Metro Weekly

Gay Ghost?

'Ghosts and Spirits' at Stephen Decatur House

Between the Miss Adams Morgan pageant and the annual High Heel Races, it’s often suggested that Halloween must be a kind of gay holiday, considering how much dressing in costume is appreciated by so many in the GLBT community. But while some folks just love the creativity, others would prefer a more traditionally spooky event. Turns out the nation’s capital marries the creepy and creative beautifully.

Now in its second year, the Stephen Decatur House Museum offers Ghosts & Spirits: A Halloween Evening at Decatur House. While it’s a night of candlelit tours of the historic property, live jazz, hors d’oeuvre, drinks and a costume contest, there is a nod to the macabre: The Decatur House is rumored to be among the capital’s most haunted addresses.

The story of Commodore Stephen Decatur has all the drama one might want in a ghost story. From the battles with the British in the East Indies to the Barbary Pirates on the “shores of Tripoli,” Decatur made himself a hero of young America’s nascent naval forces. From Decatur comes the ultra-patriotic quote, “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” At the age of 41, in 1820, he died from wounds suffered in a pistol duel. Thousands of Washingtonians are said to have paid their respects.

The gaiety enters the mix courtesy of the late, gay journalist, Randy Shilts, who includes mention of Decatur in his book Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military. Shilts theorized that the married, but childless, Decatur was a gay.

Ghosts & Spirits will be held Halloween evening, Oct. 31, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The Decatur House is located at 748 Jackson Place NW, on the edge of Lafayette Square. Tickets are $20 for museum members, $25 for non-members. To RSVP for this event, call 202-842-0920, ext. 239. To learn more about Decatur House, visit

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