The calendar said Halloween was still three weeks away, but on Capitol Hill, that frightful holiday had already arrived. Some unknown force or spell had transformed the previously cheery House of Representatives into Washington’s Haunted House.
A murky darkness that seemed to rise from deep within the ground had engulfed the Capitol’s lower chamber, its usual assembly of gentlemen and gentlewomen replaced by ghosts and ghouls.
Messages sent over from the Senate went unanswered. Urgent pleas from the White House and petitions from across the country arrived and lay on the doorstep amid dust and cobwebs. There were days when the local people wondered whether any living person remained within these ancient walls.
Yet it was no reassurance when one or two of the old men of the House stepped outside for a few moments. They looked pale and scared half out of their wits, as if all the stories people had heard were true — that they had been spending their days bargaining with demons and witches and their nights being chased around by rats and spiders. When someone asked them for the good news of the day, they shook their fists and exclaimed, “My God! Is there no one who can help us before it is too late?!” Then they retreated into the deep shadows of the lower chamber, a place seemingly unlit in spite of a thousand burning torches, to toil away again at what, no one knew.
A strange musician arrived, having traveled all the way from Hamelin to offer his services. With his pipe and his song, he said, he could chase away the ghosts, the ghouls, the rats and spiders, the darkness and the gloom, so that the light of day could shine on the House again. But it was no use. There was no money to pay him.