There is no shortage of haunted houses in America, but perhaps America's most famous house, the one that resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House. The White House was built near the end of the 18th Century, and today it's composed of 6 stories of 132 rooms and 412 doors. With so many rooms, is it any wonder that some of them are haunted by past presidents and first ladies alike? The more doors in a house, the more of a chance some of them might open and close on their own. But who is haunting the executive mansion and playing havoc on our senses of reality? Most obvious of all, past presidents and their wives are the most frequent haunters of the White House and for some of them their haunting are more memorable than their tenures in office.
|William Henry Harrison|
William Henry Harrison's presidency lasted less than 32 days back in 1841, yet his ghost can still be heard, rummaging through the White House attic, 168 years later. Harrison was the first President to die while in office, of pneumonia on April 4, 1841. Had he known his presidency would've been so short, William Henry Harrison probably wouldn't have spent two precious hours of it reading his 8,000 word inaugural address. But then again, maybe that's what he's been spending the last 168 years rummaging through the White House attic looking for.
Andrew Jackson was an abrasive fellow, and he was elected the 7th President of the United States in 1828. His toughness earned him the nickname "Old Hickory", so it should come as no surprise to most that death alone couldn't drive him from the White House. In the Rose Bedroom where he used to sleep, White House staff have heard a hearty laughter like Jackson was said to have. Mary Todd Lincoln used to hear cursing from Old Hickory's ghost, and an aid to Lyndon Johnson heard the same sort of yelling in the Rose Bedroom in 1964. Others have heard Jackson stomping around the White House floors in his heavy boots down the halls. Clearly Mr. Jackson was never a quiet fellow, not even in death.
Abraham Lincoln served the people during the country's most threatening time to the Union-The Civil War. But America's turmoils were not the only thing haunting Mr. Lincoln in his life. In 1862, Lincoln lost his 11 year old son, Willie, to typhoid fever. Abe and his wife Mary often held se'ances in the Green Room to contact Willie's spirit, successfully. Willie Lincoln is also said to have communicated directly with the Ulysses Grant administration. But Willie's father has been a much more active spirit within the walls of the White House.
Abe Lincoln is said to have dreamed of his own death. He told Mary Todd that he saw his own assassination three days before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. Since that fateful day, the ghost of Lincoln has been seen at the White House more frequently than some of our more recent vacation loving presidents.
Calvin Coolidge's wife, Grace, was the first person to spot Lincoln's ghost standing in a window in the Oval Office, and he reappeared to her repeatedly. FDR's valet was so spooked by the ghost of Abe that he ran from the White House screaming. President Harrison's bodyguard once took matters into his own hands when he attended a se'ance to plead with Lincoln to quiet down and let him sleep at night. Ladybird Johnson, wife of Lyndon, saw Abe while she was watching television. Ronald Reagan's daughter and son-in-law both witnessed Lincoln standing next to the fireplace in the Lincoln bedroom. Lincoln's ghost has been blamed for cold and icy spots in various rooms, as well as turning back on chandelier light after they'd been shut off. Lincoln's ghost has appeared to both Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. In Churchill's case, Lincoln was leaning against the mantle of the fireplace as the nude prime minister exited the bathroom. Lincoln slowly faded away, but Churchill's embarrassment did not. He refused to sleep there again. Queen Wilhemina, fortunately, was clothed when she spotted Lincoln's ghost. One night as she stayed in the Lincoln bedroom, she was awoken with a knock at the door. She opened the door to Lincoln's ghost and promptly fainted. With his many sightings, Lincoln's ghost, like Lincoln himself, seems an introspective and trouble soul.
Dolley Madison, wife of 4th President James Madison, frequently showed herself during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, 100 years after she lived there. Dolley was first lady from 1809-1817. Dolley's favorite place to haunt is the Rose Garden, which she planted a century earlier. Perhaps she felt as if she were protecting the garden after Woodrow's wife ordered for the garden to be dug up. Workmen kept seeing Dolley, and orders to dig up the garden were buried. The Rose Garden exists unharmed to this day.
Abigail Adams, wife of 2nd President (and 1st President to live in the White House) John Adams. Because the White House wasn't fully complete when the Adams family moved in, the inadequate heating created a problem for drying laundry in an age before washers and driers. Perhaps this is why the ghost of Abigail Adams can sometimes be seen in the East Room on the first floor, which was the warmest and driest room in the White House. There were numerous sightings of her during the Taft administration. Often she was seen with her arms outstretched, just as if she were carrying a load of laundry.
Her cries can be heard coming from a second floor bedroom. In 1891 Frances became the first First Lady to give birth in the White House, to a daughter named Ruth.
Whether or not these ex-presidents and first ladies still really roam the halls and haunt the rooms of the White House, it's clear that something about them remains. Perhaps they're just memories materializing into celestial visions of great leaders forever trapped in our subconscious. Or perhaps they really never leave office, one we elect them and trust them with the most important job on earth. Either way, the White House doesn't seem destined to ever rest in peace.