The White House has long had a reputation for being haunted, and according to legend, by the ghosts of dead former Presidents and First Ladies. The ghosts have been seen and heard on numerous occassions over the years by high profile people.
For two hundred years, the White House has stood as a symbol of the Presidency, the United States government, and the American people. Its history, and the history of the nation's capital, began when President George Washington signed an Act of Congress in December of 1790. The building of the White House began on October 13, 1792. It was finished in November 1800 and President John Adams and his wife, Abigail moved in. By the time Thomas Jefferson moved there, in 1801, most of the exterior structures were complete. The building was named the Presidential Palace.
During the War of 1812, the mansion was set ablaze by the British Army in the Burning of Washington, destroying the interior and charring much of the exterior walls. After the war the mansion was repaired and white washed to conceal the smoke marks. Because of this, the building was referred to as the White House.
Many recent presidents have described feeling the presence of their predecessors. White House chief usher Gary Walters disclosed that "The presidents that I have worked for have all indicated a feeling of the previous occupants of the White House and have all talked about drawing strength from the fact that the previous presidents have lived here".
The most famous ghost at the White House is that of former President Abraham Lincoln. His ghost was repeatedly sighted at the White House for over 150 years. However, there are at least 10 other ghosts that haunt the home of the US Presidency.
The ghost of Abraham Lincoln is probably the most well-known paranormal phenomenon related to a US president. Assassinated in 1865, Lincoln lives on in the White House, according to a variety of witnesses who claim to have heard and even seen the 16th president at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Lincoln's ghost seems to have been most active during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, perhaps because they were both in power at times of a great war for the United States. During their 13-year occupancy of the White House, the Roosevelt's used the former Lincoln bedroom as a study for Eleanor, the first lady. Although she never claimed to have seen Lincoln's spirit, Eleanor spoke of the sense of someone watching her as she worked in the room. She believed Lincoln was there with her.
A young clerk in the Roosevelt administration at the White House claimed to have actually seen the ghost of Lincoln sitting on a bed and pulling off his boots. 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.
Ever the gentleman, it seems, Lincoln knocked often. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman all reported hearing unexplained rappings on their bedroom doors. What made them think it was Lincoln is unknown.
It's well known how Lincoln anguished over the horrors of the Civil War. His spirit may have continued worrying long after his death. 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.
During one of Winston Churchill's visits to the United States during WW2, he spent the night in the White House. 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 Abraham 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.
Willie Lincoln was one of Abraham Lincoln's children. He died while his father was President. During Grant's administration, his ghost was seen a number of times. There haven't been any sightings of Lincoln since the Truman administration because, some believe, of the many renovations to the presidential home.
Perhaps the scariest revelation about the hauntings of the White House was described by George W Bush from an incident in 1992, when his father was still president and he was visiting the White House. George W Bush found the White House a creepy place. After exercising in a White House gym one evening, Bush has told a friend he froze in his steps while approaching the Lincoln Bedroom. Bush insists that he saw ghosts coming out of the wall of the bedroom, according to a friend of his.
Abigail Adams is another haunter. John Adams was the first President to live in the White House. It was drafty and damp, with the exception of the East Room where his wife hung the wash. Her phantom has been sighted, scurrying to the East Room, arms full of laundry.
Dolley Madison's specter has been seen. She planted the original Rose Garden. It's been said that, when Mrs. Wilson decided to remove the garden, Dolley appeared to the workmen dismantling it and upbraided them. They fled and the Rose Garden remains.
James Madison was President during the War of 1812 when the British troops stormed the mansion. As they closed in, Dolley Madison requested a carriage to take her to safety but she wouldn't leave until the portrait of George Washington could be taken with her.
There is a story of a former British soldier who died on the White House grounds in 1814 when the White House was burned by the British Army. Some people have seen the British soldier standing with a torch in his hand in the grounds of the White House.
One source states that, according to her biography, Lillian Rogers Parks was getting the Lincoln Room in order after it had been painted. She repeatedly heard foot steps going toward the door. She couldn't see anyone. Finally, she went out and found another employee. She asked him why he was stomping in the corridor. He replied he just started work that day and had not been on the second floor. Then, he added she must have heard Lincoln's ghost.
The 7th President at the White House, Andrew Jackson is another ghost who has been heard on occassions. Known as "Old Hickory", Mary Todd Lincoln and others have heard him swearing and stomping about in his boots in the Rose Room, which he used as his bedroom, and in the halls.
David Burns donated the land the White House was built on. A White House valet heard a voice calling him and said it was Mr. Burns. A guard at the Presidential Mansion heard a voice declare it was Mr. Burns. He thought it was Secretary of State, James Byrnes, and looked for him. He later found out that Byrnes was not in the building that day.
Several staff members have had eerie experiences in the White House. White House chief usher Gary Walters described one ghostly experience that he shared with three police officers. "I was standing at the state floor of the White House with 3 police officers. The police officers and I felt a cool rush of air pass between us and then two doors that stand open closed by themselves. I have never seen these doors move before without somebody specifically closing them by hand. It was quite remarkable."