Monday, October 19, 2009
The White House has been home to U.S. presidents and first ladies since 1800, so maybe presidential ghost lore is only (super) natural. Unexplainable footsteps, knocks, slamming doors, barking dogs, or even just cold chills have led many people to believe ghosts roam the White House. Abraham Lincoln, who is said to have foreseen his own death, is reportedly the most frequent ghostly visitor. Some say he appears at times of national crisis, walking the halls or hanging around the Lincoln Bedroom, which served as his office during his presidency. During World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill supposedly refused to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom after seeing the dead president one night.
Another good ghost story involves Abigail Adams, the first first lady to live in the White House. The White House wasn't finished when she moved in, so she used the still-under-construction East Room to dry her clean sheets. Her ghost is said to walk out of the East Room with her arms outstretched as if carrying laundry. Sightings are often accompanied by the smell of clean linens.
Laughter coming from the Rose Bedroom on the second floor may just be the ghost of the boisterous President Andrew Jackson. One former White House seamstress claimed she felt him lean over her while hemming a bedspread in his old bedroom.
But it's not just presidents and first ladies who appear. The ghost of Annie Surratt, whose mother was executed for involvement in Lincoln's death, has supposedly been seen knocking on the White House door, pleading to have her mother released. A British soldier who helped set the White House on fire in 1814 is also said to be seen, wielding a torch. One couple staying in a second-floor bedroom said the ghost tried to set fire to their bed.
Are such stories true? Or are they just fun? Who knows? But the White House is known as the people's house -- and maybe the people include the people's ghosts.
-- Moira E. McLaughlin