Horror at the White House! Tales of a ghostly president

source: Alex Barth, Flickr CC

source: Alex Barth, Flickr CC

In the long halls and rooms steeped in political history that make up the White House, President Obama is currently steering his nation on stormy political seas. But he is not the first to occupy these rooms; ever since Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, the presidents of United States have used this house as their home and office. Fires and extensions have altered its appearance but it remains, to this day, a symbol for the political power of the American president. However, it might just be that president Obama is not the only president roaming its halls…    

Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Photograph by Alexander Gardner. source: Wikimedia Commons

Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Photograph by Alexander Gardner. source: Wikimedia Commons

The 16th president of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, is perhaps the most famous of them all and he is often seen as one of the absolutely greatest presidents the country has ever had. Sadly, he met his untimely death in the theater in 1865 at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. But perhaps he was not finished with politics… After his death his ghostly figure has been seen on numerous occasions wandering the halls of the White House, and especially in the so-called Lincoln bedroom. When Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the room in the 1940s, he reportedly encountered Lincoln as he was coming out of the bathtub in the search of a cigar. Churchill was so rattled that he refused to sleep in the room again. However, Lincoln’s ghost was apparently quite well-mannered as he quickly disappeared after seeing that Churchill was naked. One version of the story recounts Churchill, while wearing nothing but his birthday suit, encountering Lincoln’s ghost and quickly saying: “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.”

The stories of Lincoln’s ghost are many; he was first sighted by Grace Coolidge, the First Lady during 1923-1929. She saw him standing at the window of the Oval Office looking out over the river Potomac and the fields beyond, the scene of bloody battles during the civil war. He has since then scared Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in 1942 by knocking on her door, and when she subsequently opened and saw the presidential specter, she reportedly fainted. The dead president also revealed himself to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s maid as well as President Roosevelt’s valet; both apparently left their separate encounters screaming. Eleanor Roosevelt herself never got the privilege of seeing Lincoln’s ghost but she did sense his presence on several occasions. President Gerald Ford’s daughter Susan also sensed Lincoln’s presence, as well as President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Maureen. She allegedly saw his “aura” and reported that it was red and orange. First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, also sensed the president, coincidentally while watching a TV program about his death; perchance Lincoln was himself curious about what had happened that fateful day at the theater.

Many more sightings of “old Abe” have been reported and it clearly seems like Lincoln has been unable to tear himself from the corridors of power. Perhaps ironically, since he apparently had little faith in the supernatural during his lifetime; according to Doris Kearns Goodwin, writer of one of his biographies, Lincoln replied to the question whether he believed in another realm: “I’m afraid there isn’t, it isn’t a pleasant thing to think that when we die, that is the last of us.”

Photograph of Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd with the “ghost” of her husband. By William H. Mumler

Photograph of Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd with the “ghost” of her husband. By William H. Mumler

His wife was however much more inclined to believe in the paranormal, as she is known to have held at least one séance at the White House in order to try to contact their deceased son Willy. In addition, it seems like despite Lincoln’s own skepticism, he might have been in contact with the supernatural before his death. There are several sources claiming he had dreams about his murder a few days before its occurrence. It is said that on the same day as his assassination he told his bodyguard about these dreams, but despite the bodyguard pleading for him to cancel his visit to the theater, Lincoln insisted he go that night as he had promised his wife to attend. As we all know, his premonition was all too accurate and a bullet ended his life that night.

As if the tales of Lincoln’s ghost were not enough, in 2012 we saw another level to Lincoln’s paranormal life and death with the premiere of the movie “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” where it is revealed that Lincoln was fighting vampires in his spare time. The historic accuracy of these claims is not clear and it is not known whether his ghost continued to kill vampires after his death. But perhaps it is just possible that the movie has stumbled upon the reason why Lincoln is still lingering in the realm of the living: to protect the White House from invading vampires, leaving Obama free to tackle the dangers in the non-supernatural world. So let’s take the opportunity this Halloween to thank Lincoln’s ghost for keeping Obama and all previous presidents safe and sound.

 Crystal Bahl