Sept. 16, 2022

Ghosts of The White House

Ghosts of The White House

In today's episode we explore some of the history and hauntings from within The White House. From ghostly knocks, to apparitions of a soldier walking the grounds and a First Lady completing her laundry The White House has many ghostly stories and encounters to share....

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Speaker A: Hi everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Haunted History Chronicles. Before I dive into today's episode, just to remind you that you can support the show by coming and following the website and social media platforms. Links are all in the podcast description notes it's a simple way to come and chat with like minded people, access blogs, and get news and updates. If you're interested in joining the podcast over on Patreon, now is a great time ahead of the spooky season with lots planned over there for the month of October. So if you are after some more ghosts, haunting tales, mysteries, and much more to keep you entertained each day through the month of October and beyond, make sure to take a look at Haunted History Chronicles on Patreon. Again, the link is in the description. And now let's take a look at what is coming up today. In today's podcast, we're going to be exploring the most famous address in America, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a location regarded by many as also perhaps the country's most famous haunted house. Presidents, first ladies, White House staff members and guests have reported feeling ghostly presences, hearing unexplained noises, and even running into actual apparitions, even on the way out of the bathtub. In one particularly famous case, the sightings, documented in eerie detail by scholars and newspapers, involve a former president who appears when the nation needs a leader most, a daughter who pleads in vain to help her doomed mother, and a first lady who is sadly perpetually stuck doing laundry. To find out more, get comfy and let's explore what lies within. Many believe that the most troubled ghost of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is that of Abraham Lincoln, a man who during his lifetime in presidency suffered terrific personal loss and who himself claimed to receive regular visitations from his two dead sons. Lincoln was an affectionate husband and father of four sons and the loss of Edward Baker Lincoln Eddie, who was born in 1846 and who would go on to die on February 1, 1850, probably of tuberculosis. And Lincoln's third son Willie Lincoln, who was born on the 22 December 1850 and died of a fever at the White House on February 20, 1862, was a grief that would impact on him for the rest of his life. It's a subject matter discussed in the podcast episode with Michelle Hamilton where we discussed her book I would still be Drowned in Tears spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House. If you haven't listened to that podcast or read Michelle's book, I recommend taking a look at both. Mary Todd Lincoln, who was so Greece stricken that she remained in her room for weeks, spoke of seeing her son's ghost once at the foot of her bed. There are also reports of her hearing President's Thomas Jefferson playing the violin and Andrew Jackson swearing. Reports of Abraham Lincoln's ghosts were reported by Mary Evan, Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt's servant, who saw his spirit in a northwest bedroom on a bed, pulling on his boots. Other servants would report seeing him lying quietly in repose, and others periodically would see him standing at the Oval Office window over the main entrance of the White House. Mrs. Roosevelt never herself reported seeing Lincoln, but his spirit has been seen and documented by other visitors to the White House. Queen Willemina of the Netherlands, whilst asleep in the queen's bedroom in 1942, reportedly heard a knock at her door and when she got up and opened it, saw the ghost of the president and promptly fainted. First lady Grace Coolidge spoke in magazine accounts of seeing him look out a window in what had been in his office. In a 1989 Washington Post article, the White House then curator Rhetton said that President Ronald Reagan had commented that his dog would go into any room except the Lincoln bedroom. The dog, according to the article, would just stand outside and bark. My favorite ghostly Lincoln encounter is one reported to have been experienced by Winston Churchill, who encountered the president whilst naked and holding a cigar, having just taken a bath. According to the story, he said good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage. Among other spirited stories associated with the Lincolns and the assassination of the President are those about Annie Surat. Some have sworn her ghost knocks on the front doors, pleading for the release of her mother Mary, who was convicted of playing a role in Lincoln's assassination and later hanged, according to ghost law. Around the White House, the spirit of Lincoln is especially troubled and active on the eve of national calamities such as war. His spirit is just one of many reported at the White House. Household members of President Taft observed the ghost of the former first lady, Abigail Adams, dressed in cap and lay shawl, walking right through closed doors of the East Room with her arms outstretched, a room she often frequented and used to hang laundry in her lifetime. Contemporary staff report smelling lavender and the scent of laundry. Another former first lady, Dolly Madison, if the stories about her are to be believed, seems to have chosen a better eternal pastime. Taking care of the Garden during the Woodrow Wilson administration, staff members reported seeing her ghosts as they were about to move the Rose Garden. They apparently decided afterward to leave it where she wanted it. This first lady is also connected to another Washington location. When the British burned their home during the War of 1812, she and President James Madison moved to the Octagon House on the corner of 18th street and New York Avenue, making it the temporary White House. Unexplained occurrences there have been linked to the deaths of three women, including two daughters of the wealthy man who built the house. In both cases, according to newspaper accounts, the women had argued with their father about who they wanted to marry and then fell from the same staircase. Bells could be heard in the house when no one was there to ring them, reads a 1969 Washington Post article about the location. A spectre of a girl in white could be seen slipping up the stairway. Terrifying screams and morbid groans could be heard emanating from the house. Some insisted that it was impossible to cross the hall at the foot of the stairwell on certain days without unconsciously going around some unseen obstacle on the floor. Before I head back to the podcast, where we're going to hear some ghostly late night knocks that startled President Truman, if you're enjoying the podcast and past episodes, please consider leaving a review via one of the podcast platforms or the website. Share the podcast with friends and family. Feedback is always really helpful, as well as helping to signpost others who may be interested to finding the podcast. For those that have taken the time to do that, thank you so much. Now let's get back to the podcast, where we can continue wandering through the White House rooms to hear some of the ghostly tales and paranormal stories associated within them. On a lonely night in 1946, President Harry S. Truman went to bed at nine. About 6 hours later, he heard it three knocks. The sound against his bedroom door awakened him. He wrote to his wife in a letter archived in his presidential library and museum. I jumped up and put on my bathrobe, opened the door and no one there, he wrote. 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 shooting. Secret Service said not even a watchman was up here at that hour. You and Margie better come and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off. After Truman wrote to his wife about the knocks on his door, their daughter replied. Margaret Truman, in a 1986 biography of her mother, said she and her mum were skeptical of the existence of ghosts, presidential or otherwise, and she wrote her father saying so. In his reply, he said, I'm sure they're here, and I'm not so much alarmed at meeting up with any of them. I'm sure old Andrew Jackson could give me good advice and probably teach me good swear words, he wrote, according to the book. And I'm sure old Graver Cleveland could tell me some choice remarks to make to some political leaders, so I won't lock my doors or bar them, even if any of them old coots in the pictures out in the hall want to come out of their frames for a friendly chat. Other accounts date from the 18 hundreds. In 1824, Andrew Old Hickory Jackson was defeated by John Quincy Adams in one of the most contentious presidential elections in history. Elected president four years later, the surly Jackson continued to hold grudges against those who'd supported his opponent. In the early 1860s, first lady Mary Tod Lincoln, who believed strongly in the occult and held seances in the White House to commune with the spirits of her dead sons, told friends she had heard Jackson stomping and swearing through the halls of the presidential residence. The Rose Room, Jackson's bedroom while he was president, is believed by some to be one of the most haunted rooms in the White House. Jackson's ghostly presence also showed up in the White House correspondence of Harry Truman, America's 33rd president. In June 1945, just two months into his first term, truman wrote to his wife, bess of the spooky quality of his new residence. I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports and work on speeches, all the while listening to the ghost walk up and down the hallway and even write 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. One other known little known spirit is the unidentified 15 year old boy called the Thing that greatly frightened the Taft domestic staff. In 1911, president Taft's military aide, Major Archibald Butt, wrote to his sister Clara The ghost, it seems, is a young boy, about 14 or 15 years old. They say that the first knowledge one has of the presence of the thing is a slight pressure on the shoulder, as if someone was leaning over your shoulder to see what you might be doing. President halft ordered Butt to tell the White House staff that the first member to repeat stories about the Thing would be fired. A lesser known early White House personality who's been said to haunt its halls was David Burns, who sold the government most of the land on which the city of Washington, including the presidential residence, was built. Lillian Rogers Parks, a seamstress who chronicled her 30 year career working at the White House in a 1961 memoir, told the story of a valet to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who reportedly heard a disembodied voice coming from a distance in the Yellow oval room, saying, I'm Mr. Burns. During Harry S. Truman's administration, a guard heard a similar voice. Thinking it was the then Secretary of state, he went looking for him, only to learn that the secretary hadn't been at the White House that day. The grounds of the White House have similar ghostly stories. Outside the building itself, an unnamed British soldier reportedly killed during the war of 1812 wonders the White House grounds, carrying something to light his way. The White House is where history was captured. It's a place that haunts people's imaginations for the stories and events that have taken place, there a place where some former residents and figures associated with its past continue to make their mark. Thank you for listening. See you next time. Bye for now.

Speaker B: If you like this podcast, there's a number of things you can do. Come and join us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Spread the word about us with friends and family. Leave a review on our website or other podcast platforms to support the podcast further, why not head on over to join us on Patreon, where you can sign up to gain a library of additional material and recordings. And in the process now you're helping the podcast continue to put out more content? On a final note, if you haven't read it already, then you can find my piece In Search of the Medieval in volume three of The Feminine Macabre over on or via Amazon. Links to the book will also be in the episode description. Thank you everyone for your amazing support.