A boo debate at Bldg. 59: Argument is on whether JBM-HH HQ is haunted
November 1, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The growing catalog of ghost sightings in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., exponentially grows and tends to receive more print and airtime during ghoul and goblin time. The Fort McNair portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall has the ghost of convicted Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt. Many say when the fog rolls off the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, Surratt can be seen walking the parade field. Ghost hunters and some overnight VIPs swear the White House provides a roof for the apparition of Abraham Lincoln himself.
Word now is that the JBM-HH headquarters building (Bldg. 59) may have its own in-house haunter.
In August, a United Services Organization employee claims she briefly rendezvoused with a quick-stepping, yet heavy-footed "nurse."
USO Development Associate Victoria "Vix" Mechlin is a work-time resident of Building 59's top floor. After descending the two flights on the back staircase at the end of the day Wednesday, Aug. 28, she headed for the front door and Lee Avenue. What she encountered for less than a half minute produced goose bumps on the back of her neck.
"It was five o'clock. I just heard [the bugle call] retreat over the loudspeakers. I was heading out of the building [through the front door]," Mechlin recalled. "I was walking down the hallway, and I heard rustling like a movement of clothing and heavy footsteps. It was so quiet I just noticed it."
Now more curious and approaching the vicinity of Command Sgt. Maj. Earlene Y. Lavender's office, Mechlin got a glimpse of what she thinks was a Victorian-Age nurse.
"The thing that made me turn my head to the right toward the front staircase was the sound of a skirt sweeping the floor," she said. "I looked and right past the pictures of the commanders I saw a [long, blue] skirt, which seemed out of focus to my eyes, and the back of a woman's head with brown hair in a bun. Her hair was almost all covered with this cap - it was a white cap - and she was wearing a white apron. It was a lot of clothing. What first struck me was 'wow...who's that?' She looked like somebody in costume, but it was awful hot outside for that much clothing."
That Wednesday evening, a Twilight Tattoo was scheduled for Whipple Field, but a call by the Pentagram to the Military District of Washington-National Capital Region public affairs office, which oversees tattoos and Spirit of America performances, confirmed that no Spanish-American War or World War I era costumed nurses were a part of the 2013 pageants.
As the medical personnel vision headed toward the commander's office, she disappeared from Mechlin's sight.
"I then wondered where she was going. She was moving fast. She had a heavy, intentful walk," Mechlin remembered. "I was wondering if she was doing a reenactment. I must have saw her for 10 or 15 seconds - my brain was trying to take it in as fast as I was seeing it. She didn't turn around. She seemed very busy. Whatever she was doing, she was in a hurry."
The history of building 59 gives a bit of validity to Mechlin's encounter- the headquarters was once the base hospital.
"The colonel's office in Building 59 was the surgical suite; the colonel's outer office would have been the [surgical] prep room area," former JBM-HH Historian Kim Holien explained.
When interviewed for the story, Mechlin was shaken by the incident, but felt whatever she bumped into meant her no ill will.
"Yeah, it threw me off. But I just want her to stay here," the USO employee laughed.
Holien is a major student and follower of past events and the important men and women who shaped D.C. history, and he keeps an open mind about ghost stories. Yet, while he worked in an office that borders the hallway where the August sighting occurred, he had hardly felt a chill or heard a booted footstep.
"In 18 years, I never saw anything [resembling a ghost]," Holien said of the Building 59 hallway.