Mary Surratt is known in history as a conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government for her role in the crime. But what many don’t know about her is that her ghost, to this day, is known to haunt several of her worldly locations.
Mary Surratt was born in Maryland in 1823. She married John Surratt and they opened a tavern in the town Clinton that later became known as Surrattsville. After John died in 1862 Mary was left deeply in debt. She moved to Washington D.C. to a home she converted into a boarding house. John Wilkes Booth was a frequent guest, along with other Southern sympathizers, including Mary’s son, John Jr.. When Abe Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865, Mary’s boarding house and tavern were searched. The tavern’s new owner, John Lloyd, testified that Mary was involved in the plot to kill the President and she was arrested.
Convicted and condemned to be executed, she maintained all along that she was innocent. But her pleas fell on deaf ears, as she was hanged by the neck at the old Capital Prison on July 7, 1865.
The Old Capital Prison is one of her known haunts. The prison has since been converted to an army base named Fort Leslie McNair and the courthouse where she was convicted is now the officer’s quarters. According to the book, “More Haunted Houses” by Richard Winer and Nancy Osborn Ishmael, strange happenings are common at the base. A stout middle aged woman’s apparition has been seen floating through the hallways. Strange sounds like chains rattling and voices have been heard and some people have even been touched by a hand that wasn’t there.
According to a lieutenant who lived there with his family, one night his baby awoke and started crying. He and his wife were in the living room watching television and when he went into the baby’s room, the baby only stopped crying when the lieutenant felt what he thought was his wife’s hand behind him on his shoulder. But when he returned to the living room, his wife told him she never left her seat.
Mary’s spirit is very restless, perhaps because she’s still proclaiming her innocence nearly 150 years later. She’s so restless in fact that she’s also been known to haunt her former home and tavern as well as her place of death. According to prairieghosts.com, her ghost has been seen on the stairway between the first and second floors and others have also heard the voices of several men at the tavern. Are they conspiring, reliving history? Could these be the spirits of the assassination conspirators? Many believe Mary was unlawfully convicted on circumstantial evidence, for merely her association with the conspirators. Perhaps history is replaying in Mary Surratt’s previous tavern as it had nearly a century and a half ago. And perhaps Mary is still declaring her innocence, to anyone who dare listen.