The US Government shut down at the beginning of October while political parties argue over policy leaving many government employees wondering when their next regular paycheck will come, but to best of our knowledge, the shutdown has not affected the half dozen or more ghosts reportedly haunting the White House halls.
The home of the US president is known for its historical hauntings as much as it is known for being the place where political decisions are made. At least a dozen people have died in the White House since its completion around 1800, including two presidents and several presidential family members. Several of those who died at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are allegedly haunting it to this day, as are several others with White House connections including David Burnes, the man whose property was taken in 1790 so it could be built.
Some of those who died in the White House include:
- Elisha Hunt Allen (d. Jan. 1, 1883) – The Kingdom of Hawaii’s Minister to the United States died while attending a dinner for diplomats hosted by President Chester Arthur. He was 79 years old.
- Fredrick Dent (d. Dec. 15, 1873) – The father-in-law of President Ulysses S. Grant, who also had a history of military service, Dent’s funeral was held in the White House Blue Room. He was 86.
- Caroline Scott Harrison (d. Oct. 25, 1892) – She was the wife of President Benjamin Harrison, and died in the White House of tuberculosis at the age of 60. Her funeral was held in the East Room.
- William Henry Harrison (d. April 4, 1841) – Harrison was elected president and took the oath of office March 4, 1841. He died 32 days later of pneumonia, allegedly due to his inaugural celebrations in the rain and cold. He was the grandfather of President Benjamin Harrison. He is one of only two presidents to die inside the White House. He was 68.
- William Wallace Lincoln (d. Feb. 20, 1862) – President Abraham Lincoln’s son, only 11 at the time of his death, is believed to have succumb to typhoid. Funeral services were held in the Green Room of the White House.
- Rev. John Witherspoon Scott (d. Nov. 29, 1892) – Father of First Lady Caroline Scott Harrison, he lived with the Harrisons throughout Benjamin’s term of office. The 92-year-old died in the White House one month after his daughter.
- Zachary Taylor (d. July 9, 1850) – The second president to die in the White House, Taylor became ill at a Fourth of July celebration and died just days later. It is believed severe gastroenteritis was to blame. Taylor was 65.
- Letitia Christian Tyler (d. Sept. 10, 1842) – First Lady to John Tyler, she was known to be reclusive due to illness, and eventually died of a stroke at the age of 51. She was the first of three presidential wives to die in the White House.
- Rebecca Van Buren (d. 1840) – The daughter of Abraham and Angelica Van Buren, Abraham being the son of President Martin Van Buren, she died in the fall of 1840, just a few months after her birth. She is believed to be the first person to die in the White House.
- Margaret Elizabeth “Madge” Gates Wallace (Dec. 5, 1952) – Mother-in-law to President Harry S. Truman, Wallace died in the White House at the age of 90.
- Ellen Louise Wilson (d. Aug. 6, 1914) – The wife of President Woodrow Wilson, Ellen died in the White House due to complications of Bright’s Disease. She was 54.
Dead Presidents Do Not Just Appear on Money
Considering that Andrew Jackson basically declared war on the established banking system of his day, it’s ironic his face is on the US $20 bill. The banks weren’t the only known enemies of Jackson during his presidency. He also swore to get back at the political mud slingers who went as far as trash talking his wife during the election of 1828. It’s no surprise this spiteful man’s ghost has been spotted at the White House. One would also presume Jackson’s ghost would take joy in all the current political strife, and be more active than usual.
First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was the first notable person to have an experience with Jackson’s ghost in the White House. Lincoln, who was known to host seances in the presidential home hoping to communicate with her dead sons, Willie and Eddie, reported hearing Jackson’s stomp and curse through the White House’s residential halls. There have also been reports of Jackson’s maniacal laughter being heard in the Rose Room of the White House, which is the room where Jackson slept during his presidency. Among the other stories surrounding Jackson’s Rose Room is an odd perpetually cold spot on the room’s canopy bed.
Jackson was spiteful enough for his ghost to work for free, even if the government shutdown resulted in his pay, whatever one might pay a resident ghost, being stopped.
Lincoln’s presidency was the most tumultuous in the nation’s history. During his presidency the nation split and erupted into a civil war, his young son died in the White House, he was alleged to have severe depression-like emotional issues, his wife was institutionalized at one point, and he would eventually be assassinated. With a life so conflicted, it’s no surprise his ghost is the most frequently seen by White House residents and guests. Winston Churchill claimed to have seen Lincoln’s ghost during a stay in the Lincoln Bedroom. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Herbert Hoover, also reported seeing Lincoln’s ghost in the White House. Lincoln is by far the superstar of White House ghost stories. When it comes to government shut downs, there is no political figure in US history with more experience dealing with dysfunctional governmental situations. It will take more than just a work stoppage to stop his haunting activity.
More Than Just Presidents Haunt White House Halls
Ever wonder how the government came to own the property where the White House was built? It was taken from a man named David Burnes who initially had no desire to hand it over to the government. During repeated attempts to get Burnes to willingly sell the land, it is alleged he insulted President George Washington by saying, “I suppose, Mr. Washington, you think people are going to take every grist from you as pure grain; but what would you have been if you hadn’t married the rich widow Custis.” Washington referred to him as the obstinate Mr. Burnes from that point forward. Lillian Rogers Parks, a White House employee of more than 30 years, told the story of a valet to President Franklin Roosevelt who claimed to hear a voice saying, “I’m Mr. Burnes,” in the White House’s Yellow Oval Room. A White House staffer during Harry Truman’s presidency reportedly had a similar experience. Reports of Burnes’ voice being heard in the White House attic above the Oval Office have also been somewhat common over the years. The ghost of David Burnes would likely be giddy to witness any difficulties afflicting the US government, and like Jackson, wouldn’t let a work stoppage affect his mission.
Anne Surratt’s mother, Mary Surratt, was the first woman to be executed by the US government for her involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Mary Surratt ran a boarding house that John Wilkes Booth, and other co-conspirators, used as a meeting place to discuss the assassination plan. She is also alleged to have been a go-between among the co-conspirators, transporting and supplying weapons intended for use in the assassination. Anne Surratt’s ghost has reportedly been seen pounding on the White House doors begging for her mother to be spared execution. Her ghost is alleged to appear on the White House steps every July 7, the date her mother was executed in 1865.
During the War of 1812, British soldiers tried to burn down the White House, and the ghost of the man who put the torch to the building is alleged to still walk the grounds at night with a blazing torch. There is at least one reported incident where the fire-bug of a soldier has been seen inside the White House. A husband and wife who stayed in a second-floor bedroom at the White House claimed the ghost tried to set fire to their bed. The incident occurred in the room where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, died. Lynda Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson, occupied this same room during her father’s presidency. She claimed to have seen Willie’s ghost there on several occasions.
If there was ever a ghost with an opportunity to make a splash during the government shutdown, it’s the torch-wielding soldier looking for something to burn.
What is really going on in the White House?
These stories are just a snippet of the ghost stories surrounding the White House, yet, finding evidence of it being investigated by knowledgeable paranormal experts to substantiate the many claims is difficult. The evidence hinges entirely upon word of mouth, and often that word comes from political hacks known for their rhetoric.
Aside from Mary Todd Lincoln’s seances in the White House, there are stories of other residents reaching out to the other side to communicate with the many ghosts believed to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The most recent of which is Hillary Clinton.
In his book, The Choice, Bob Woodward, one of the journalists who broke the story of the Watergate scandal involving President Richard Nixon, alleged Clinton held a seance at the White House and channeled not only Eleanor Roosevelt but Ghandi too.
Dr. Jean Houston, New Age author and psychologist, who was with Clinton during the alleged incident, claims Woodward’s allegation is untrue. Houston claims she helped Clinton through a role-playing exercise meant to assist her in the writing of the book It Takes a Village. Again, with all the rhetoric in Washington DC, it’s often difficult to tell what’s true and what isn’t.
President Barack Obama found himself under fire for comments he made about White House ghosts in relation to former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who was known to have sought advice from astrologers during her husband’s presidency. As president-elect, Obama was asked if any former presidents had offered him any advice for his upcoming presidency. He replied by saying he had spoken to all of the former presidents who were living. He then added, “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.” The next day he issued a public apology to Reagan.
Perhaps with nothing going on in government at the moment, it would be a good time to allow a team of paranormal investigators access to the White House to do an in-depth investigation on what is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in the United States.
What would it hurt?
In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait and see how the political situation shakes out, and hope someone comes through with a good ghost story from shutdown, proving no matter what, the ghosts of the White House take their jobs seriously. Unlike the people who occupy the White House, the ghosts there will stop at nothing to get the job done.
This piece is purely speculation, as many human White House contacts are among the non-essential personnel affected by the government shutdown, and could not be reached for comment. We can only assume the 200 years of reported ghost activity will continue as usual during the shutdown, and the ghosts of the White House will continue working without the benefit of pay.