The nation’s most famous address – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, was also one of the busiest this weekend with President Barak Obama’s second inauguration. The White House, however, is said to frequently be busy with activity of a different sort, the spirited kind, and while there are many ghosts attributed to the national residence, Abraham Lincoln is the one most often reported.
President Lincoln wasn’t a stranger to the paranormal when he was alive. He attended two of the séances his wife held in the White House and had a premonition of his own assassination. Three days before his death, Lincoln shared his dream with Ward Hill Lamon, his friend and biographer, and then spoke of it again with friends the very day he was killed.
The first reported sighting of Lincoln’s spirit was by First Lady Grace Coolidge, who said she walked into the Yellow Oval Room in time to see his ghost standing at the window and staring out over the Potomac River. Since then, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Maureen Reagan and her husband have all reported seeing the President’s ghost, as well as numerous others.
Perhaps the most famous sighting of President Abraham Lincoln, however, occurred in 1942. As a visiting dignitary, Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands was invited to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, so named because the room had been used as Lincoln’s office. The queen heard footsteps in the hallway followed by a knock on the door. She answered it only to see President Lincoln dressed in a frock coat and top hat standing in front of her. She promptly screamed and fainted.
A person’s spirit remains behind for many reasons, and President Lincoln certainly has a few of his own. Because his term was abruptly ended by assassination, he may feel he has unfinished business. He may also have remained behind to look over his son, Willie, who passed away in the White House on February 20, 1862, at the age of 11, possibly of typhoid fever.
Willie, too, appears to be one of the White House’s many ghosts. His spirit was first reported seen by staff members of the Grant administration in the 1870s, but his most interesting sighting came almost a century later. In the 1960s, Lynda Byrd Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson said that she not only saw Willie Lincoln but she spoke to him as well. Mrs. Robb’s tale was not that of a small child and what could be written off as an imaginary playmate. She was college-aged at the time of her encounter.
There are other ghosts said to share the White House with the First Family. Perhaps we’ll visit a few of them in the future.