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  • 1862-1863: Mary Todd Lincoln, grieving over her son Willies death in February, began to participate in spirit circles or seances in the Red Room at the White House and the presidential cottage at the Soldiers Home. Spiritualism was wildly popular during the height of the Civil War as families sought comfort for the loss of loved ones.
  • 1901-1904: Jeremiah Jerry Smith started working at the White House during the Ulysses S. Grant administration in the late 1860s as a footman, and served as footman, butler, cook, doorman, and official duster until his retirement approximately 35 years later. A popular character and storyteller, reporters could always count on Smith on a slow news day. He claimed to have seen the ghosts of Lincoln, Grant, McKinley, and several first ladies.
  • 1911: One 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 fourteen or fifteen 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 were leaning over your shoulder to see what you might be doing. President Taft ordered Butt to tell the White House staff that the first member to repeat stories about the Thing would be fired.

Ghost Lore and Sightings

Abraham Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln appears in the Lincoln Bedroom and Yellow Oval Room First Lady Grace Coolidge, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands claim to have seen Lincoln.

Willie Lincoln: Willie Lincoln, who died in the White House, was seen in the White House by staff members of the Grant administration in the 1870s.

Andrew Jackson: Andrew Jackson supposedly lying in his bed in the Queens Bedroom (Rose Room) lets out a guttural laugh that has been heard in the White House since the 1860s. Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to have heard Jackson stomping and swearing.

Thomas Jefferson: Thomas Jefferson plays his violin in the Yellow Oval Room.

Dolley Madison: Dolley Madison protects the Rose Garden.

John Tyler: John Tyler haunts the Blue Room proposing to Julia Gardner, his second wife.

William Henry Harrison: William Henry Harrison haunts the attic. He was the first president to die in the White House.

Abigail Adams: Abigail Adams hung laundry in the East Room and contemporary staff can smell wet laundry and the scent of lavender.

Unnamed British Soldier: An unnamed British Soldier who perished during the War of 1812 roams the White House grounds holding a torch.

David Burnes: David Burnes owned the land on which the White House now stands; seen or heard in the Yellow Oval Room.

Anna Surratt: Anna Surratt bangs on the doors of White House, pleading to see President Andrew Johnson. She was there to beg for a pardon for her mother, Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt

Media Contacts

For all media inquiries and image requests, contact press@whha.org.

About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $45 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission. 

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org

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