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'Do not pass the vibe check': These are some of DC's most 'cursed' spots, as told by locals

It's 2020 and time already doesn't feel real. In some places around the District, that weird energy feels even stronger than usual.

WASHINGTON — Heebejeebies, sixth sense, bad mojo, strange energy. Call it what you want, but it's that feeling you get when you know deep in your bones, something just isn't right. 

Twitter user Layla Dhere listed her choices for the most 'cursed' places around D.C. this week, ranking the entire Metro Red Line as a place that gives off bad vibes as well as pretty much every Chop't in the District. (Side note: Why does this make a weird amount of sense?)

It turns out, Dhere's opinions of time-altering places seemed to be a universal feeling among D.C. residents -- dozens of people replied to her thread with their own experiences, ranging from creepy bathrooms in government buildings to intersections around the city. 

In an effort to get to know D.C. just a bit more, I did what any normal person would do: ask a bunch of strangers on Facebook (big shout out to Welcome2DC for their awesome responses and helpful tips)  for their opinions and then force my roommate to drive around the city to see them all.

As for what's defined as 'cursed', it doesn't just mean places that remind us of the basement scene in The Conjuring (although a few of these stops definitely gave off horror movie vibes.) Not so much haunted areas, but rather as one Facebook user told me: "WTF relics and places that simply put, do not pass the vibe check."

I understood completely. 

Boarded up windows that make you walk a tad bit faster than usual, even in the middle of the day. That one tree in Chinatown that practically guarantees you will need to change your shirt after the wrath of bird poop. That windowless, seven-story high structure on H Street that no one seems to know what's inside. And let's not even talk about Wendy's in NoMa off Florida Avenue, a traffic nightmare from hell. 

From grocery stores and abandoned buildings to dive bar bathrooms and bizarre neighborhood decor, here's a roundup of some the most ... unique D.C. places, as experienced by locals and yours truly.

Your weirdly 'cursed' guide to DC:

Credit: AtlasObscura

Dupont Underground, the mecca of strange

Even on a sunny day, a walk past DuPont underground can give you an overwhelming sense that something just isn't right. Maybe it's the half-rusted entrance or the graffiti-tagged walls and flickering lights that sometimes work but mostly do not. Or maybe it's the fact that no matter how many times businesses and art ventures try and revive the space, nothing seems to last.

It could be the fact that the underground space -- all 75,000 square feet of it -- served as a trolley station from 1949 - 1962, then  a fallout shelter in 1975 and a brief stint as a weird food court of sorts in 1995. 

Credit: WUSA9
When I asked about bars, all roads lead to Madams Organ and Dans Cafe.

Bars, LOTS of them:

Recessions, Madams Organ, Little Miss Whiskey, Sign of the Whale and Codmother were amongst the most popular for odd vibes and nights with cursed memories. Runners up include the Front Page and Cactus Cantina banquet room where time stops completely.

By far the most horrifying and yet most popular? Dan's Cafe in Adams Morgan. Specifically, the bathroom in Dan's Cafe -- all 15 inches of it. It's where relationships -- and judging by the smell, perhaps people -- go to die. If it's not the half-sized swing door that barely covers much of anything, it's the ketchup-bottle squeezed liquor stains on the floor. 12/10 very cursed.

 Barbie Pond on Q:

Credit: WUSA9
Other just #DC things: Walking down Q street to find festive barbie dolls atop firecrockers in a residential pond. Just another Saturday.

Ah, yes. What else screams D.C. more than a beautiful rowhouse on a tree-lined street with a gorgeous pond? How about one with dozens of barbies attached to firecrackers and U.S. flags on the front lawn?

The affectionately dubbed Barbie Pond has been around for years, switching up the outfits on the dolls every month or so to reflect holiday seasons and underlying political messages. How many horror movies have dolls in them? A lot. These ones just make your walk a little more fun. 

Haunted Wendy's, also known as Dave Thomas Circle, also known as the traffic stop from hell:

Credit: WUSA9
Perhaps no other location had the highest votes for weird vibes than the Florida Avenue Wendys.

First of all, if you can even get there, you deserve a Frosty. The Dave Thomas Circle is a traffic accident waiting to happen -- oh wait, they do happen, all the time. 

Why are there six lanes? And why do you have to take three or four or even five turns to get anywhere? Make it make sense, please.

It's what one person tweeted: "The chaotic dance of cars around Dave Thomas circle drives one of the devil's great engines of human misery."


The McDonalds on 14th Street and U:

Credit: WUSA9
Another fan favorite for weird vibes: the Mcdonalds off 14th and U.

Beyond our favorite NoMa Wendy's, another place seemed to be on the forefront of weird vibes: The McDonalds on U Street. Perhaps it's the flickering open sign that faces the street or the fact that there seems to be nobody in them, ever (at least not until after 2 a.m.).

Either way, both locations had some of the highest upvotes on weird energy. The fries make up for it, I'll give them that, but when I walked by I understood what one Facebook user described as "definitely a portal to somewhere not great."

Weird structures that make no sense

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Just your usual windowless structure on 2nd Street and H.

Guessing the purpose behind the many windowless structures scattered across the District has been a fan favorite, whether you're waiting in one of the many underpasses during rush hour or simply walking by.

 One of the creepiest I observed was this windowless structure on 2nd street and H, one of many requests from the Welcome DC Group:

"What’s up with that giant windowless concrete structure on 2nd & H St NW? I always wonder about it when I exit 395 at Massachusetts and get stuck staring at it while I wait for the light to turn green."-- 

 "The haunted mystery building on the corner of New Jersey and D St!"

"There is a building with no name, no sign, no windows, high walls, security personnel around and industrial noise. I don’t know what they do there but it creeps me out. If anyone knows what it is, please tell me so that I can sleep at nights."

(That happened to be Central Heating Plant)

Why is so tall? And what could possibly be inside? The lack of windows and most non-descript coloring only intrigue more. Wish I had answers for you, but until then, enjoy the mystery.

The old Carnegie Library that is now an Apple Store:

Credit: Megan Shull
Apple at the old Carnegie Library, because casual.

What used to be the iconic Carnegie library is now an Apple Store, because of course. The massive space was donated to the public by entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie, and dedicated back in 1903. While it's now a tech hub, I found out I wasn't alone in thinking it was slightly too big to not have some sort of haunted energy.

Credit: Welcome2DC
During the day? Stunning. At night? Strange.

A handful of very specific  gas stations:

Finding parking is hard enough, but paying $10 a gallon? Astronomical. Two gas stations -- the EXXON near Georgetown and another EXXON in Capitol Hill/ Eastern Market deserve to be on a horror list if not for the vibes then for the price per gallon. Not buying that it's a coincidence 

"How about that gas station in the Eastern Market area that charges at least $4 a gallon?" 

The staircases near the National Cathedral entrance, but only past sundown:

Credit: WUSA9
Steps inside the National Cathedral. Beautiful and it's like time doesn't exist. Wow!

I know, I know. This is a hot take, and perhaps it's wrong to call a cathedral 'cursed.' The Washington National Cathedral is stunning with its stained glass and ornate decor, but there is something otherwordly about the dark and damp steps by the front entrance that give off a cursed vibe.

Rock Creek Park in its entirety:

Credit: AP
Debris is seen after flood waters receded on Rock Creek Parkway and Waterside Drive in northwest Washington.

The sprawling evergreen park where disappearances seem to be common and where lighted sidewalks are rare can make anyone feel uneasy. Both Rock Creek and Meridian Hill topped the charts with strange mojo from residents -- from crumbling pillars to defunct fountains that are only one once a week. 

... but more specifically, the bike paths:

Glover Park, Canal Road, any in Rock Creek. The list doesn't seem to end. Poorly lit, always a tad too cool and eerily quiet.

"That bike path tunnel under Canal Road close to Georgetown! Water dripping, dark, cold -- or it used to be! I haven't been back in ages." 

"I was riding along the bike tail last year going toward Georgetown, it was just past dusk, something caught my eye and it was a deer unfortunately dead on the bank of the creek, but with its face gone. I freaked out and peddled faster."

A handful of grocery stores that give off unexplainable energy:

The Giant on 3rd and H Street that inspired YouTube videos or the 'Soviet Safeway' off 17th Street in DuPont that garnered dozens of responses on the off-putting vibe list -- and I don't blame them. One walk down Corcoran Street and you're now on an adventurous scavenger hunt for whatever groceries you can find because I promise you you won't find all of them.

Consistently empty shelves, disastrously long lines and that awful tiling set the mood perfectly. In the midst of my research about said 'Soviet' Safeway, I discovered DC residents have a ton of other Safeways they nicknamed: There's Senior Safeway at 2550 Virginia Ave in Northwest and 'Social Safeway' off Wisconsin Avenue. 

At least there's "safe" in the name, right?

Literally all of the Red Line, and the Rosslyn Metro stop:

Credit: ap
A sign at the Rosslyn, Va., Metro station notifies riders that the system is closed for emergency inspection Wednesday, March 16, 2016. An unprecedented safety shutdown of the Metro subway system inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people in and around the nation's capital on Wednesday. Federal workers telecommuted or took the day off, children missed school and countless others woke up early to take bus after bus, hail pricey taxis or slog through traffic. (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko)

A morning commute on the Dread Line, I mean Red Line, that doesn't end in flames, or at the very least a 20-minute delay? A rarity. Especially considering the frequency with which the line actually seems to catch on fire. And while the days riding the Metro may be slowed down thanks to the pandemic, there's something oddly comforting about knowing

"Rosslyn Metro always gave me the creeps...why is the escalator that long and how come it's extra dark? Tell me I am not alone in this." 

The Union Station basement food court, particularly the Sbarro:

Credit: AP
A food service area is closed with yellow police tape at Union Station in Washington, Friday, May 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

There's something about train stations that make time feel extra malleable. The waiting amid the hustle and bustle of action?  The faint mixed smell of oil, cleaning supply and whatever is down in the food court? Cursed. Speaking of food, a top pick for Union Station ill-fated favorite happened to be the Sbarro's.

Runner up for Union Station? The H&M when you first walk in, apparently. Fluorescent lights no matter the hour and the faint thud of 80's music.

Speaking of food courts, we're throwing the one at Pentagon City Mall in the lineup too. While it's not technically in DC, the sticky blue booths and white chairs topped with kiosks selling bizarre souvenirs 

Cemeteries, because duh:

Credit: AP
Congressional Cemetery is seen from the roof of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE in Washington, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The White House may be occupied by President Barack Obama and his family for another few months, but other residents are already enjoying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, a new 77-unit apartment building that's four miles down the street from its more famous neighbor. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Whether it's Arlington or Congressional, or perhaps smaller ones, you don't walk into a cemetery without feeling some sort of energy. And some have a more.... interesting history than others:

"There used to be a cemetery in Georgetown (between Volta, Dent, 33rd, and 34th NW). Volta Park was the white section, the black section was across Q St. Apparently most bodies were exhumed and moved (at least in the white section, I think) but it's not uncommon for homeowners along Q St. NW to find skeletal remains during renovations. Most recent was earlier this year. It's just disconcerting to think you could be walking over people's graves/bodies, or living above them if you're a homeowner."

"In Arlington Cemetary, when you take the stairs from the Kennedy flame to the Custis-Lee mansion, there's a damaged gravesite of a woman (sorry, don't remember her name) and the stone reads something to the effect of "motherhood killed her." While I'm sure it's probably some antique way of saying she died in labor, the wording and the damage creeped me out. "

P.S. If you're not down to walk through the Congressional Cemetery just yet, the group also does virtual tours of the ground on Facebook Live every Saturday. Casual. 

The Lincoln Memorial gift shop:

Old Abe, you have an absolutely gorgeous memorial but your gift shop --- with all it's the historic decor and tiny spaces -- is a mini time machine I don't want to leave. Not necessarily creepy, but another dimension, for sure.

Some actually terrifying places:

A ton of responses lead me to bizarre intersections and tucked-away bars, but there were a handful that pointed in the direction of the obviously scary. High school was scary enough for all of us, but abandoned ones, like Spingarn High School in Northeast that closed in 2013, have to take top the charts. 

St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Southeast, with its illustrative history as the first federally operated psychiatric hospital opened way back in 1855 and also made the list.

... and last but not least, an obvious not-so-hidden gem: Exorcist steps at night:

Credit: Atlas Obscura

This one should be self-explanatory, but any place that's in a classic horror movie might be, uhm, well, a tad bit concerning.

The original flight of stairs was built in 1895 attached to a building that used to hold trolley cars back when DC had a cable car system (looking at you, Dupont Underground.)

Look, there were SO many more odd areas I was directed to I wish I could include -- everything from 395 underpasses to the Mazze Gallerie to that defunct commercial retail space in Tenleytown that looks like no one has walked by since the 80's. 

I know I am missing a ton, but a girl can only drive to so many spots in one night, especially if those spots may or may not bring some energy back. Regardless, the District is full of them, with more I am sure to be uncovered soon.

Stay weird, D.C.

For those who do want to check out some more iconic spots and feel a sense of odd solidarity, check out  Layla Dhere's thread here

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Kyley Schultz is a digital editor at WUSA9, covering everything from DMV politics to house fires and the Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @KyleyBSchultz

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