Click for a DOWNLOADABLE ARTICLE READ
In the 1790s, James Hoban was tasked with designing a house. You’d think not too difficult on first glance. Most houses of the time were simple, square and symmetrical. But this one was different.
It was set to become a symbol for the new nation and a home for the man tasked with creating a new world. The White House.
Washington’s President House —
The revolution is finish, the Brits pushed out. General George Washington inaugurated as the first president of the brand new United States of America. A proud time after breaking from the then world’s power England.
A contest was held for the best architect. Many designs submitted and one chosen. Drawn by an Irishman named James Hoban who created a powerful design based on the Leinster House in Dublin.
A cornerstone laid in 1792 and many men put to work. Such an important work was handed down to enslaved and free African Americans and other immigrants, proving who really built the country.
8 years later and so began the first century as the United States. George Washington is out of office.
Sad Fact :: Washington never saw the White House completed. In 1799 he was doing chores in his home at Mount Vernon. Complained of not feeling well but continued to work. It got worse and led to bed rest.
3 doctors rushed to his side. They called it “inflammation of the throat” after George Washington died at 10pm on Dec 14, 1799 at the age of 67.
His final words, “Tis well”.
Just one year later President John Adams moved into the White House.
The British Strike again – –
Confusion of facts is common after 200 years. Many reasons thought for why the British marched on Washington in 1814. The War of 1812 was done in Canada, American forces pushed out after battles in Stoney Creek and Niagara.
Most say the attack on Washington was revenge for destroying York (now Toronto). But we disagree.
As told on our Ghost Walks of Niagara-on-the-Lake, it was revenge for Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake). Then the capitol of Canada, burned by American soldiers and British traitors in 1814 to deny the British shelter in the cold Winter. Inadvertently chasing women and children from their homes, into the woods where they froze to death.
The war turned dark, vengeance taken on Buffalo. A deal signed, then broken.
What everyone agrees on is the British marched on Washington. Buildings lit on fire including the White House and Capitol.
The city is saved when rains and powerful winds swept down. They say a hurricane touched down on Constitution Avenue. So powerful it lifted two canons into the air and down on some troops killing a couple soldiers.
After everything was done and North America settled it was time to rebuild and architect James Hoban was called back to Washington.
President James Madison had him restore the White House. Some of the charred walls left as reminders of what happened here in 1814.
Such History makes interesting Ghosts
142 rooms, 6 floors all inside 55,000 square feet… and 4 known ghosts in the White House!
Harrison in the Attic – –
He was President in March and dead by April 1841. The shortest presidency in United States history.
Pneumonia took him. Said to be caused by poor weather at his inauguration. A sad end for the determined man finally succeeded to office after two attempts.
The first president to die in the White House, his determination may be why he’s there. Harrison is experienced in the attic.
Staff usually go up there to retrieve archived documents. Workers hear papers shuffle and items being dragged across the floor.
They expect to see another staff member when walking around the corner. They’re alone.
The Thing – –
Not a movie monster. It’s the ghost of a 15 year old boy seen inside the White House during the Taft administration.
In the early 1900’s military aid Archibald Butt saw the ghost. He mentioned it in a letter to his sister. Told her the ghost watches him while hunched over writing at his desk. He fells a pressure pushing down on his shoulder, like a small hand as if the boy is leaning over to see the paper.
President Taft, a serious man, told Butt to tell all staff the stories were fake. That if any them were caught repeating “such nonsense”, they’d be fired
Jackson’s Angry – –
Mary Todd Lincoln heard him inside the White House. She said Andrew Jackson stomped and swore while pacing up and down the residence hallway.
Harry Truman may have confirmed his ghost in a letter to his wife Bess,
“I sit here while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway. I can picture Andy arguing with Teddy”
Meaning Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt. Whether it wishful imagery or actual experience is unknown.
They all think Jackson’s ghost is ill-tempered. In life known for holding grudges, he felt the presidency was in hand in 1824 when being ousted by John Quincy Adams. Then elected in 1828, Jackson took out his anger on those who supported Adams.
Speaking of Adams – –
Abigail was the mother of John Quincy and the wife of John (president in 1797). And a White House resident in 1800.
Mrs. Adams did her own laundry. Constantly seen trudging wet laundry into the East Room for drying. She’d carry it through the White House halls, arms outstretched and dressed in cap and lace.
Those same ghost enthusiasts of the Taft administration who saw “the Thing” also saw Abigail. They said she floated through that same hallway and into the East Room. Wearing cap and lace with wet clothes draped over her arms.
Talk about ghosts in the White House and everyone thinks of the same man… honest Abe Lincoln.
This stout commander led the United States through a Civil War. Ahead of his time, he freed the slaves and made sure his country gave rights to everyone regardless of race or creed.
And for many witnesses he’s the most known ghost inside the White House, in North America and maybe the world.
Dream of Death – –
Lincoln believed in prophetic dreams. As mentioned in a letter he wrote to a former law partner in 1865 just days before going to Ford’s Theatre.
He said the vivid dream started with walking into the East Room. Guards standing on opposite sides with a large crowd sitting in chairs. Their heads were down. He saw a figure lying on a front table, dead still, looked like a body draped in thin fabric.
Did this dream foreshadow Lincoln’s death.
He would have believed it. As shown in a letter written in 1842,
“I always did have a strong tendency to mysticism”
Written long before his son’s death in 1862 and at the start of his wife’s public support of spiritualism. This proves the couple long believed in ghosts before moving into the White House.
Lincoln’s Ghost – –
Grace Coolidge saw him standing in the Oval Office. His lanky figure as a shadow blocking light as he looked out to an old Civil War battlefield across the Potomac.
Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands stayed at the White House in 1942. At night she woke to a knock at the bedroom door. Sleepily, she stumbled over, opened the door to see a tall man with a wide beard. He wore a tall hat and had a prominent face staring forward into the room behind her. The Queen fainted. When she woke the man was gone.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was visiting during World War II. Innocently taking a bath, he walked naked into the bedroom, a cigar hanging from his mouth. Immediately noticed the stranger in a chair by the fireplace. He almost yelled out before seeing it was Lincoln. The ghost calmly looking out a window.
Eleanor Roosevelt used the Lincoln bedroom as a study. She constantly reported feeling “his presence”.
Even Ronald Reagan believed – –
He agreed with Eleanor about the Lincoln bedroom in the White House.
The Reagan’s beloved dog Rex had an experience. First time going into the Lincoln bedroom he perked up and barked at an empty corner. Like trying to show dominance, then quiet and whimpering as he trotted out of the room tail between his legs. Rex refused to enter the room again.
Maureen, President Reagan’s daughter, on many nights would stay over with her husband. Because of its history she preferred sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom.
It started with her husband who woke one night and saw a man at the window. Faced away and looking outside, then slowly turning and looking back. Revealing his face that prominent and serious face staring back but never seeing the the husband before Lincoln vanished.
He woke Maureen but she didn’t believe a word. She told their friends, family and staff turning it into a running joke and embarrassing her husband. The joke ended not long after when Maureen woke one morning to see a man staring out that window.
She said the sun shone around, and right through his transparent body. Lincoln slowly turned and looked back before vanishing.
Spiritualism in the White House
Mary Todd Lincoln was known for it, especially after the tragic death of her son Willie from typhoid fever.
Abraham handled the boy’s death with fatherly grief, telling all
“He was too good for this earth … God called him home”
But Mary wanted proof. She setup spirit circles and seances in the White House’s Red Room. Non-believers say it came from extreme grief and growing insanity.
But we know traditional spiritualism was popular during that time even among our most historical figures.
The White House is not different. They were in good company.
Daniel reads the White House Ghost Article