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? 

1 comment:

  1. And I'm a little surprised Lincoln didn't refuse to haunt the room after that. I'm thinking he was probably more freaked out than Churchill was.