even after its death. Its home is supposedly the basement crypt of the Capitol Building, 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 on the night 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'.
According to Steve Livengood, the chief tour guide of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, the Capitol Police force was notorious for hiring unqualified relatives and friends of Congressmen as favors, and that these men would frequently be drunk whilst on patrol. Livengood believes the legend began when a drunken security guard was licked by one of the Capitol building's cats and mistakenly assumed it to be a giant cat. Livengood states that upon reporting the incident to his superior, the guard would have been sent home to recover, and "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.
- Rosenwald, Michael S. (October 31, 2018). "The 'feline spook of the Capitol': How a Demon Cat became Washington's best ghost story". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
- Grundhauser, Eric (March 13, 2018). "Why the U.S. Capitol's 'Demon Cat' Legend Is So Persistent". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
- 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 the Capital Police firing guns toward the hissing cat as it disappeared only to find they were shooting into an empty hallway. '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 Capital 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.
- "DC RollerGirls". Retrieved October 11, 2014.