6. The White House

white House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. is not only home to the current President of the United States, it also is home of several former presidents who occasionally decide to make their presences known there, despite the fact that they are dead.

Americans have long enjoyed telling scary ghost stories. From the ghost of Abigail Adams doing her laundry in the East Room to the spirit of Dolly Madison overlooking the Rose Garden, the White House has its own legend of ghost stories that have been passed down over the years.

There is a story of a British soldier who died on the White House grounds during the war of 1812 in 1814. The British came through Washington in 1814 during the war of 1812 and burned all of the federal buildings in Washington, including the White House. A number of years ago, when a restoration project of the exterior stone walls of the residence, restores found scorch marks around the windows and doors that were deep into the stone and were obviously part of the damage from this fire in 1814. It is said that some people have seen a ghost of a British soldier with a torch in his hand.

Members of the staff, who have worked in the White House for many years, recently shared some of their stories of strange noises in the White House, sightings of President Abraham Lincoln’s ghost and many, many more.


After Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, Mary Todd Lincoln attempted to stay in contact with her dead husband through private readings and seances. Whether she achieved genuine communication with the late president will never be known. Mary also visited the studio of William Mumler, a Boston engraver who claimed to photograph the dead. This photo (right) of Mary with the ghostly Lincoln was the result of her sitting with Mumler.

In 1869, Mumler was arrested for public fraud, larceny, and obtaining money under false pretenses. The highly-publicized trial ended in dismissal for lack of evidence. Was Mumler a fraud? Probably, although many of his sitters claimed to recognize loved ones in Mumler’s photos who had never been photographed in life. Others claimed that some of the “spirits” in his pictures had been identified as living models.

Another popular legend is that of Dolley Madison coming back during the Wilson Administration when Mrs. Wilson wanted the rose garden dug up. Dolley’s ghost arrived, supposedly, and told them not to disturb her garden.

President Harrisons’ ghost is said to be heard rummaging around in the attic of the White House, looking for who knows what.

President Andrew Jackson’s’ ghost is thought to haunt his White House bedroom. And the ghost of First Lady Abigail Adams was seen floating through one of the White House hallways, as if carrying something in her hands.

Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln held real seances in the White House, it was said she would try and recall the spirit of their dead son Willie who died in the White House during his father’s Presidency. After Willie’s death, Mrs. Lincoln was seated at a table and held the seance in the green room to try and contact Willie’s spirit.

Legend has it that Mary Lincoln reported hearing Andrew Jacksons’ ghost walk around the halls of the White House and supposedly swearing up a storm.

The most frequently sighted presidential ghost has been that of Abraham Lincoln. Eleanor Roosevelt once stated she believed she felt the presence of Lincoln watching her as she worked in the Lincoln bedroom. Also during the Roosevelt administration, a young clerk claimed to have actually seen the ghost of Lincoln sitting on a bed pulling off his boots. On another occasion, while spending a night at the White House during the Roosevelt presidency, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was awakened by a knock on the bedroom door. Answering it, she was confronted with the ghost of Abe Lincoln staring at her from the hallway. Calvin Coolidge’s wife reported seeing on several occasions the ghost of Lincoln standing with his hands clasped behind his back, at a window in the Oval Office, staring out in deep contemplation toward the bloody battlefields across the Potomac.


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