The military trial of Surratt and the other charged conspirators began on May 9, 1865 at the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary. The tribunal found Surratt guilty and sentenced her to death along with three of Booth's conspirators whose guilt is unquestioned. On the sunny afternoon of July 7, 1865, Mary Surratt was hung along with three of Booth's conspirators in the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary's prison yard. Her body was then buried nearby on the prison grounds before being re interred at Washington's Mt. Olivet cemetery in 1869 .But, is that the end of Mary Surratt's story? Does this controversial figure-- linked just or unjustly, to one of our nation's most infamous crimes-- still linger somehow on the grounds of the former Washington Arsenal Penitentiary, now part of Fort McNair, where she was imprisoned, tried, and executed.
The July 8, 1865 edition of the Washington National Republican lauded the previous afternoon's hanging of four individual, including Mary Surratt, at the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary for their role in the conspiracy to kill President Abraham Lincoln and other senior government officials:
"The solemn spectacle witnessed yesterday in the prison yard of the penitentiary of this District will never be effaced from the memories of those who painful duty it was to be present, nor will the whole world forget the lesson taught to traitors and conspirators by the execution of the just sentence passed by the tribunal of the Government on that occasion. "
|Mary Surratt in 1850.|
A 1991 Washington Post story recounted the story of a young honor guard officer based at Fort McNair who had seen a 300-yard path down to bare grass suddenly appear one day on the snow covered grounds; the path reputedly coincided precisely with the final trek that Mary Surratt had made from the jail to the gallows. Another Army officer, who lived in Building 20, claimed that on Lincoln's birthday in 1989 he heard the whimpering voice of a female crying "Help me, help me, Oh no, help," but that there is no one outside the building when he raced outside in search of the crying woman. Others have claimed seeing a woman clad in black roaming the grounds of Fort McNair.
For those in Prince George's County who wish to look for ghosts this Halloween, Mary Surratt's spirit is also said to haunt the Clinton, Maryland tavern that she once owned and lived in. If you happen to be by the Verizon Center and in need of a quick Chinese food fix, Mary Surratt's former boardinghouse at (originally 541 H, but now numbered 604 H) is now the Wok N Roll restaurant. Former occupants of the building have also reported stranger encounters including Mrs. Surratt's ghost walking around in her execution robes.
Farquhar, Michael, "The Haunting Tale of Mary Surratt; They Hanged Her in 1865. Did Her Ghost Escape the Gallows?," Washington Post, October 31, 1991.