Once a year, the ghosts and goblins of Congressional Cemetery come alive.

The cemetery, a stone’s throw from the Capitol, was created in the 1830s as a way station for newly-deceased members of Congress and other Washington luminaries before their remains were shipped home. Among them:  Presidents John Quincy Adams and William Henry Harrison.

Today, it is the final resting place for thousands of VIPs and lesser folk. Nearby Capitol Hill residents walk their dogs amid history (and pay a fee to do so, for maintenance of the cemetery). Our friends Mel and Lisa befriended dog owners such as House Speaker Tom Foley and Sen. Mary Landrieu through walks with their dog Grits through the cemetery.

Last weekend we joined them and other friends at the annual Halloween benefit bash at the cemetery, and giggled at the astonishing array of costumed guests: A man dressed as the Washington Monument guarded by a human “barricade” (remember the shutdown?)…a John Boehner look-alike … cast members from “Game of Thrones” … assorted werewolves, Frankensteins, goblins, monsters and a Satan.

The highlight was the lantern-guided tour through the cemetery. Our tour guide was dressed as first lady Dolley Madison, holding of course a portrait of George Washington she rescued from the White House when the British sacked Washington. The real Dolley spent a few weeks in a crypt at Congressional Cemetery before making her final journey to the family plot in Virginia.

Along the darkened path, actors dressed as the dead VIPs told their stories. Mathew Brady, the famous Civil War photographer who died penniless. John Philip Sousa, who gained fame as a composter of patriotic marches but was bitter that few knew of his operettas and other musical talents. Tobias Lear, the faithful secretary to George Washington who was at his side when the nation’s first president died. Infamous bordello proprietress Mary Hall, who was recruiting “girls” from our 1397490_10201696745133304_685348387_otour group, having imbibed perhaps too freely from her champagne stash.

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is buried here, as is his lover Clyde Tolson. More than 170 members of Congress made a pitstop or a permanent home here, and scores of generals.

This is a wonderful place to visit – in the daylight or at night for this odd Halloween “Ghosts and Goblets Soiree.”

Our Dolley guide said the cemetery is still open for “guests.”

Q. Do you have to be a Member of Congress to be buried there?

A. No. You just have to be dead.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.