There have been several stories about ghosts of former Presidents revisiting the White House. However, the most common and popular is that of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's Ghost, otherwise known as The White House Ghost, is said to have haunted the White House since his death.
Lincoln's dreams of death
It is believed that Lincoln anticipated his assassination. According to Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln's friend and biographer, three days before his assassination Lincoln discussed with Lamon and others a dream he had, saying:
About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers, 'The President,' was his answer; 'he was killed by an assassin.' Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.
On the day of the assassination, Lincoln had told his bodyguard, William H. Crook that he had been having dreams of himself being assassinated for three straight nights. Crook tried to persuade the president not to attend a performance of the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre that night, or at least allow him to go along as an extra bodyguard, but Lincoln said he had promised his wife they would go. As Lincoln left for the theater, he turned to Crook and said "Goodbye, Crook." According to Crook, this was the first time he said that. Before, Lincoln had always said, "Good night, Crook." "Crook later recalled "It was the first time that he neglected to say ‘Good Night’ to me and it was the only time that he ever said ‘Good-bye’. I thought of it at that moment and, a few hours later, when the news flashed over Washington that he had been shot, his last words were so burned into my being that they can never be forgotten."
Reported Apparitions of Lincoln's Ghost
The White House's most famous alleged apparition is that of Abraham Lincoln. One of Mumler's most famous photographs apparently shows Mary Todd Lincoln with the "ghost" of her husband, Abraham Lincoln. Paranormal researcher Melvyn Willin, in his book Ghosts Caught on Film, claims that the photo was taken around 1869, and that Mumler did not know that his sitter was Lincoln, instead believing her to be a 'Mrs Tundall'. Willin goes on to say that Mumler did not discover who she was until after the photo was developed. The College of Psychic Studies, referencing notes belonging to William Stainton Moses (who has appeared in photographs by other spirit photographers), claim that the photo was taken in the early 1870s, Lincoln had assumed the name of 'Mrs. Lindall' and that Lincoln had to be encouraged by Mumler's wife (a medium) to identify her husband on the photo. Though the image has been dismissed as being accidental double exposure, it has been widely circulated.
Mrs. Roosevelt also said that the family dog, Fala, would sometimes bark for no reason at what she felt was Lincoln's ghost.
The former president's footsteps are also said to be heard in the hall outside the Lincoln Bedroom.
President Truman himself was once wakened by raps at the door while spending a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Several unnamed eyewitnesses have claimed to have seen the shade of Abraham Lincoln actually lying down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom (which was used as a meeting room at the time of his administration), and while others have seen Lincoln sit on the edge of the bed and put his boots on. The most famous eyewitness to the latter was Mary Eben, Eleanor Roosevelt's secretary, who saw Lincoln pulling on his boots (after which she ran screaming from the room).
Others have actually seen an apparition of the former president. The first person reported to have actually seen Lincoln's spirit was First Lady Grace Coolidge, who said she saw the ghost of Lincoln standing at a window in the Yellow Oval Room staring out at the Potomac.
Theodore Roosevelt and Maureen Reagan and her husband have all claimed to have seen a spectral Lincoln in the White House. A number of staff members of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration claimed to have seen Lincoln's spirit, and on one occasion Roosevelt's personal valet ran screaming from the White House claiming he had seen Lincoln's ghost.
Perhaps the most famous incident was in 1942 when Wilhelmina of the Netherlands heard footsteps outside her White House bedroom and answered a knock on the door, only to see Lincoln in frock coat and top hat standing in front of her (she promptly fainted).
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill loved to retire late, take a long, hot bath while drinking a Scotch, and smoke a cigar and relax. On this occasion, he climbed out of the bath and naked, but for his cigar, walked into the adjoining bedroom. He was startled to see Lincoln standing by the fireplace in the room, leaning on the mantle. Churchill, always quick on the uptake, blinked and said "Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Lincoln smiled softly and disappeared.
Lincoln's ghost was reportedly seen outside of the White House as well. In Loundonville, New York, Lincoln's ghost was said to haunt a house that was owned by a woman who was present at Ford's Theatre when Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Other Lincoln hauntings included his grave in Springfield, Illinois, a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln and a phantom train on nights in April along the same path his funeral train followed from Washington, D.C. to Springfield.
The last sighting of Lincoln's ghost was in the early 1980s, when Tony Savoy, White House operations foreman, came into the White House and saw Lincoln sitting in a chair at the top of some stairs.
Abraham Lincoln is not the only Lincoln ghost witnesses claim to have seen in the White House. Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son, died in the White House of typhoid on February 20, 1862.
Willie Lincoln's ghost was first seen in the White House by staff members of the Grant administration in the 1870s, but has appeared as recently as the 1960s (President Lyndon B. Johnson's college-age daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, saw the ghost and claims to have talked to him).
- List of ghosts
- Reportedly haunted locations in Washington, D.C.
- The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Schiffer, 2013): http://www.schifferbooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_book_info&cPath=958_563_580&products_id=4960
- The Diary of Gideon Welles; The History Channel Publishings, Chapter XXVI, April 14, 1865
- p. 116–117 of Recollections of Abraham Lincoln 1847–1865 by Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1999).
- Lloyd Lewis (1994). The Assassination of Lincoln: History and Myth. University of Nebraska Press. p. 297. ISBN 9780803279490.
- Reck, Waldo Emerson (1987). A. Lincoln, His Last 24 Hours. McFarland. p. 55. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
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- "William Stainton Moses collection". College of Psychic Studies. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
- Wagner, Stephen. "Presidents and the Paranormal". About.com. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
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