Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
In Washington, D.C., scandals are as easy to come by as alley rats and presidential motorcades. Anyone who has spent time there will tell you that there are two cities here — “Washington,” where politicians and tourists roam, and “D.C.,” where the city’s full-time residents enjoy a thriving music scene, underground art, cozy bookshops, and delicious food. As the oldest hotel in the city, the Mayflower Hotel is strictly, confidently, unapologetically Washington.
Located just a few blocks from the White House on Connecticut Avenue, this 1920s hotel has been and continues to be one of the most important and convenient accommodations for Washington high-lifers. Dubbed the “second best address” in Washington, after the White House of course, the hotel has been home to several U.S. presidents, politicians, celebrities, and the like.
Starting with the inaugural ball of President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, the Mayflower Hotel became the go-to for high-profile politicians. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt lived in the hotel before his inauguration. His famous line, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” was first uttered in the Mayflower.
In 1945, Harry S. Truman spent his first 90 days as president living out of the hotel. Later, in 1948, this is also where he announced his bid for a second term. Also in the 1940s, the hotel was the site of the city’s first-ever air raid, marking the historical period of nuclear fear and panic. In the 1950s and 60s, the first FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, ate at the hotel’s restaurant every day as he schemed to accumulate power and intimidate political rivals in his late career.
Contemporarily, the Mayflower was temporary home for the infamous former mayor of D.C., Marion Barry, in 1989. Famously riddled with scandal despite his beloved and respected approach to building up the city, Barry had a notorious drug problem that came to a head at the Mayflower Hotel, where an eyewitness said they saw him smoke crack.
He was later convicted for his drug use after he was caught on camera smoking crack at the Vista Hotel in D.C. The Mayflower is also the place where House reps interviewed Monica Lewinsky during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999.
Just about 10 years later, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught paying a sex worker $1,000 per hour in a room of the Mayflower Hotel. This brought attention to the slew of sex workers often sighted at the hotel making their way to high-rise rooms.
But none of this has anything to do with the actual haunting of the hotel — just curious fodder for such. There’s no evidence that the absolute slew of scandals in this place have contributed to its spooky nature, but there’s something to be said for a location in which many secrets are held.
Mayflower Hotel Hauntings
The Mayflower Hotel opened in February of 1925, just in time to host the inaugural ball of President Calvin Coolidge. This party celebrated his second term, won after he successfully served in Warren G. Harding’s place after his untimely death. Tragically, “Silent Cal,” as he was already known at the time, never made it to his inaugural ball.
About one week prior to his inauguration in March, Coolidge’s son died of an infection. Out of respect for his son’s memory and in an act of mourning, he and his wife refrained from attending the ball — but the party still went on.
From 1925 to 1981, the Mayflower Hotel was the site of each president’s inaugural ball. Since the presidential inauguration was moved from March to January 20 in 1937, hotel workers and guests have reported an annual haunting by what they assume is Coolidge or his son.
Each year on the 20th of January, despite the fact that inaugurations only happen every four years and that Coolidge’s inauguration was in March, the hotel experiences some light paranormal activity.
At 10 p.m., when Coolidge’s ball began, the Grand Ballroom lights flicker. Hotel staff know this is the beginning of a fifteen-minute haunt.
An elevator car becomes stuck on the eighth floor, where Coolidge would have stayed if he made it to his ball. At 10:15 p.m., when he was ostensibly meant to arrive at the party, the elevator car arrives in the lobby.
On the mezzanine above the ballroom, staff have several times found a plate of party appetizers and a glass of wine. They say the food found on the balcony has never been served on the same day as the yearly haunting.
Some say that Coolidge himself is haunting the ballroom, perhaps out of grief for his second missed opportunity to celebrate his presidency. Others opine that Coolidge’s son haunts the inaugural night, despite that he passed before the ball itself.
Paranormal experts would point to the unlikeliness of a haunting changing dates to accommodate the bureaucratic change of the U.S. presidential inauguration, let alone that Coolidge wasn’t at the party in the first place. Nonetheless, the spookiness returns each year.
Visiting The Mayflower Hotel
Although the only actual haunting at the Mayflower Hotel occurs on January 20th — possibly the most expensive day to stay in a hotel in D.C. — there are plenty of rooms with rich history and potential for spectral activity.
To get as close as possible to this hotel’s history of scandal, book a room on the eighth floor. This is where Coolidge is said to haunt for part of the night on January 20th. It’s also the location of several of the hotel’s scandals, including room 871, where Eliot Spitzer was caught with a sex worker.
The Presidential Suite is the location of Monica Lewinsky’s interview by House representatives in 1999. Rooms in the Mayflower Hotel range from $175–399 per night depending on size.
There are plenty of locations nearby haunted by both scandal and paranormal activity. With the White House only five minutes away, nearly any cafe or store you visit in this area will be a favorite of some politician or another.
The hotel’s own restaurant is a contemporary celebration of what was once the Carvery Restaurant and Coffee Shop, where J. Edgar Hoover ate every day for 20 years.
Now, the restaurant is an homage to the legacy of Hoover, perhaps a tongue-in-cheek reference to the hotel’s own scandalous history given that Hoover’s career was ravaged by scandal and abuse of power.
For more haunted hotels, walk a few minutes’ down the street to the famous Hay-Adams Hotel. This is the site of Clover Adams’s tragic death by suicide. She apparently still haunts the hotel by way of sending crying noises through the walls and playing with doors and radios.
At the nearby Omni Shoreham Hotel, located right by the incredible free Smithsonian Zoo and near the vibrant neighborhood of Adams Morgan, several deaths have left the place haunted for years. Get up close and personal by renting out the hotel’s Ghost Suite, which has been renovated but still supposedly houses paranormal activity.
Phone: (202) 347-3000