Haunted Tales from the White House

Posted by in US Ghost Adventures

The White House is undoubtedly one of the most haunted locations in the country, with ghosts from eras and years past still lurking in the building and the surrounding gardens. People, young and old, who have visited, worked and lived in the White House claim to have seen ghosts of former residents and staff. Who are these ghosts, and what draws them to America’s most famous landmark?

Ghost of Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams’ ghost is well-known to White House staff and residents. She appears during crises. However, the first reported sighting of her ghost was during the Taft administration under relatively normal circumstances. President Taft is said to have forbidden his staff from speaking about the incident. 

The more recent sightings of Abigail’s ghost have been related to helicopter incidents at the White House, one in 1974 and the other in 1994. In the first incident, a stolen helicopter was brought to the White House in a breach of security that resulted in no injuries. On that same day, several staff and residents of the White House claimed to have seen the ghost of Abigail Adams. Security had been stepped up at the White House after this incident. 

However, this didn’t stop another such incident occurring 20 years later, this time killing the pilot of a helicopter when he attempted to land on the White House grounds without authorization. On this day, emergency personnel claimed to have seen a woman of Abigail Adam’s description leading the emergency effort to bring the situation under control. 

No one has been able to identify this woman or where she came from. So, the popular belief now is that it was the ghost of Abigail Adams who materialized that day due to the abnormal circumstances the White House had encountered.

Aside from acting as the guardian angel of the White House, it appears that Abigail Adams is still keeping up with laundry duties. Upon moving into the White House and having the honor of being the first First Lady to have lived there, it appears her ghost is still reminiscing about those old days when she would wash the laundry and hang it up to dry in the East Room. 

Several residents and staff at the White House claim to have seen her apparition moving with its arms outstretched in the front, as if carrying a load of laundry, coupled with the scent of wet laundry and lavender.

Ghost of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is a frequent presence in the White House, with Presidents, First Ladies, and even foreign visitors claiming to have come across his specter in the White House. He is known to haunt the Lincoln bedroom even though he never slept there during his time in the White House. One famous encounter occurred when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was staying at the White House; she reportedly heard a knock on her door and, upon opening it, saw the ghost of Abraham Lincoln wearing his top hat. The sight of him caused the Queen to faint out of shock.

Other residents have reported hearing the president’s footsteps inside the White House. In contrast, Eleanor Roosevelt reported feeling his presence when she worked late nights in the Lincoln Bedroom, which had been converted into her study. Lady Bird Johnson also claimed to have felt his presence one evening as she sat in the White House watching TV. First Lady Grace Coolidge actually saw the apparition looking out from the window of the Oval Office towards the Potomac and beyond.

The ghost of President Lincoln also made frequent appearances during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration during the great depression. In one embarrassing incident, the British Prime Minister saw the apparition as he was getting out of the bathtub after a shower during his stay at the White House. In recent times, Lincoln’s ghost has also been spotted sitting in a chair on top of the stairs in the White House.

The Ghost of Willie Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln was not the only one who was said to be haunting the White House grounds. His son, Willie Lincoln’s spirit, makes appearances to the fright of many every so often. President Lincoln had four sons: Robert, Edward, William, and Tad. Out of his four sons, only Robert lived on after his father’s assassination. Edward died in infancy from what is believed to be tuberculosis, and Willie was born that same year on December 21st, 1850. 

During President Lincoln’s first term in office, two of his sons, Willie and Tad, both fell ill from typhoid fever. While Tad recovered from the illness, Willie passed away at the tender age of 11. President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, were grief-stricken at his death, and it is reported that President Lincoln cried copiously for his young son. He was temporarily buried on the White House grounds as his body was later exhumed to join his father’s in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, IL.

Unable to contain her grief, Mary Todd Lincoln started holding seances in the White House to be able to communicate with the spirits of her dead son. A belief in spiritualism was common at the time. She once reported seeing the spirit of young Willie at the foot of the bed. His spirit was seen again in the 1870s during the Grant administration and even as recently as the 1960s when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter Lynda saw the ghost and talked with him.

The Thing

Numerous reports from staff and residents at the White House claim to have encountered the ghost of the young boy about 14 or 15 years of age. The earliest reported sighting of this mysterious ghost was during President Taft’s administration. The domestic staff at the White House were frightened by the presence of the spirit of a young boy. 


The staff reported feeling the spirit leaning over as if to see what they were doing and described it as a slight pressure over the shoulder alerting them to his presence. Since the ghost has never been seen, one has to wonder whether this could possibly be the ghost of young Willie Lincoln, who passed away from typhoid fever and is still curiously lingering about the White House.

However, one member of the White House domestic staff claims to have actually seen The Thing and not just felt his presence. She described it as a boy of 14 or 15 with unkempt hair and blue eyes. The Thing and Willie Lincoln had blue eyes, but whether they are one and the same spirit remains a mystery today. As mentioned earlier, the reports of encounters with the Thing at the White House occurred during President Taft’s administration, who forbade his staff and aides from mentioning the encounters for fear of the word getting to the press.

The Ghost of Andrew Jackson

Of the numerous Presidents whose specters haunt the White House, none is more boisterous than that of Andrew Jackson. His ghost is often heard swearing and stomping around. His loud laughter can still be heard coming from the Rose Room or the Queen’s Bedroom where Andrew Jackson used to sleep. 

President Harry S. Truman is said to have written to his wife about the ghost of Andrew Jackson waking him up in the middle of the night. His ghost is much less seen than heard, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower also reported encountering the ghost of America’s 7th President. Mary Todd Lincoln also reported hearing the former President cursing during her time in the White House.

Apart from the ghosts mentioned above, there have also been ghostly sightings of First Lady Dolley Madison, President Thomas Jefferson, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and an unknown British soldier from the War of 1812 who haunts the White House grounds. 

There are also reported sightings of David Burns, who owned the land on which the White House was built, as well as Anna Surrat, the daughter of Mary Surrat, convicted in the assassination attempt against President Lincoln. The White House tends to be a place of high energy, emotions, passions, ambitions, and intrigue. It is no wonder that the spirits of people who have passed return to this building, while some seem to have never moved from the place at all.