In the 1790s, James Hoban was tasked with designing a house.
On first glance you’d think, not too difficult. Most houses of the time were simple, square and symmetrical.
But this one was different. This one was set to become a symbol for the new nation. A home for the man tasked with conceiving a new world.
It was to become the White House.
Washington’s President House —
The revolution is finish, the Brits pushed out.
General George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the brand new United States of America. A proud time, after breaking from then world’s power of England.
Instead of picking any old architect, a contest was held. Many designs submitted and one was chosen. Drawn by an Irishman named James Hoban. He created a powerful design based on the Leinster House in Dublin.
In 1792, the cornerstone was laid for the White House and many people are put to work. Such an important work was handed down to enslaved and free African Americans and other immigrants.
This proves how America was built.
8 years passed and then began the first century of the United States of America.
George Washington is out of office. He never saw the White House completed when in 1799, while doing chores in his Mount Vernon home, he fell ill.
Continuing his work through sickness led to bed rest and 3 doctors standing at Washington’s side.
It was called “inflammation of the throat”. Washington died at 10pm on Dec 14, 1799. His final words, “Tis well”. Washington was 67 years old.
John Adams was the first to move into the White House just one year later.
Many reasons are thought for why the British marched to Washington in 1814. They pushed American forces out of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and the capital of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake).
Most say it was revenge for taking York (now Toronto). But we disagree.
As told on the Ghost Walks of Niagara-on-the-Lake, it was revenge for Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake). For burning the town and accidentally chasing women and children from their homes on a cold night. They ran into the woods, got lost and froze to death. The bodies found by British soldiers.
Vengeance was taken out on Youngstown and Buffalo, NY. Fires set by the British, more innocent lives lost… then an agreement reached to stop the violence. Confusion caused a small British village to be burned near Fort Erie, the American regiment not knowing of the agreement. The British didn’t care.
They marched to Washington to repeat what was done to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake). Buildings lit on fire, including the White House. Buildings burning and everything close to being lost, if not for an act of God.
Rains and winds like a hurricane swept down on Constitution Avenue. It lifted two canons into the air. They fell many feet away onto nearby troops, killing a couple soldiers.
After everything settled, architect James Hoban was called back to Washington.
President James Madison had him restore the White House, except for some original charred walls.
Madison wanted people to remember what happened here in 1814.
142 rooms, six floors, all inside 55,000 square feet… and 4 ghosts inside the White House!
Harrison in the Attic – –
He was President in March of 1841, and dead by April of 1841, the shortest presidency in United States history.
Pneumonia took him, maybe caused by the poor weather at his inauguration. A sad end for this determined man who lived through two attempts to become president.
He was the first president to die in the White House. His determination and unfinished business may explain why he’s still there.
Harrison is experienced in the attic. The staff up there to retrieve archived documents. Workers will hear papers shuffle and items being dragged.
They walk around the corner, thinking to see another worker but finding they’re alone.
The Thing – –
Not a movie monster, but instead the ghost of a 15 year old boy seen inside the White House during the Taft administration.
In the early 1900’s, a military aid named Archibald Butt saw the ghost.
We know this because he wrote it, in a letter to his sister. Told her the ghost watches him work while sitting at a desk and writing. He felt a pressure pushing down on his shoulder, like a small hand, as if the boy was leaning over to see what he was writing.
President Taft was a serious man. He told Butt, to tell all White House staff the stories were faked. Saying if any of them were caught repeating “such nonsense”, they’d be fired.
Jackson’s Angry – –
Mary Todd Lincoln heard him inside the White House. Said Andrew Jackson was stomping and swearing up and down the hallway near their residence.
Harry Truman mentioned him in a letter to his wife Bess, “I sit here while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway [in the White House]”, that he could picture “Andy arguing with Teddy”, meaning Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt. Whether it wishful imagery or actual experience is unknown.
Jackson’s ghost is ill-tempered. Known for holding grudges, he thought the presidency was his four years before being elected in 1828.
He didn’t hesitate to take it out on those who supported his victor John Quincy Adams.
Speaking of Adams – –
Abigail was the mother of John Quincy (Jackson’s victor in 1824) and wife of John (president in 1797), and a White House resident in 1800.
She was seen to trudge wet laundry into the East Room for drying. She’d carry it through the halls of the White House, arms outstretched and dressed down in cap and lace, done many times over the years.
The ghost enthusiasts of the Taft administration saw Abigail in the White House. She would float through that same hallway into the East Room, still wearing that cap and lace and a pile of wet clothes draped over her arms.
Talk about ghosts in the White House and everyone thinks of the same man… honest Abe Lincoln.
He was the stout commander who led the United States of America through its Civil War. And he was a man ahead of his time, freeing the slaves and seeing his country give rights to everyone regardless of race or creed.
And for many, he’s the most known ghost inside the White House.
Dream of Death – –
Lincoln believed in dreams.
As mentioned in a letter written by Lincoln to his former law partner. Just days before going to Ford’s Theatre in 1865, Lincoln had a nightmare.
In the dream he walked into the East Room. Guards lined on opposite sides with a large crowd sitting in chairs, all their heads lowered. A figure lying on a front table, dead still, a body draped in thin fabric.
The dream foreshadowing Lincoln’s own death.
He believed in ghosts, as shown in a letter written in 1842 to a friend saying, “I always did have a strong tendency to mysticism”. This was written long before his son’s death in 1862, and the start of his wife’s public support of spiritualism.
It proves the couple may have had a life-long belief, even before moving into the White House.
After death visits Lincoln – –
Grace Coolidge saw him standing in the Oval Office. It was his lanky figure, a shadow blocking the light shining in as he faced out to an old Civil War battlefield across the Potomac.
Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands stayed at the White House in 1942. Sound asleep and there’s a knock at the door. Sleepily, she stumbled and opens it in the dark. A tall man, wide beard, tall hat and prominent face staring forward into the room behind her. The Queen fainted.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was visiting during World War II. Innocently taking a bath, he walked naked from the bathroom into the bedroom, a cigar hanging from his mouth. He saw him, a strange man sitting in a chair by the fireplace.
Churchill almost yelled out, but caught himself when realizing who it was, Lincoln staring out the window.
And Eleanor Roosevelt used the Lincoln bedroom as a study. She constantly felt “his presence”.
Even Ronald Reagan believed – –
He agreed with Eleanor about the Lincoln bedroom in the White House.
The Reagan’s beloved dog Rex barked at empty space in that bedroom. At first showing dominance, then going quiet, and finally walking backwards out of the room as if frightened. Eventually Rex refused to enter the room.
Maureen, President Reagan’s daughter, would stay over with her husband on many nights in the White House. She preferred sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom because of its history.
Her husband woke in the middle of the night to see someone at the window. This man faced away from him, looking outside. He slowly turned, looking back but not at the husband, then vanishing.
He woke Maureen, but she didn’t believe a word of it. Then over time turning the experience into a running joke with White House staff and friends.
The joke ended when Maureen woke one morning to see the same man staring out that window, morning sun shining around him, and right through his transparent body.
The man facing away, then turned and looked back before vanishing.
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, setting up spirit circles and séances in the White House’s Red Room. Non-believers say it came from grief and her growing mental instability.
Traditional spiritualism was very popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, even among our most famous historical figures.
The White House is not different.