An elephant-sized demon cat is said to appear at the US Capitol before national emergencies, according to reports as far back as 1862
- A demon cat is said to appear near the grounds of the US Capitol, the White House Historical Association says.
- The cat, sometimes described as a tabby and other times black, appears before national emergencies.
- Sightings were reported before the assassination of JFK and just before the stock market crash in 1929.
For more than 150 years a demon cat — some say the size of an elephant — is said to appear near the grounds of the US Capitol before national emergencies, according to the White House Historical Association.
"It's probably the most common of all the ghost stories in the Capitol," Steve Livengood, the chief tour guide of the US Capitol Historical Society told Atlas Obscura about the apparition. "Partly because of the physical evidence."
In 1898, after the Capitol Building was damaged by a gas explosion, paw prints and the initials "DC" — speculated to mean "demon cat" — appeared in the concrete poured to repair the Small Senate Rotunda. While Livengood told Atlas Obscura it was "quite possible" a cat simply walked across the wet concrete, visitors to the Capitol have seen the prints, and news reports of sightings, as evidence of the legend's veracity.
"The Demon Cat is one of the most persistent and creative ghost stories in our nation's capital," Colleen Shogan, Senior Vice President and Director of the David M. Rubenstein Center for White House History at the White House Historical Association, said in a statement to Insider. "Known sometimes as D.C., the ghostly cat has appeared at both the White House and the United States Capitol. This foreboding feline has more than nine lives and its appearance portends of an impending disaster, so watch your step this Halloween!"
The ghostly cat, described at times as all black and sometimes with tabby stripes, is said to appear most often to guards of the US Capitol, with sightings reported before the assassination of JFK and just before the stock market crash in 1929, according to the White House Historical Association.
An 1898 Washington Post report about the cat said the creature "swells up to the size of an elephant before the eyes of the terrified observer," while in 1935 the Post reported after another sighting that the cat's eyes "glow with the all the hue and ferocity of the headlights of a fire engine."
Long considered a prophecy of coming tragedy, the first reported sighting of the demon cat was in the United States Capitol in 1862, during the Civil War. A guard was said to have fired his gun at the cat, causing it to disappear. From then on, it was seen in the Capitol building basement before national emergencies, according to the White House Historical Association.
"I can put enough pieces together to know where the legend came from," Livengood told Atlas Obscura. "The night watchmen were not professionals. They would often be some senator's ne'er-do-well brother-in-law that had a drinking problem."
The night watchmen who reported spotting the demonic creature, Livengood said, would often leverage their political connections to avoid trouble for drinking on the job, making up stories of being attacked by the fearsome creature.
"Then the other guards realize that if they see the cat and get attacked, then they get a day off," Livengood told Atlas Obscura. "And that's how history gets written."
The Capitol region has long been rumored to be home to many mythic creatures and ghostly happenings, though the demon cat remains one of the longest-standing legends of the grounds.
Its last notable sighting was in 1963, just before the assassination of JFK. There have been no reports of the Demon Cat being seen prior to more recent national crises like the January 6 attack on the Capitol.