Wednesday 22 November 2017

Is the White House Haunted? These Presidents All Think So

The White House has a lot of history. In addition to the specters of wars, political conflicts, and moral debates past, the White House has long been thought to host apparitions of a different kind. Throughout the years, numerous presidents have reported seeing and hearing ghosts of former White House residents. Staff, members of the first family, and famous politicians have also reported ghost sightings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
So is the White House haunted? We’ll let you be the judge. Read on to get the spooky details on the most well-known ghost sightings at the White House.

1. Abraham Lincoln

  • In office: 1861 to 1865
  • Saw the ghost of: Willie Lincoln
The Washington Post reports that Abraham Lincoln — who would later become one of the most famous White House ghosts, as you’ll see in the coming pages — reportedly received regular visits from the ghost of his son, Willie. Willie died in the White House in 1862, at just 11 years of age, of what was likely typhoid fever. Additionally, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the only White House resident at the time who saw Willie’s ghost.
The Post explains that Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, “so grief-stricken by the loss that she remained in her room for weeks,” reportedly saw her son’s ghost at the foot of her bed. But Willie wasn’t the only ghost that Mary Todd Lincoln is said to have encountered during her time in the White House. She also reportedly heard Thomas Jefferson playing the violin in the Yellow Oval Room. And she also said that she heard Andrew Jackson swearing.
Next: This first lady held séances and encountered numerous ghosts.

2. Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Tod Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln was a big believer in ghosts. | White House Historical Association
  • In residence: 1861 to 1865
  • Saw the ghost of: Andrew Jackson
Sure, she’s not a president. But Mary Todd Lincoln reportedly believed strongly in the occult and held séances in the White House to communicate with the spirit of her son. According to History, she told friends that she heard Andrew Jackson stomping and swearing in the halls of the presidential residence. The Rose Room, where Jackson slept as president, is reportedly one of the most haunted rooms in the White House.
Lincoln wasn’t the only White House resident to mention Andrew Jackson’s ghost. In a letter to his wife, Harry S. Truman wrote to his wife that he often listened “to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth — I can just imagine old Andy [Jackson] and Teddy [Roosevelt] having an argument over Franklin [Roosevelt].”
Next: This president saw one of the creepiest ghosts to haunt the White House.

3. Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant
He was disturbed by multiple ghosts. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1869 to 1877
  • Saw the ghost of: A white-haired old man
During his time in the White House, Ulysses S. Grant was reportedly disturbed by the ghost not of a former president or first family member. According to the White House Historical Association, not every ghost that has haunted the White House is a well-known figure, like a president or a first lady. Presidents have also spotted lesser-known apparitions, like the white-haired old man that appeared to Ulysses S. Grant.
The same ghost, as it turns out, also appeared to Chester Arthur, who became president in the early 1880s. Though there doesn’t seem to be a detailed description of the ghost from the era of the Grant administration, at least one journalist took an interest in the story during Arthur’s administration.
Next: This president saw a ghost with a “phosphorescent” beard and hair.

4. Chester Arthur

United States President Chester A. Arthur
The ghost he saw wasn’t anyone specific. | National Archives/Newsmakers
  • In office: 1881 to 1885
  • Saw the ghost of: A white-haired old man
The same ghost that appeared to Ulysses S. Grant also reportedly disturbed President Chester Arthur at night. And this time, somebody wrote down a description of what the ghost looked like in appearances to the president and to members of his staff.
An 1883 article in the newspaper The Washington Critic described the ghost, who haunted the Second Floor bedrooms, as “an aged and bent man with long, phosphorescent, white beard and hair, ghastly and wavy, bright and glaring eyes, and long scrawny fingers. His walk is noiseless but stately, and his presence is always indicated by a peculiar electric sensation which pervades the surrounding air.”
Next: This president saw the ghost of one of the most iconic presidents.

5. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt
Abraham Lincoln was seen by another president. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • In office: 1901 to 1909
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln goes down in history as one of the most frequently sighted ghosts at the White House. Theodore Roosevelt, interestingly enough, seems to have been one of the earlier presidents to spot the ghost of Abraham Lincoln at the White House, according to
Other notable White House residents who have spotted Lincoln’s ghost over the years? First Lady Grace Coolidge saw him looking out a window in what had been his office, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands found him knocking at her door when she slept in the Lincoln bedroom. (She promptly fainted.)
Next: This president ordered staff members to keep ghost sightings a secret.

6. William Taft

William Taft
William Taft saw a former First Lady. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1909 to 1913
  • Saw the ghost of: Abigail Adams
President William Taft also considered the White House haunted, and reportedly spotted the ghost of Abigail Adams. Abigail, wife of the nation’s second president, John Adams, moved to the newly built White House when, as puts it, “Washington D.C. was just a swampy little town.” She would hang wet laundry to dry in the East Room, as it was the warmest and driest part of the White House.
Her ghost has been spotted, in a cap and a lace shawl, with arms outstretched as though carrying a laundry basket. She always seems to be heading toward the East Room. Taft reportedly saw her ghost floating through doors on the second floor, as if she were taking laundry upstairs to dry. During Taft’s administration, staff members also saw “The Thing,” the ghost of a young boy. According to the White House Historical Association, Taft ordered the staff to keep the ghost’s presence a secret.
Next: This president’s staff saw the ghost of a famous first lady.

7. Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson
Dolley Madison didn’t take kindly to them touching her garden. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1913 to 1921
  • His staff saw the ghost of: Dolley Madison
Abigail Adams isn’t the only first lady who has reportedly been spotted haunting the White House. The Washington Post reports that during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, staff spotted the ghost of Dolley Madison, who for her eternal pastime seems to have chosen taking care of the garden.
The Post reports that at the time, the Wilson administration staff had been asked to move the garden originally planted by Dolley Madison. ABC notes that Edith Wilson, the wife of Woodrow Wilson, had grown tired of the garden planted on the lawn. But according to the groundskeepers who went to dig up the garden, “out of nowhere the spirit of Dolley Madison swooped out of the sky, chased them away and saved the garden from destruction.”
Next: This president saw one of the most famous White House ghosts.

8. Herbert Hoover

Abraham Lincoln’s ghost just liked to wander. | Central Press/Getty Images
  • In office: 1929 to 1933
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln
Another president who considered the White House haunted? Herbert Hoover. reports that Hoover numbered among the many famous White House residents who claimed to have encountered Abraham Lincoln’s ghost in the White House. As you might have guessed by now, Lincoln’s ghost seems to be the spirit that’s most often seen at the White House.
But as National Geographic reports, “The notion of Lincoln’s wraith roaming the rooms of his former residence is in some ways ironic, since Lincoln himself wasn’t a strong believer in an afterlife, according to his biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin.” Though Lincoln’s wife did dabble in spiritualism, he didn’t take much of an interest. However, Lincoln did seem to have strangely prophetic dreams — including one about his own assassination.
Next: This president presided over a country in crisis — and a visiting ghost may have wanted to help.

9. Franklin D. Roosevelt

United States president Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Lincoln comes back when things are amiss. | Central Press/Getty Images
  • In office: 1933 to 1945
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln
History reports that sightings of Lincoln’s ghost were also frequent during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. Roosevelt presided over the country during a time of great upheaval, which may explain why so many people saw Lincoln’s ghost during the Roosevelt administration. Several of Roosevelt’s staff members claimed they sawLincoln, according to And so did Roosevelt’s personal valet, who reportedly ran screaming from the White House.
As History notes, “Psychics have speculated that Lincoln’s spirit remains in the White House to be on hand in times of crisis.” And Jared Broach, who offers haunted tours of the White House, tells the Washington Post, “They say Lincoln always comes back whenever he feels the country is in need or in peril.”
Next: This first lady also saw and felt the presence of Abraham Lincoln.

10. Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D Roosevelt
The first lady was another witness to Lincoln’s late night strolls. | J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images
  • In residence: 1933 to 1945
  • Suspected the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used the Lincoln Bedroom as her study. She said that she could feel Lincoln’s ghostly presence when she worked in the room late into the night. Mary Eban, who worked for Eleanor Roosevelt, also reported seeing Lincoln’s ghost on his bed, pulling on his boots.
The Post reports that Eleanor, in a 1932 talk about life in the White House, told a group in San Antonio about the presence she felt when working in the Lincoln Bedroom, which had not always been a bedroom. “I get a distinct feeling that there is somebody in the room,” she said of the space, which Lincoln used as both an office and a cabinet room. In fact, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in that room on January 1, 1863.
Next: This British politician saw a ghost when he was walking around naked after a bath.

11. Winston Churchill

British Conservative politician Winston Churchill
Even a Brit was privy to the American ghosts. | Evening Standard/Getty Images
  • Visited during: World War II
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln
Additionally, the ghost of Abraham Lincoln himself has reportedly been spotted at the White House. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wasn’t a president himself. But we’re inclined to believe his account of seeing Abraham Lincoln’s ghost at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As reports, Churchill one night emerged from a hot bath into his bedroom at the White House, naked and smoking a cigar.
Churchill saw Abraham Lincoln leaning against the fireplace mantel. Churchill reportedly tapped the ash off his cigar and said, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” Lincoln reportedly smiled and then disappeared. Churchill, for his part, refused to ever sleep in that bedroom again.
Next: This president encountered several ghosts in the White House.

12. Harry S. Truman

American President Harry S Truman
Truman heard lots of noises in the night. | Fox Photos/Getty Images
  • In office: 1945 to 1953
  • Encountered the ghosts of: Unidentified White House residents
The Washington Post reports that in 1946, President Harry S. Truman went to bed at 9 p.m. Six hours later, he heard knocking at his bedroom door. In a letter he wrote to his wife, he recounted what happened next.
I jumped up and put on my bathrobe, opened the door, and no one there. Went out and looked up and down the hall, looked in your room and Margie’s. Still no one. Went back to bed after locking the doors and there were footsteps in your room whose door I’d left open. Jumped and looked and no one there! The damned place is haunted sure as shootin’. Secret Service said not even a watchman was up here at that hour. You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off.
Additionally, the Travel Channel reports that both Truman and his wife reportedly heard the cries of Frances Cleveland, the only First Lady to give birth in the White House.
Next: This president eventually the ghost of a president whom he deeply respected.

13. Dwight Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower
His idol paid him a visit. | James Anthony Wills/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1953 to 1961
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln
Generations of presidents have felt Abraham Lincoln’s presence in the White House — both in literal and figurative fashions. The New York Times reports that Eisenhower revered the 16th president of the United States, and kept a set of Lincoln’s collected works in the Oval Office. Eisenhower also painted a portrait of Lincoln that hung in the Cabinet Room.
But Eisenhower also reportedly felt Lincoln’s presence in a more literal way, too. According to, Eisenhower also reported seeing Abraham Lincoln’s ghost. So you can add him to the list of presidents who considered the White House haunted.
Next: This president suspected a ghost thanks to his dog’s behavior.

14. Ronald Reagan

His dog saw things too. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • In office: 1981 to 1989
  • Suspected the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln
The Huffington Post reports that Ronald Reagan suspected the White House was haunted by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. The president’s dog, Rex, refused to enter the Lincoln Bedroom. Additionally, Reagan’s daughter Maureen and her husband would stay in the Lincoln Bedroom when they visited the White House. Reagan himself recounted a spooky turn of events in the room:
Some time ago the husband woke up and saw a transparent figure standing at the bedroom window looking out. Then it turned and disappeared. His wife teased him mercilessly about it for a month. Then, when they were here recently, she woke up one morning and saw the same figure standing at the window looking out. She could see the trees right through it. Again it turned and disappeared.
Next: It’s possible that even the White House’s current occupant has encountered a ghost.

15. Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaks to press
‘Sources’ say he’s seen ghosts. | Jim Watson/ AFP/Getty Images.
  • Assumed office: 2017
  • Encountered the ghost of: We’re not sure whether Donald Trump has actually seen a ghost or even considers the White House haunted, but this story is too good not to share.
We wouldn’t put too much stock in this one, but some conspiracy theorists have theorized that Donald Trump has spotted some ghosts at the White House. Their proof? That Trump takes vacations away from the White House at seemingly every opportunity. A “Republican activist” reportedly told a Daily Kos contributor that Trump takes vacations because “He is afraid of the White House Ghosts.”
This source told the contributor, “Apparently he thinks they visited him in his first night there, and now he hates to even walk into the place.  At night, he is so terrified, he wanders around in his pajamas because he is afraid to go to sleep.”
We can’t say we feel particularly confident in that account. But Trump does take a lot of vacations. And plenty of other presidents have spotted ghosts at the White House over the years. So maybe Trump does number among the many presidents who consider the White House haunted. We hope somebody asks him!

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