Is the White House Haunted? These Presidents All Think So

White house
View of the White House in Washington DC, residence of US president. | Ed-Ni-Photo/iStock/Getty Images

In addition to political conflicts and moral issues, the White House has long been thought to host apparitions of a different kind. Over the years, numerous presidents have reported ghosts of former White House residents. Staff, family members, and politicians have also described eerie spirits. So is the Executive Mansion haunted? We’ll let you be the judge. Read on for the spooky details of the most well-known ghosts at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

1. Abraham Lincoln

  • In office: 1861 to 1865
  • Saw the ghost of: Willie Lincoln

The Washington Post reports that Abraham Lincoln reportedly received regular visits from the ghost of his son, Willie. Willie died in the White House in 1862, at just 11 years of age, of what was likely typhoid fever. And Abraham wasn’t the only White House resident at the time who saw Willie’s ghost.

The Post explains that Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, “so grief-stricken by the loss that she remained in her room for weeks,” reportedly saw her son’s ghost at the foot of her bed. But Willie wasn’t the only ghost Mary encountered in the White House. She also reportedly heard Thomas Jefferson playing the violin in the Yellow Oval Room.

Next: This first lady held séances and encountered numerous ghosts.

2. Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Tod Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln was a big believer in ghosts. | White House Historical Association
  • In residence: 1861 to 1865
  • Saw the ghost of: Andrew Jackson

Sure, she’s not a president. But Mary Todd Lincoln reportedly believed in the occult and held séances in the White House to communicate with her son’s spirit. She told friends she heard Andrew Jackson stomping and swearing in the halls. The Rose Room, where Jackson slept, is reportedly one of the most haunted rooms in the White House.

Lincoln wasn’t the only resident to mention Andrew Jackson’s ghost. In a letter to his wife, Harry S. Truman wrote that he often listened “to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth — I can just imagine old Andy [Jackson] and Teddy [Roosevelt] having an argument over Franklin [Roosevelt].”

Next: This president ordered staff members to keep ghost sightings a secret.

3. William Taft

William Taft
William Taft saw a former First Lady. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1909 to 1913
  • Saw the ghost of: Abigail Adams

President William Taft believed the White House was haunted after seeing Abigail Adams’ ghost. John Adams’ wife moved to the newly built White House when, as puts it, “Washington D.C. was just a swampy little town.” She’d hang wet laundry in the East Room, the warmest, driest area of the White House.

Wearing a cap and lace shawl, Abigail’s ghost always heads toward the East Room with outstretched arms like she’s carrying a laundry basket. Taft reportedly saw her float through doors on the second floor as if she was taking laundry upstairs to dry. His staff also saw a young boy’s ghost they called “The Thing.” The White House Historical Association says Taft ordered his team to keep the ghost a secret.

Next: The ghost of a famous first lady haunted this president’s administration.

4. Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson
Dolley Madison didn’t take kindly to anyone touching her plants. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1913 to 1921
  • His staff saw the ghost of: Dolley Madison

The Washington Post reports that Woodrow Wilson’s staff saw the ghost of Dolley, whose eternal pastime seems to be maintaining her garden. ABC notes Edith, Woodrow Wilson’s wife, was tired of the garden planted by Dolley on the lawn. But according to groundskeepers who tried to dig it up, “out of nowhere the spirit of Dolley Madison swooped out of the sky, chased them away and saved the garden from destruction.”

Next: This president strongly believed in the existence of ghosts.

5. Harry S. Truman

American President Harry S Truman
Truman heard lots of noises in the night. | Fox Photos/Getty Images
  • In office: 1945 to 1953
  • Encountered the ghosts of: unidentified White House residents

The Washington Post reports President Harry S. Truman went to bed at 9 p.m. Six hours later, he heard knocking at his bedroom door. In a letter he wrote to his wife, he recounted what happened next:

I jumped up and put on my bathrobe, opened the door, and no one there. Went out and looked up and down the hall, looked in your room and Margie’s. Still no one. Went back to bed after locking the doors and there were footsteps in your room whose door I’d left open. Jumped and looked and no one there! The damned place is haunted sure as shootin’. Secret Service said not even a watchman was up here at that hour. You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off.

Additionally, the Travel Channel reports both Truman and his wife reportedly heard the cries of Frances Cleveland, the only First Lady to give birth in the White House.

Next: Two presidents verified this existence of one unidentified ghost

6. Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant
A specific ghost disturbed two presidents. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1869 to 1877
  • Saw the ghost of: A white-haired old man

According to the White House Historical Association, not every ghost who haunts the White House is a well-known figure. Presidents have also spotted lesser-known apparitions, like the white-haired old man who appeared to Ulysses S. Grant.

Next: This president saw a ghost with a “phosphorescent” beard and hair.

7. Chester Arthur

United States President Chester A. Arthur
The ghost he saw wasn’t anyone specific. | National Archives/Newsmakers
  • In office: 1881 to 1885
  • Saw the ghost of: a white-haired old man

The same ghost who appeared to Ulysses S. Grant also reportedly disturbed President Chester Arthur. A journalist described what the ghost looked like according to the president and his staff members.

An 1883 article in The Washington Critic described the ghost, who haunted second-floor bedrooms, as “an aged and bent man with long, phosphorescent, white beard and hair, ghastly and wavy, bright and glaring eyes, and long scrawny fingers. His walk is noiseless but stately, and his presence is always indicated by a peculiar electric sensation which pervades the surrounding air.”

Next: Naked after a bath, this famous politician saw a WH ghost.

8. Winston Churchill

British Conservative politician Winston Churchill
Even a Brit was privy to the American ghosts. | Evening Standard/Getty Images
  • Visited during: World War II
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

One night, naked and smoking a cigar, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill emerged from a bath in his White House bedroom. He saw Lincoln leaning against the fireplace mantel and reportedly tapped the ash off his cigar and said, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” Lincoln reportedly smiled and then disappeared. Churchill, for his part, refused to ever sleep in that bedroom again.

Next: A beloved first lady who believed in ghosts after this sighting.

9. Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D Roosevelt
The first lady was another witness to Lincoln’s late night strolls. | J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images
  • In residence: 1933 to 1945
  • Suspected the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used the Lincoln Bedroom as her study. She said she could feel Lincoln’s presence when she worked there late at night. Mary Eban, who worked for Eleanor, also reported seeing Lincoln’s ghost putting on his boots in the room, which used to function as Abe’s office and cabinet room. In fact, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation there on January 1, 1863.

The Post reports Eleanor, in a 1932 talk, told a San Antonio group about the presence she felt in the Lincoln Bedroom. “I get a distinct feeling there is somebody in the room,” she said.

Next: Many presidents claim to see this ghost in the White House.

10. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt
Abraham Lincoln was seen by another president. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • In office: 1901 to 1909
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most frequently sighted ghosts at the White House. Theodore Roosevelt allegedly spotted Abe’s ghost first. Other notable White House residents who caught a glimpse over the years? First Lady Grace Coolidge saw him looking out a window in his former office, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands found him knocking on her door as she slept in the Lincoln bedroom. (She promptly fainted.)

Next: Ghosts don’t discriminate between Republicans and Democrats.

11. Franklin D. Roosevelt

United States president Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Lincoln returns when things are amiss. | Central Press/Getty Images
  • In office: 1933 to 1945
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

Sightings of Lincoln’s ghost were also frequent during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, a time of great upheaval. Many of Roosevelt’s staff members claimed they saw Lincoln, reports, including Roosevelt’s personal valet, who reportedly ran screaming from the White House.

As History notes, “Psychics have speculated Lincoln’s spirit remains in the White House to be on hand in times of crisis.” Jared Broach, who offers haunted tours of the White House, tells the Washington Post, “They say Lincoln always comes back whenever he feels the country is in need or in peril.”

Next: This president’s idol paid him a surprise visit.

12. Dwight Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower got a special visit. | James Anthony Wills/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1953 to 1961
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

Generations of presidents have felt Abraham Lincoln’s presence. The New York Times reports Eisenhower revered the 16th president of the United States. He kept a set of Lincoln’s collected works in the Oval Office and painted a portrait of Lincoln and hung it in the Cabinet Room. But Eisenhower also reportedly felt Lincoln’s presence literally when he spotted the ghost roaming the halls.

Next: This president suspected a ghost due to his dog’s behavior.

13. Ronald Reagan

His dog saw things too. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • In office: 1981 to 1989
  • Suspected the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

Ronald Reagan suspected the White House was haunted by Abraham Lincoln. The president’s dog, Rex, refused to enter the Lincoln Bedroom. And Reagan’s daughter Maureen and her husband would stay in there when they visited. Reagan himself recounted a spooky turn of events in Abe’s bedroom:

Some time ago the husband woke up and saw a transparent figure standing at the bedroom window looking out. Then it turned and disappeared. His wife teased him mercilessly about it for a month. Then, when they were here recently, she woke up one morning and saw the same figure standing at the window looking out. She could see the trees right through it. Again it turned and disappeared.

Next: This president saw one of the most famous White House ghosts.

14. Herbert Hoover

Abraham Lincoln’s ghost just liked to wander. | Central Press/Getty Images
  • In office: 1929 to 1933
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

Herbert Hoover was reportedly one of many famous White House residents who encountered Abraham Lincoln’s ghost. But as National Geographic reports, “The notion of Lincoln’s wraith roaming the rooms of his former residence is in some ways ironic, since Lincoln himself wasn’t a strong believer in an afterlife, according to his biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin.”

Though Lincoln’s wife dabbled in spiritualism, Abe didn’t take much of an interest. However, he did seem to have strangely prophetic dreams, including one about his own assassination.

Next: Even the White House’s current occupant may have encountered a ghost.

15. Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaks to press
‘Sources’ say he’s seen ghosts. | Jim Watson/ AFP/Getty Images.
  • Assumed office: 2017

We’re not sure whether Donald Trump has actually seen a White House ghost, but this story is too good not to share. Some have theorized that Trump has spotted ghosts. Their proof? Trump takes vacations away from the White House at seemingly every opportunity. A “Republican activist” reportedly told a Daily Kos contributor Trump takes vacations because “He is afraid of the White House Ghosts.”

This source told the contributor, “Apparently he thinks they visited him in his first night there, and now he hates to even walk into the place.  At night, he is so terrified, he wanders around in his pajamas because he is afraid to go to sleep.”

We don’t feel particularly confident in this account. But Trump does take a lot of vacations. And plenty of other presidents have spotted ghosts at the White House over the years.

Read more: The Dark Secrets Behind Donald and Melania Trump’s Marriage, Revealed

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