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11 People Who Died in the U.S. Capitol

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1. John Quincy Adams

After his one term in the White House, Adams became one of just two presidents to return to Congress (Andrew Johnson was the other), serving in the House from 1843 until he died on the job. During a floor debate in 1848, Adams loudly voted "No" on a resolution, then collapsed at his desk. He was moved to the Speakers Lobby where he fell into a coma and died two days later. Interestingly, Abraham Lincoln, then a freshman Congressman, would serve as a pallbearer at his funeral.

2. Morris Michael Edelstein

Edelstein, a New York Democratic Representative, made his final floor speech count. Fellow Rep. John Elliot Rankin of Mississippi had just given an antisemitic speech, accusing "our international Jewish brethren" of trying to "harass the President of the United States into plunging us into the European war." Edelstein, who was Jewish, offered a rebuttal, which closed with:

"I deplore the idea that any time anything happens, whether it be for a war policy or against a war policy, men in this House and outside this House attempt to use the Jews as their scapegoat. I say it is unfair and I say it is un-American. As a member of this House I deplore the allegations because we are living in a democracy. All men are created equal regardless of race, creed or color. Whether a man be a Jew or a Gentile he may think what he deems fit."

Shortly after finishing, Edelstein walked off the floor and had a fatal heart attack in the House cloakroom. When news spread that he had died, the speaker tried to adjourn the House, but first had to wait through five impromptu eulogies.

3. Henry Wilson

Wilson was chosen to replace the scandal-plagued Schuyler Colfax as vice president during Ulysses S. Grant's second term. But just months into his term in 1873, Wilson suffered a major stroke and spent much of the next few years at home in Massachusetts, writing books and resting. By 1875, he had regained enough strength to start plotting a possible presidential run and made it back to Washington with the hopes of presiding over the opening of the new Congress the following year. But that November, Wilson found himself paralyzed after taking a bath in the basement of the Capitol (at the time, legislators had access to marble bathrooms in the basement) and was sent back to his office in the Capitol building to rest. Days later, he was told that one of his former Senate colleagues, Orris Ferry of Connecticut, had died. According to the Senate historian, Wilson said "that makes 83 dead with whom I have sat in the Senate," then rolled over and soon passed away.

4. John Lenthall

Lenthall worked as the Clerk of the Works to architect Benjamin Latrobe during construction of the U.S. Capitol at the start of the 19th Century. Lenthall was working on what would become the Old Supreme Court Chamber, which involved a new and unusual design. Thinking construction was complete, Lenthall removed the wooden supports that were supporting an arch in the room, which collapsed and killed him. Legend has it that Lenthall cursed the Capitol with his dying breath, which is brought up during any construction problem.

5. Thomas Bouldin

Bouldin had served two terms in the House, representing Virginia from 1829-1833 before being voted out. But he was called in just months later when, in August, Rep. John Randolph died. On Feb. 11, 1834, Bouldin rose to address the House, spoke a few sentences, then collapsed and was declared dead on the floor. He was succeeded by his brother, James, who would go on to serve another two terms.

6. William Preston Taulbee

Taulbee had served two terms in the House, representing Kentucky, when he was caught having an affair with a young woman named Laura Dodge, whom he had gotten a job as a patent clerk. Charles Kincaid, a writer for the Louisville Times reported the affair with gusto, splashing it in the paper with the headline "Kentucky's Silver-Tongued Taulbee Caught in Flagrante, or Thereabouts, with Brown-Haired Miss Dodge."

Taulbee did not seek re-election, but instead took a job as a lobbyist that required him to spend a good deal of time in the Capitol. He and Kincaid ran into each other a fair amount after that and Taulbee would insult the reporter or even pull his ear whenever they passed each other in the halls. On Feb. 28, 1890, however, Kincaid got his revenge. Having been roughed up by Taulbee that morning, Kincaid returned to the Capitol with a pistol and shot him on a marble staircase (Taulbee died 11 days later from the wound). It's said that Taulbee's blood is still visible as a stain on the staircase where he was shot.

7. Edward Everett Eslick

Eslick, a Democratic Representative from Tennessee, was giving an impassioned speech on the House floor in June 1932 when he had a heart attack mid-sentence and died on the floor. His widow, Willa Eslick, ended up running to replace him and became the state's first Congresswoman.

8. Augustus Hill Garland

After serving as both governor of and senator from Arkansas, Garland was appointed to be Attorney General under President Grover Cleveland. He made it through a scandal-ridden term, during which he became the first sitting cabinet member to be censured by Congress, then left the White House and practiced law in Washington. In January 1899, Garland was arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court, at the time still housed in the Capitol, when he suffered a stroke and died a few hours later in a nearby office.

9. Unnamed Civil War Soldier

In the summer of 1862, military leaders converted the U.S. Capitol into a hospital for wounded Union soldiers and set up more than 1,000 cots in Statuary Hall. The conditions, however, were horrible and the patients were cleared out by October of that year. But according to legend, at least one who died on site never left. Staffers and visitors say that they've seen the ghost of a Civil War soldier at night in the hall, darting among the statues.

10 and 11. Officer Jacob J. Chestnut and Detective John M. Gibson

Gibson and Chestnut were killed in a 1998 attack on the Capitol by Russell Eugene Weston Jr. Although his motives were unclear, Weston shot Chestnut while entering the building, then ran towards the offices of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. There he shot Gibson, who fired back and wounded the gunman and allowed him to be apprehended. Both Officer Chestnut and Detective Gibson later died from their wounds and were laid in honor in the Capitol rotunda, the first police officers to receive the honor. The United States Capitol Police Memorial Fund was also created in their honor.

Note: The original version of this article mistakenly referred to Officer Jacob J. Chestnut and Detective John M. Gibson as on-duty security guards. We regret the error.

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6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.


59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.


116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.


74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.


111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.


430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.


327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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7 Famous People Researchers Want to Exhume
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This week, the surrealist painter Salvador Dali is being exhumed from his grave in Figueres, northeastern Spain, where he has lain beneath the stage of a museum since his death in 1989. Researchers hope to collect DNA from his skeleton in order to settle a paternity suit brought by a tarot card reader named Pilar Abel, who claims that her mother had an affair with the artist while working as a maid in the seaside town where the Dalis vacationed. If the claim is substantiated, Abel may inherit a portion of the $325 million estate that Dali, who was thought to be childless, bequeathed to the Spanish state upon his death.

The grave opening may seem like a fittingly surreal turn of events, but advances in DNA research and other scientific techniques have recently led to a rise in exhumations. In the past few years (not to mention months), serial killer H. H. Holmes, poet Pablo Neruda, astronomer Tycho Brahe, and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, among many others, have all been dug up either to prove that the right man went to his grave—or to verify how he got there. Still, there are a number of other bodies that scientists, historians, and other types of researchers want to exhume to answer questions about their lives and deaths. Read on for a sampling of such cases.


An international team of art historians and scientists is interested in exhuming Leonardo da Vinci's body to perform a facial reconstruction on his skull, learn about his diet, and search for clues to his cause of death, which has never been conclusively established. They face several obstacles, however—not the least of which is that da Vinci's grave in France's Loire Valley is only his presumed resting place. The real deal was destroyed during the French Revolution, although a team of 19th century amateur archaeologists claimed to have recovered the famed polymath's remains and reinterred them in a nearby chapel. For now, experts at the J. Craig Venter Institute in California are working on a technique to extract DNA from some of da Vinci's paintings (he was known to smear pigment with his fingers as well as brushes), which they hope to compare with living relatives and the remains in the supposed grave.


A portrait of Meriwether Lewis
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As one half of Lewis and Clark, Meriwether Lewis is one of America's most famous explorers, but his death belongs to a darker category—famous historical mysteries. Researchers aren't sure exactly what happened on the night of October 10, 1809, when Lewis stopped at a log cabin in Tennessee on his way to Washington, D.C. to settle some financial issues. By the next morning, Lewis was dead, a victim either of suicide (he was known to be suffering from depression, alcoholism, and possibly syphilis) or murder (the cabin was in an area rife with bandits; a corrupt army general may have been after his life). Beginning in the 1990s, descendants and scholars applied to the Department of the Interior for permission to exhume Lewis—his grave is located on National Park Service Land—but were eventually denied. Whatever secrets Lewis kept, he took them to his grave.


A black and white portrait of Shakespeare
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Shakespeare made his thoughts on exhumation very clear—he placed a curse on his tombstone that reads: "Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare/ To digg the dust encloased heare/ Bleste be the man that spares thes stones/ And curst be he that moves my bones." Of course, that hasn't stopped researchers wanting to try. After Richard III's exhumation, one South African academic called for a similar analysis on the Bard's bones, with hopes of finding new information on his diet, lifestyle, and alleged predilection for pot. And there may be another reason to open the grave: A 2016 study using ground-penetrating radar found that the skeleton inside appeared to be missing a skull.


A black and white photograph of John Wilkes Booth
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The events surrounding Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865 are some of the best-known in U.S. history, but the circumstances of his assassin's death are a little more murky. Though most historical accounts say that John Wilkes Booth was cornered and shot in a burning Virginia barn 12 days after Lincoln's murder, several researchers and some members of his family believe Booth lived out the rest of his life under an assumed name before dying in Oklahoma in 1903. (The corpse of the man who died in 1903—thought by most people to be a generally unremarkable drifter named David E. George—was then embalmed and displayed at fairgrounds.) Booth's corpse has already been exhumed from its grave at Baltimore's Greenmount Cemetery and verified twice, but some would like another try. In 1994, two researchers and 22 members of Booth's family filed a petition to exhume the body once again, but a judge denied the request, finding little compelling evidence for the David E. George theory. Another plan, to compare DNA from Edwin Booth to samples of John Wilkes Booth's vertebrae held at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, has also come to naught.


A portrait of Napoleon
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Napoleon has already been exhumed once: in 1840, when his body was moved from his burial-in-exile on St. Helena to his resting place in Paris's Les Invalides. But some researchers allege that that tomb in Paris is a sham—it's not home to the former emperor, but to his butler. The thinking goes that the British hid the real Napoleon's body in Westminster Abbey to cover up neglect or poisoning, offering a servant's corpse for internment at Les Invalides. France's Ministry of Defense was not amused by the theory, however, and rejected a 2002 application to exhume the body for testing.


A portrait of Henry VIII
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In his younger years, the Tudor monarch Henry VIII was known to be an attractive, accomplished king, but around age 40 he began to spiral into a midlife decline. Research by an American bioarchaeologist and anthropologist pair in 2010 suggested that the king's difficulties—including his wives' many miscarriages—may have been caused by an antigen in his blood as well as a related genetic disorder called McLeod syndrome, which is known to rear its head around age 40. Reports in the British press claimed the researchers wanted to exhume the king's remains for testing, although his burial at George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle means they will need to get the Queen’s permission for any excavation. For now, it's just a theory.


A portrait of Galileo
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The famed astronomer has had an uneasy afterlife. Although supporters hoped to give him an elaborate burial at the Basilica of Santa Croce, he spent about 100 years in a closet-sized room there beneath the bell tower. (He was moved to a more elaborate tomb in the basilica once the memory of his heresy conviction had faded.) More recently, British and Italian scientists have said they want to exhume his body for DNA tests that could contribute to an understanding of the problems he suffered with his eyesight—problems that may have led him to make some famous errors, like saying Saturn wasn't round. The Vatican will have to sign off on any exhumation, however, so it may be a while.


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