The White House Is the Most Haunted Home in the Country
The most famous house in America is also the country’s most haunted house. With over two centuries worth of reported paranormal activity, the White House is one of the most credible ghost sites in the nation. Presidents, first ladies, White House staff members, and guests alike have reported feeling ghostly presences, hearing unexplained noises, and even running into actual apparitions. The White House is such a special haunted site because the spirits that still roam the property are some of the most famous political and foundational names in our country’s history.
At least eight presidents have reported encountering their political forefathers during their stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, including President Truman, who shared his thoughts on the White House’s paranormal status in a letter to his wife: “I sit in this old house, all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway. At four o’clock, I was awakened by three distinct knocks on my bedroom door. No one was there. Damned place is haunted, sure as shootin’!”
Ghostly Historical Figures
Given the vast swathes of history that have unfolded, both within the White House itself and at the hands of its residents, it should be no surprise that a bevvy of spirits have lingered within its hallowed halls. From members of presidential families past to our former leaders themselves, here’s a quick run-down on some of the most well-known ghosts in the White House.
1. Willie Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was shattered by the death of his son Willie, who succumbed to typhoid fever in 1862 at age 11. Thereafter, he reportedly received regular visits from his departed son. The Grant Administration also reported sightings of Willie during the 1870s.
2. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson’s guttural laugh has echoed in the halls of the White House since the 1860s, supposedly emanating from his old bed in the Queen's Bedroom (also known as the Rose Room). First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, who believed strongly in spirits, reportedly held séances in the White House to commune with the spirits of her dead sons. After one séance, she told friends that she had heard Jackson stomping and swearing through the halls of the home.
3. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson plays his violin in the Yellow Oval Room. Resident paranormal enthusiast Mary Todd Lincoln also encountered this spirit, leading her to say the following to a visiting friend: “My, my, how that Mr. Jefferson does play that violin.”
4. Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams hung laundry in the East Room, which was the driest room in the residence at the time. According to History.com, Abigail’s ghost always heads toward the East Room with outstretched arms like she’s carrying a laundry basket. She wears a traditional cap and lace shawl. President Andrew Taft reportedly saw her float through the doors on the second floor as if she was taking laundry upstairs to dry. In recent history, staffers have described smelling wet laundry and lavender around Mrs. Adams’ favorite room.
5. Unnamed British Soldier
An unnamed British Soldier from the War of 1812 is often seen carrying a torch in the White House. After British troops set fire to the White House in 1812, it was discovered that a British soldier had passed away in his efforts to destroy the building. His spirit still wanders the halls, torch in hand, as though looking to finish the job.
6. David Burnes
David Burnes owned the land on which the White House now stands. His ghost is seen, or rather heard, in the Yellow Oval Room. When Jefferson isn’t there, rocking out on the violin, Burnes can be heard calling, “I am Mr. Buuuuuurnes.” He was first heard by a reporter visiting during the Truman administration, though there have been multiple reports of his shouting since then.
7. Anna Surratt
Anna Surratt bangs on the doors of White House every July 6th, pleading to see President Andrew Johnson. When she was alive, Anna was there to beg for a pardon for her mother, Mary Surratt, who was accused of being a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination after allowing John Wilkes Booth to stay at her boardinghouse. Anna’s pleas fell on deaf ears and her mother became the first female executed by the American government. In her death, Anna continues to knock on the front doors, begging for her mother’s life.
Honest Abe Walks Among Us
The most famous ghost to haunt the halls of the White House is also one of the nation’s most beloved presidents: President Abraham Lincoln. His spirit has been seen the most often out of all the White House ghosts and by a wide variety of famous visitors.
In a 1987 New York Times article, President Ronald Reagan commented that his dog, Rex, would go into any room except the Lincoln bedroom, believing it to be haunted. “He’d just stand outside the door and bark,” Reagan told reporters.
Lincoln also frequents the Yellow Oval Room along with Jefferson and Burns. The melancholy bearing of Lincoln himself, and several instances of eerie prescience on his part, only add to the legends of the Great Emancipator’s ghost. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom in 1942 when she heard a knock on her bedroom door. The Queen opened the door only to see the tall, bearded president himself, which scared her to the point of fainting.
Two years earlier, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had a naked encounter with President Lincoln. It’s widely known that Churchill loved to retire late, allowing him to take a long hot bath while treating himself to a nightcap Scotch and a cigar. On one occasion while he stayed at the White House, he climbed out of the bath and walked into his bedroom. Upon entering the room, he was startled to see Lincoln standing by the fireplace in the room, leaning on the mantle.
Churchill, always quick and clever, took the cigar out of his mouth, tapped the ash off the end, and said, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” Even stalwart Churchill refused to stay in that specific bedroom after his encounter.
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