The 5 Places Every Horror Movie Fan Needs to Visit in DC

the exorcist horror dc

 There’s a stupid amount of ‘haunted’ sites in the nation’s capital. The White House is haunted. The Capitol is haunted. The Mall is haunted. Every other hotel is haunted. Anything old and political is haunted. While those types of legends and ghost tours are fun, this isn’t about those. This is about what scary movie cinephiles might want to visit in Washington, DC. Some are obvious. Some are hidden. All are easily accessible. 

AFI Silver 

DC is small. It’s incredibly convenient to get to nearby suburbs. Silver Spring is the most convenient. Just one train stop away from DC proper, the AFI Silver happens to be one of the nation’s best movie theaters. Part of the American Film Institute, it helps give the region an almost LA or New York level of quality film programming. While there’s a newish Alamo Drafthouse in DC proper, indie art house darling Suns Cinema, and amazing programming at the National Gallery of Art, AFI Silver is the gold standard for all things scary on the silver screen.

There are consistent retrospectives celebrating classic horror, overlooked scary B-films, foreign features, and more. This is the one movie calendar that you’ll want to check every week. While the aforementioned Alamo does occasionally have the one-night-only special, most every week at AFI there are multiple special presentations. 

Congressional Cemetery

Sure, we’re recommending it because it’s a cemetery but it’s also a place to watch (sometimes scary) movies! The DC version of the Hollywood Forever cemetery may not attract a young celebrity clientele, but it does have way older graves and that’s scarier, right? The 2024 season has yet to be announced but the 2023 edition was all Tim Burton films. Great if you were traumatized by Jack Nicholson’s version of Joker as a child, conflicting if you were disturbed by Johnny Depp’s everything as an adult. 

Exorcist Stairs

Number one with a bullet. This should be on every tour of DC regardless of its spookiness. The Exorcist steps are the reason to visit Georgetown if you’re a scary movie fan. It’s the best use of existing DC on film. Better than anything on the Mall. The stairs themselves are inherently spooky, they’re narrow, old, can get slippery and there’s occasionally some moss on one side. Even without being a set piece in the scariest movie of all time, they’re scary steps! Add in decades of horror lore and viola: the best horror site to ever exist. There’s a reason the film was nominated for Best Art Direction (now known as Best Production Design) at the 1974 Academy Awards. Kudos to Art Director Bill Malley and Set Decorator Jerry Wunderlich. Without you, these stairs would still just be stairs. 

Related, if you’re a runner, these are the perfect stairs to climb (they’re not great for descending, see The Exorcist if you need an example). If you need a running loop within Georgetown, start at the Trailhead C&O Canal Towpath and run west, take a right when the path hits Canal/M, run one block south to the stairs, climb those spooky steps, look to your left once you’re at the top of the stairs and acknowledge The Exorcist house, stay on 36th until you hit P, run a block east to 35th, take 35th up to Reservoir Road, look to your left to see Duke Ellington School of the Arts (The school Dave Chappelle attended, remember him, that guy that can’t evolve? Spooky!), run south down Wisconsin Avenue back to the towpath and head back to where you started.

It’s a three-mile loop and you’ll also see a lot of where Lincoln (The first US Civil War! Scary!), Wonder Woman 1984 (Remember when WW has consensual sex with a ghost but technically not the body that’s inhabited by the ghost? WTF?) and The Exorcist III was shot. 

Seneca Creek State Park 

Second only to The Exorcist stairs, the main filming location of The Blair Witch Project is quite close to DC proper. The state park in Montgomery County, Maryland is a quick 20-minute drive and technically doable on public transportation (it’s only 90 minutes from downtown D.C. via a long train ride, long bus ride, and very short walk!). If you’re a DC local, it’s probably just as convenient to get to this state park as the stairs in Georgetown. If you’re of a certain age, these woods may hold just as an important place in your cold, cold heart as those Georgetown stairs. 

Union Station

This one is a two-fer. The Exorcist 2 and Hannibal both shot in and outside Union Station. We’re including it because it ties to arguably the two most important franchises outside of politics in DC: The Exorcist and The Silence of the Lambs. It also makes the list because whether you’re a local or a tourist, if you’re taking the train there’s a high likelihood you’re at least going through Union Station. 



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