In the 19th Century, when caretakers of public buildings kept cats around for rodent control, the U.S. Capitol Building maintained a thriving feline population in its depths. Now that pest control has been handed over to beings with just two legs, only one cat remains. He’s one cat that no one in their right mind wants to tangle with. He’s the dreaded Demon Cat of the Capitol; D.C. for short.
According to an article that appeared in the Oct. 2, 1898 issue of the Philadelphia Press, “The Capitol at Washington is probably the most thoroughly haunted building in the world.”
I don’t know about that. I can think of twenty places that claim to have more ghosts than the U.S. Capitol. The article continues, “Not less than fifteen well-authenticated ghosts infest it, and some of them are of a more than ordinarily alarming character.” That alarming character was the Demon Cat.
A visit by D.C was recorded by newspapers in 1862. A capitol watchman shot at the creature. For a while after this attack, the Demon Cat was the topic of nightly conversations. Hardened lawmen admitted to each other they didn’t want to go into the bowels of the capitol alone.
D.C. usually makes his appearances in the basement of the Senate near the Catafalque Storage Room. The catafalque is the raised ceremonial platform on which a president’s casket rests when he lies in state in the Rotunda. It’s kept in the crypt beneath the Capitol Rotunda where the funereal supplies are stored.
Time passed without another appearance from the creature; security guards came and went. D.C. ceased to be a nightly topic. Although one or two of the senior officers would still speak of the coal black cat in fearful and awed whispers. For 35 years the cat sat in wait among the shadows. It finally re-emerged in October 1898.
Unlike other spirits who appear randomly, the Demon Cat appears with the precision of Julius Caesar’s soothsayer as if to say, “Beware the Ides of March.” (Or maybe it means, "Keep your head low.") Just as the soothsayer warned of the death of a leader, so (supposedly) does D.C.
But the possibility of running into D.C. makes the basement a place where angels and security guards fear to tread. Walking a beat alone in the depths of a two-hundred year old building would be unnerving on its own, without the ever-present threat of a nighttime visit from a massive black cat with a nasty disposition. The sight of even the most innocent stray black cat wandering the basement was enough to make a grown man tremble like a frightened toddler—even when the grown man was a professional lawman.
Large paw prints permanently cast into the concrete project a constant reminder that the black cat may lurk just around the corner. Accounts have indicated that the cat waits until his victim is alone, then attacks.
According to reports, in 1862 and 1898, guards shot at a black cat that grew to the size of a tiger. Another guard, while rattling doorknobs, spotted a black kitty walking toward him. The guard froze, as if encased in plastic. With yellow eyes glowing, the cat appeared to develop and swell, all the while drawing nearer. He grew to the size of a large dog. Still unable to flee the man stared helpless as the Doberman-size panther charged within a fathom of him. The next step the cat had grown to lion-size, feet extended, fangs and claws brought fully to bear. The guard, still paralyzed watched the cat spring toward his face. Hopefully, it would be quick. One victim said it swelled to the size of a small elephant. (Yeah, right. Can you say, alcohol rehab?) Then, when it was close enough for the man to see inside the beast’s mouth, it simply vanished. Not all of D.C.’s victims emerge from the Catafalque store unscathed. A few actually showed up with impressive domestic cat scratches.
They say the cat was spotted by a security guard the week before the 1929 Stock Market Crash, and again, just before President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 (although I haven’t been able to verify this.) However, there has no report of the cat in recent decades or even prior to catastrophes like 9/11 or Hurricanes Katrina and Ike. However, it is possible that the secret service simply kept it a secret. We’ll never know.
I wonder if D.C. would respond to turkey cat treats and catnip? I’d love to try.
(Don’t forget to enter Dusty Rainbolt's Ghoulish Pet Photo Contest at www.zootoo.com/petphotocontests.
Member of Cat Writers' Association & International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
Host of Paranormal Pets on PetLifeRadio.com
Author of Cat Wrangling Made Easy: Maintaining Peace & Sanity in Your Multicat Home, Ghost Cats: Human Encounters with Feline Spirits, Kittens for Dummies, All the Marbles