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One night in the 1940s, according to a well-known story, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was kicking back at the White House. He had just emerged from a hot bath to stroll into the adjoining bedroom, naked and smoking a cigar. But it turned out he had a surprise visitor, leaning against the fireplace mantel: Abraham Lincoln, or rather his ghost. Churchill didn't miss a beat. Tapping the ash off his cigar, he said, "Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage."
Lincoln smiled, then disappeared. Churchill—who didn't rattle easily—nonetheless refused to sleep in that bedroom ever again
The White House? Haunted? If all the ghost sightings from White House staff, first families, and other famous leaders who've been spooked here are to be believed, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is packed with apparitions.
In fact, according to a Washington Post interview with Jared Broach, who offers tours of haunted areas across the country—including a Washington, DC, pub crawl past the White House—“The White House has the best ghost stories, and I’d call them the most verified."
After all, as Broach points out, if the whole ghosts-in-the-White House thing was truly a bunch of malarkey, "I’d be calling about eight different presidents liars.”
Good point. So, even if you think all this spirit talk is pure smoke and mirrors, these well-documented White House ghosts below might make you think twice.
President Jackson has been heard in the White House since the 1860s, with staffers and first families claiming to hear him stomping around, swearing, and letting loose his signature guttural laugh.
In the 1860s, President Jefferson was heard playing his violin in the Yellow Oval Room, prompting President Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd, to once marvel to a friend, “My, my, how that Mr. Jefferson does play that violin.”
The wife of the nation's second president, John Adams, was the first first lady to live in the White House. Abigail Adams used the East Room to dry sheets. Since her death in 1818, numerous residents and staffers claim to have seen her walking around with her arms outstretched, as if carrying clean linens. Forever doing laundry—what a harsh fate.
In 1791, this guy sold the government most of the land on which the White House and the entire city of Washington, DC, now sits. Since then, his voice has been heard by a guard and a valet in the Oval Office, saying, “I’m Mr. Buuuuurns.”
President Lincoln isn't the only one in his family haunting the White House. Lincoln's son Willie—who died in the White House at the age of 11, most likely from typhoid fever—was reportedly seen not only by his parents but also by staff of the Grant administration in the 1870s.
Annie SurrattWikipedia CC In 1865, Mary Surratt was convicted of conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln, and sentenced to death. Her daughter Annie pleaded repeatedly for her mother's life—and, even after Mary was hanged and Annie was long gone, Annie's ghost reportedly continues to knock on doors throughout the White House, pleading for her mother's release.
But back to the most famous White House ghost: Lincoln, who's also known as "the White House Ghost" and has been spotted by the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt and first lady Grace Coolidge. Most famously, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who was sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, heard a knock and opened the door to see him standing there in a top hat and coat. She immediately fainted.
And in case you're thinking all these spiritual sightings are ancient history, there's some evidence that Lincoln's ghost was still kicking around as recently as the Reagan administration: White House curator Rex Scouten recalls how Ronald Reagan's dog would enter any room in the White House except the Lincoln Bedroom.
“He’d just stand outside the door and bark,” Scouten told the Washington Post.
So what might these White House ghosts want? In Lincoln's case at least, Broach explains one popular theory: “They say Lincoln always comes back whenever he feels the country is in need or in peril."