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Conspiracy Thinking and Bathroom Convenience

Entrance to Congressional Cemetery

The official name of an attraction can make all the difference in our decision to detour, or even stop to investigate. We sometimes refer to a point-of-interest by a nickname we’ve coined, to clarify its oddity-appeal, while improving the chance our readers may visit in person. The dull-sounding County Historical Museum of Prairie Quilts may camouflage its true treasure: a petrified organ grinder’s monkey rolled in a cursed rug (We made that one up, but you get the idea).

In the world of real attractions, some people allow a name to nourish their fantasies a bit too much.

Take for example, Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC. Tourists sometimes think that it’s an official government graveyard — and it isn’t, assured Cemetery president Jackie Spainhour. “‘Congressional Cemetery’ is a nickname that just stuck,” Jackie said. A few congresspeople are buried there, but they’re tiny fraction of its 67,000+ burials. Congressional Cemetery is just easier to say than its real name: Washington Parish Burial Ground.

But that simple — perhaps too simple — explanation doesn’t cut it with one group of overly alert outsiders. “We’re near the DC jail where the January 6 insurrectionists are being held,” Jackie said, “and the protestors outside the jail think we’re a government cemetery.” This is a key misunderstanding, Jackie said, because some protestors had a theory that “[President] Biden was conspiring with us so that we could kill the prisoners and bury them here in secret.”

Jackie added, dryly, “We’re not doing that.”

See ya later alligator.

Would it, we asked, be enough of a reason to change the cemetery’s name? Jackie said no, and added that despite the protestors’ mistrust, they don’t perceive the cemetery as so evil that they can’t occasionally pop in for a visit. “Every once in a while,” Jackie said, “they’ll come by to use our bathroom.”

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Congressional Cemetery: A Not-Grave Graveyard

1801 E St. SE, Washington, DC
Walk-in cemetery entrance is at the intersection of Potomac Ave. SE and E St. SE.
Cemetery daily daylight hours; office M-F 9-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Free. Dog walk day pass $15.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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