When investigators arrived at the National Hotel at 2 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, and asked to search Room 228, the night desk clerk was taken aback.

Walter Burton couldn’t figure out why in the world they’d want to search John Booth’s room. When they told him Booth shot the president, Burton laughed in their faces.

So did the other regulars gathered around.

“We all laughed at the absurdity of such a thing,” Burton told a reporter.

Booth was a genial fellow who lived at the hotel whenever he was in town. He and Burton  often sat behind the front desk talking late into the night, smoking 12-cent cigars and drinking while they waited for the newspaperman who stayed at the hotel  to wander in with the latest news.

There’s no report of whether Burton stopped laughing when officers found these items inside Booth’s room: handcuffs, a gag, a military dress coat and a pack of letters, including one from a woman who begged Booth to quit his perilous plan.

Sources: Washington, D.C. and Louisville, Ky. newspapers