WASHINGTON — During only nine days in October, guests have the opportunity to experience a living history amongst the dead at Capitol Hill's Congressional Cemetery.
You'll find Congressional to be "quite the liveliest burial grounds in these United States," quipped one of the performers as she welcomed tour participants to her 'Soul Strolls' presentation at the cemetery.
"As you're stumbling past the grave markers and then people appear, people get it. And they want to hear the stories. They want to believe," said performer Robert Pohl, breaking character for a moment from portraying DC Metropolitan Police Inspector Henry Lincoln Guessford who died in 1933 after a decades-long police career.
Soul Strolls takes tour groups past the graves of five of the cemetery residents who Pohl says have "kindly consented to tell us a little bit about their lives."
"It's about a three," said Pohl when asked how spooky the tour is on a scale of one to ten. "This is not one of those haunted houses where people jump out at you and say 'boo'. That's not our style."
"This is the best way you can spend a fall evening in the DMV," said a young woman touring the cemetery with a group of friends. "It's cheerful ghost stories. Not scary ghost stories."
When asked what she had learned over the course of the tour, the young woman replied, "Not to leave an axe by the back door. And to listen to your mother on who you're dating."
"I've done ghost tours before and I don't go for the scary sort of stuff. I use the ghost stories as a way to tell some stories. Some history," said Pohl.
The Congressional Cemetery website indicates there have been around 70,000 burials since it's inception in 1807. That, of course, was back when DC still was not a state and had no voting representation in Congress.
The website shows that burial sites are still available. And despite it's name 'Congressional' the only requirement to be buried there is that you have to be dead.
Notable dead at Congressional include Elbridge Gerry, Vice President under President James Madison and the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to be buried in DC. Longtime FBI Director J Edgar Hoover is also buried there.