Saturday, February 25, 2012


I wrote a post recently on ghosts of the White House. I didn't think to check past posts; as a result, I have written two posts on the same topic. My apologies.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Touch of Fiction

For those fond of fictional ghost stories, I have the following recommendations:

1. M.R. James.

2. E.F. Benson.

James was a linguist and archaeologist, among other things. He was a brilliant scholar and historian. He also loved ghost stories, and they were the only fiction he ever wrote.

Am I glad he did!

His interests in history, archaeology, and languages are shown in the stories, many of which deal with a hapless protagonist entrapped by some sort of diabolical being from ages past. They're all written so politely, but the effect! You don't want to turn out the lights after reading his works. They're available on Project Gutenberg; enjoy!

As for Benson, he was among those present when James read his first ghost story at a Christmas Eve celebration in the late 19th century. He wrote many more ghost stories than James, but they aren't (to my mind, at least) as scary, though always keeping the attention. Usually, the protagonist in Benson's stories finds something ghastly when renting an isolated cottage for the holidays, or just visiting a new location. Women tend to be on the side of evil in his stories (especially "Mrs. Amworth" and "The Room in the Tower").

Speaking of the latter story, not only is it one of Benson's best, it's one of the best ghost stories ever written. The main character, in his twenties, has had a recurring dream since childhood, one that always terrifies him. It all relates to the titular room. To find out what happens, you'll have to read it yourself.

Some of Benson's works are available on Project Gutenberg, but since he wrote several novels in addition to his ghost stories, I'm not sure (not having checked) if they're all novels, or if some of his story collections are also in there. At any rate, his works are in the public domain, so they should be easy to find.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ghosts of the White House

One of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the White House is also one of the most haunted.

An Unknown Soldier

This figure is thought to be one of the British soldiers who set the building ablaze in 1814. It walks the grounds at night, carrying a flaming torch. Another torch-bearing ghost (possibly the same one) has been seen in one of the second-floor bedrooms.

Dolley Madison

Madison planted the Rose Garden on the grounds, and would not allow it to be changed. During the Wilson administration, the First Lady ordered the garden destroyed, but Dolley appeared to the workmen and soon changed their minds. The garden remains.

Abigail Adams

This First Lady used to dry the family laundry in the East Room. She can still be seen hurrying in the direction of the room, arms out as if holding a pile of wet clothing.

Andrew Jackson

Jackson is thought to haunt the Rose Room, laughing from an apparently empty bed. Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to have heard Jackson's swearing ghost in 1865, and one of Lyndon B. Johnson's aides heard the same thing in 1964.

Anne Surratt

In 1865, Anne's mother, Mary Surratt, was tried, found guilty, and executed for conspiring to kill Abraham Lincoln. Anne pleaded to have her mother's life spared, pounding the doors of the White House in a vain attempt to change the decision. Her ghost is seen performing the same action on July 7, the anniversary of Mary Surratt's hanging.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's ghost has been the most active of all the otherworldly denizens of the White House. Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated, and just a few days before he was shot, he claimed to have foreseen his own death in a dream.

Calvin Coolidge's wife, Grace, saw Lincoln standing at the window of the Oval Office, staring over the Potomac. This was the first sighting of his ghost, and she saw him many times afterward. Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg felt the presence of the late president at the window of this same office.

One of Franklin Roosevelt's aides ran screaming from the White House upon sighting Lincoln's ghost; Eleanor Roosevelt's aide rushed in on her one day, saying breathlessly, "He's sitting on the bed upstairs, putting on his boots!"

"Who is?" Mrs. Roosevelt asked.

"Mr. Lincoln!" was the startling reply.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was a guest at the White House. Late one night, she heard a knock at the door. When she answered it, the ghost of Lincoln stood in the hall, staring at her. The Queen promptly fainted; when she awoke, the ghost was gone.

Winston Churchill's encounter with the spirit is probably the most memorable. Churchill had just taken a bath and, naked except for his trademark cigar, walked into his bedroom, which had been Lincoln's. The ghost of Lincoln stood in the room, leaning on the mantle. As the two stared at each other, Lincoln slowly disappeared. Churchill refused to sleep in the room after that experience.

During the Truman presidency, knocks were heard often, in various parts of the White House. In exasperation, Truman ordered a thorough examination to be made of the building, to learn if there was an earthly explanation for the sounds.

It was well that he did; the study discovered that the building was in danger of collapse. Was this, then, the reason for the knocks? 

Friday, February 17, 2012

A haunted tour

Ghostly Prague is a ghost-tour company operating in Prague, Czech Republic. The tours are conducted in English, with the meeting point being the famous Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square (very easy to find, even for those who have never visited Prague.

Prague is a city of the strange and unusual. Magic and alchemy were the rule of the day during the reign of Emperor Rudolph II; Kafka was born there; the winding alleys and cobbled streets are much the same as they were when the mystical Rabbi Low was an inhabitant of the Jewish Quarter.

The ghost tours hearken back to a time when the streets weren't as safe - or lit as brightly.

For more information, click the link above, or email

Have a haunted good time!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gone too soon

This chilling story comes from an 1827 pamphlet.

A Mrs. Blunden, of Basingstoke, was found lifeless by her maid, Anne, one morning. Mrs. Blunden suffered from depression, and was in the habit of taking cordials. Anne went for the housekeeper and a family friend in the house; Mrs. Blunden was motionless and, apparently, not breathing.

The family doctor was then called. He held a mirror in front of her mouth to check her breathing, and the mirror didn't fog. Even he was baffled, so he recommended waiting forty hours before taking any further measures. Six days later, with her husband having returned from business, preparations were made for her funeral.

The night before the funeral, two of the female servants kept watch over the body. Suddenly, one of them saw Mrs. Blunden's left hand move. The other servant noticed the lady's head and eyelids moving, which was enough for them; they ran for the servants' quarters. The male staff members escorted them back to Mrs. Blunden's room, but no further movement was seen.

The following night, Mrs. Blunden was placed in a vault of the local chapel.

A few days later, some local boys were playing near the vault when they heard a strange noise that seemed to come from inside it. They ran for their schoolmaster, who accompanied them to the vault and heard the noises too.  The schoolmaster notified Mr. Blunden immediately.

The vault and the coffin were opened, showing that Mrs. Blunden had undoubtedly been buried alive. Blood was spattered all over the inside of the coffin, and her forehead and knuckles, which she had used to beat against the lid, were horribly battered. By now, the poor lady really was dead, of suffocation and blood loss.

Not long after this discovery was made, Mr. Blunden's housekeeper was doing some sewing when she glanced up to see Mrs. Blunden's ghost sitting in a chair, facing her. The ghost pointed to its forehead, showing the wounds it had sustained, while the eyes stared blankly. The housekeeper, terrified, closed her eyes and kept them shut for some time. When she dared to open them, the ghost was gone.

Not long after this incident, a carpenter in the area was returning home one evening when he saw a white-clad woman approaching him. He touched his hat when he recognized her as Mrs. Blunden; she passed him without making a sound.

When the carpenter came home, he told his wife what had happened. His wife turned white and blurted out: "You could not have seen Mrs. Blunden because she was buried two weeks ago."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A question for my faithful readers

If I collect these stories (and more) into a book, would you buy it?

Marilyn Monroe, still haunted and haunting

Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jean Baker) is one of those favorite Hollywood memories, like James Dean. Undoubtedly talented, she also suffered from massive insecurities, neediness, and the overwhelming ambition to be a star - and she was, but it did no good. She died peacefully, slipping into a coma after taking an overdose, but her spirit, it seems, is just as restless as the woman was during her lifetime.

Monroe was buried in Westwood Memorial Cemetery, where many people claim to have seen her ghost. Others have spotted her at her last home, in Brentwood.

Another place to look for her is the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It seems that her spirit has been seen in a mirror (on the lower floor, near the elevator). Monroe lived in the hotel at one time, in Suite 1200; the famous mirror was part of the furnishings in her suite at the time.

An eerie note: Montgomery Clift, Monroe's co-star in The Misfits, also haunts the Hollywood Roosevelt.