Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.
“I grew up in Lansdowne, Maryland, in a house that I believe to be haunted. I was about 11 when my parents and I started noticing a lot of activity there. The cat would attack things that weren’t there. We heard hammering noises in the basement. I would go to the top of the basement stairs and it would stop. As soon as I left, it would start up again. The one that really pushed me over the edge was hearing a large crashing noise coming from the basement that sounded like broken glass. I went downstairs and there was nothing there. That pretty much convinced me that the house was haunted. I asked my neighbors about the former tenants of our house. One was a carpenter who died, which is probably where that hammering sound come from. That was my first investigation.
“I then joined the military and did 20 years of service. I got out at age 38 and was not ready to retire. The experiences from my childhood really stayed with me, and I contacted the head of the D.C. Metro Area Ghost Watchers (DCMAG), Al Tyas, about joining the team. He was retiring and ended up giving me the team in 2006 after we did a few investigations together. The D.C. area in particular has a lot of folklore and history around hauntings. Some people believe that Abraham Lincoln haunts the White House. There is also supposedly a demon cat near Congress that predicts doom. Since joining DCMAG, I’ve had some pretty intense investigations. Getting my hair pulled by a ghost was my first physical encounter with a spirit. You just don’t believe that it is happening, but, after a while, you get used to it. Each spirit has something that he or she can do particularly well. Some can pull hair, some can talk, and some can make footsteps. I even played hide-and-go-seek with the ghost of a child once.
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“There are a couple of theories about why ghosts do this. One is that they don’t know that they are dead. Another theory is that they have unfinished business and are not going to leave until it’s done. This could be something like a ghost finding his murderer. Other people believe that they just don’t want to leave. That’s like the guy who built up his farm his whole life and finally got it to where he wants it to be, and then he dies. Then, someone else moves in and he gets angry. The other theory is the fear of being judged by God. That could apply to a lot of prisoners and people who didn’t have time to repent during life. They would rather stay in Purgatory than go to Hell. Those are all just theories, though.
“In our work, which we do for free by the way, we use a number of tools to search for spirits, but there is no such thing as a ghost detection tool. Some of the tools we use are closed-circuit televisions, lots of audio recorders and parabolic microphones, Geiger counters, and all kind of meters that measure energy. The body runs on electrical current and, according to Einstein, you can neither create nor destroy energy. When you die, all of that energy has to go somewhere, so we look for that. I am also trained in psychic self-defense, which is teaching people to recognize when you are under attack by a spirit. These places where we work are negative atmosphere environments. A lot of times, you can absorb that energy and it impacts you.
“Before doing this work, there was something missing from my life. Now, things feel right and I am doing what I love. I think that ghosts have taught me more about life than living people have.”
Learn more about DCMAG here.