Spirits and Ghosts at Capitol Hill's Chapel
The bar Chapel on Capitol Hill hasn't always been a place for spirits of the drinking kind. The gorgeous room—leaded glass windows and enormous mirrors, ornate dark woodwork, vaulted ceiling, antique fixtures—was built in the 1920s as the chapel for the adjoining Butterworth's Mortuary. Here the living ushered souls to the other side, contemplating their time on this earth, mourning their departure. The blank eyes of Chapel's windowpanes have looked upon much death where people now toast to life, celebrating the fact that it's Friday, or someone's survival of another year, or an evening's various corporeal prospects. The bar's cool, white stone, where martinis now momentarily rest, was salvaged from the mausoleum. The acoustics—meant for eulogies and bent-headed prayer—mean that when Chapel fills up with less-than-sober revelers, there's an ungodly, joyous din.
On a crowded night at Chapel, the room's somber past seems distant, but rumor has it that Chapel is haunted. A former employee who wished to remain nameless reported that on one occasion, someone witnessed a glass fly straight up into the air, then come down with a smash onto the dishwasher. Furthermore, once two "pretty credible" people were there all alone and saw someone in the balcony. "We had a toilet that flushed by itself," she continued, "but, you know, that could just be a plumbing issue." (One of the bathrooms at Chapel is a tiny, beautifully designed cubby, like a lavatory on a very high-class airplane. Any ghost in its right mind would want to use it.)
A current Chapel employee (she, too, wished to remain nameless—she's also a teacher, and, she said, it's frightening what your students can find out about you online) told tales of close encounters of the first-person kind. She herself, along with several others, has seen a woman in a dress appear in the balcony. "I have—I have!" she said, sounding surprised. "I wasn't looking for things... I've been here alone a lot at like four o'clock in the morning, closing up, and there would be people just kind of walking around. You just feel them." What? "It was always very peaceful, though—never scary." And back when Chapel first opened, she and her colleagues all saw a fire burning downstairs through a grate in the floor—downstairs, where the crematorium was. "I saw it," she averred. "There were four or five of us standing around the grate, looking at this fire that didn't exist."
That dishwasher that a glass smashed down onto? That, the fire-seer says, is in the exact place where Bruce Lee's body was laid out. (He was not cremated, but buried at Lake View Cemetery up on 15th Avenue East.) "I sometimes think about that when I'm doing dishes," she said.
October 31 is Chapel's sixth anniversary.