American University

The Dangerous Ghosts of WWI Research in Spring Valley

Photograph showing the mystery location of the 'Hades' pit in future Spring Valley neighborhood, where World War I munitions were buried after the war's end. (source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

On January 7, 1993, an alarming headline greeted readers of The Washington Post: “25 HOUSES EVACUATED AS WWI SHELLS EXAMINED.” The previous day, a backhoe operator digging a trench in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Northwest Washington had uncovered a suspicious object. The construction company called the D.C. Fire Department… who called the police… who called the bomb squad. Within hours, 25 homes in the upscale neighborhood had been temporarily evacuated as munitions crews from the Army Technical Escort Unit at Aberdeen Proving Grounds investigated. Their verdict? The objects were unexploded mortar and artillery shells – and there might be more in the area.