Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington


Couldn’t resist weighing in on the latest ghost story floating around Arlington. That’s because I’m a sensationalistic journalist and a member of Overlee Community Association, the Lee Highway swim club where the incident (alleged, putative, supposed) occurred.

Credit ARLNow.com with the scoop.

In January, a construction worker was preparing to help dismantle Overlee’s 120-year-old historic Febrey-Kincheloe house to create a modern clubhouse. He told his bosses of a strange sight in the fenced-off construction zone.

A young girl in Victorian dress, peering from the house’s window, and later sitting on the basement stairs. When the worker approached to investigate, she had vanished.

The guy, name not published, got so scared he went to his boss next day and asked to transfer.

The plot thickened. Local press revealed that Harry Braswell construction company had been alerted by Overlee to keep an eye out for the apparition that neighbors had spoken of for decades.

The contractors were e-mailed an ancient photo of 14-year-old Margaret Febrey, a former occupant of the home who died in 1913 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Falls Church. The photo was broadcast by WJLA-TV. The National Paranormal Association got wind.

Overlee board member Mike Maleski told a reporter that sightings and strange noises and music had long emanated from the house-which became a sanitarium after the Febreys departed. Overlee managers who occupied the house beginning in the late 1950s had often spoken of such phenomena. Neighbors claim the ghost is friendly and pals around with children.

Permit me some non-supernatural observations. Ghost stories are irresistible, around the campfire, across the picket fence and in publications facing slow news days.

As I write, the Overlee ghost tale has been ignored by The Washington Post, the Sun-Gazette and the Connection Newspapers (the exception to this print blackout: The Washington Examiner.) As a reporter, I find it weird a publication would credulously present claims that violate known laws of science without an iota of skepticism.

Note that all interviews are with people who heard the story secondhand. A ghost at Overlee is “certainly possible. The house has been there a long time,” North Arlington resident Liza Marshall told the blog Dateline Zero. The local ABC affiliate somberly explained that neighbors for years have talked up the ghost. But then the producers show a young man who used to mow the Overlee lawn, but who admits he never saw anything odder than a house that’s “creepy.”

It is possible the construction worker wanted out of his job for other reasons, and this was a pretext? A therapist I consulted who has interviewed people on their ghost sightings says they are earnest and come in all psychological profiles.

Ghosts, of course, are a venerable literary device. The vision of the disrupted Febrey girl rising up a century after death gives solace to critics who opposed the swim club’s decision to tear down the handsome building that had become too expensive to keep code-compliant.

Overlee officials treat the story as fun, hedging their bets on its veracity-why risk alienating the entire ghost community?

None would discuss it with me. Their February newsletter says, “It is in all of our interests that the workers be allowed to work unimpeded and undistracted.”

I’ll believe in the ghost when I see it. Perhaps while swimming laps this summer.


Charlie Clark may be e-mailed at cclarkjedd@aol.com