; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Supernatural White House

In the late 19th century, several phantoms were observed in the White House. One of these apparitions was supposedly the spirit of President William Henry Harrison, who died after one month in office. I have posted an article from The New York World in 1897...followed by other supernatural tales from 'the people's house':

The Dark Side of the White House

William Henry Harrison's Wraith Wanders the Lonely Garret and the Spectre of a Woman Roams in the Conservatory

Spirits of Disappointed Office Seekers Keep Up a Tireless Tread and a Phantom Team of White Horses Seen in the Drive

The White House is haunted. This is what the negroes are now whispering one to another. With baited breath they tell, with a great show of secrecy and in awestruck voices, that strange lights and queer noises are heard in the Presidential mansion.

There is not a colored servant in the White House who is not deeply impressed with the idea that not only one, but a number of restless spirits roam its spacious attics and wide corridors during the still watches of the night.

Old Jerry, who has been employed as a general utility man about the White House since President Lincoln’s Administration, has told several stories, all fitting well together, with a circumstantiality of detail that leaves no room for doubt that the old man at least has strong reasons for believing them.

The principal place of abode of the spectres is in the attic. Strange noises have been heard frequently proceeding from this unused garret, and have often been very audible in the offices on the floor below. These have been attributed to rats, with which there is no doubt the old building is infested.

But rats did not cause the strange apparition that greeted old Jerry a few nights ago, when he happened to be sent to the attic upon some errand after dark. As he entered the room a shadow seemed to advance from one corner, and as it neared him gradually took the shape of a man.

Approaching very close to the now thoroughly frightened servant, it motioned with an imperious gesture for him to leave. He needed no second bidding, but came down the stairs several steps at a time.

The next day the old negro, while going through the house, happened to see the portrait of ex-President William Henry Harrison. At once he threw up his hands, said: “My Lord, that is the man I saw in the attic!” Whether it was on account of the pale and somewhat peaked face of the illustrious slayer of Tippecanoe that suggested to Jerry a likeness to the shadow he had seen, or whether as a fact the restless old warrior now roams the attic of the White House, where lived but one month fifty-six years ago, it is impossible to say.

It would be an unwarranted sensation to state any degree of positiveness that the ghost of William Henry Harrison occupies the attic of the White House. But it is certain that some strange form appeared to old Jerry when he visited the garret after dark, and that he identified it the next day by the portrait.

Whatever may be thought of the attic spectre, even though it be attributed to fright upon the part of the old man, it is certain that there are some things about the White House that are not easily explained, and which will give the most learned psychologist ample material for study. On the east side of the building, between the main corridor and the East Room, is the stairway which leads to the President’s office. From midnight until the dawning of the morning can be heard the ceaseless tramp of many feet as they walk up these steps. Three policemen guard the foot of these stairs every night and the hall is brilliantly lighted, hence nothing of a ghostly nature can be seen, but the steady tramp, tramp, tramp of feet can be heard ascendig to the President’s office. Whenever a new officer is placed upon this assignment he will start when he hears these footsteps, under the impression that someone is approaching, but after time he becomes used to it and pays no attention to the mysterious footfalls. How many disappointed office-seekers have climbed these stairs, at first full of hope, and then, after they have repeated these visits day after day and hope has died within them, have gone home discouraged, and in some instances heartbroken! Instances have not been rare in the history of the United States where men have committed suicide when their efforts to attain positions have failed. Are these strange footsteps imaginary echoes of those that have been heard during the day or are they the restless spirits seeking the place where their hope was turned to despair?

But the strangest and most sensational of all the apparitions reported to have been seen at the White House was told by a policeman who formerly patrolled the White House grounds. The conservatory is not open to visitors except upon occassions of a public nature, such as the President’s receptions. Ordinarily it is unlighted at night, and no one ever enters it after the President’s famiily has retired.

The policeman mentioned was walking past the conservatory about 1 o’clock one morning, when he saw a light moving about among the flowers. He knew that this was unusual and supposed that some servant had succeeded in gaining entrance and was culling the choice flowers and possibly appropriating some of the valuable plants. He peered into the window, but the light seemed to be upon the other side of the conservatory, so that he could not tell who it was that held it. He entered the consevatory by means of the steps leading from the tool-house underneath, and immediately in front of him was a tall, beautiful lady, dressed in the fashion of the early part of the century. He spoke to her and she disappeared, seeming to go behind one of the large palm trees. He followed, and a musical laugh greeted his ears, but the form had vanished, and a thorough search of the conservatory failed to reveal any visitant. He tried the door which leads from the conservatory into the corridor, but it was locked and would not yield to his pressure. There were no other means by which the lady could have made her exit except by passing him and going down the steps up which he had come. This he was thoroughly satisfied she did not do. The conservatory continued to be lighted by a strange phosphorescent glow for some time, but this gradually faded away.

By this time the policeman was thoroughly frightened, and making no further attempt to locate the mysterious intruder, beat a hasty retreat.

The next night he watched for the return of the lights and the form, but neither came. Everything was dark and appeared as usual for two or three weeks. He had made up his mind that he had in some unaccoutable way been the victime of an optical illusion, and that the light had come from some decaying portion of a plant in the conservatory. But one night, about a month after this occurrence, at about the same hour he again saw the light. Pinching himself to see whether he was really awake he again entered the conservatory in same way as before, and at one felt a rush of air and heard the same musical laugh that had greeted him upon his previous visit. He saw no form, but the laugh rang out clearly in the night air, seemingly from different parts of the conservatory at the same time. Almost paralyzed with fear he started to retreat without making any further investigation when he felt a hand pressed upon his shoulder, and turning quickly, he saw the mysterious lady, dressed as before. She smiled upon him and he sank to the floor unconscious. When he regained consciousness the conservatory was dark and no sound could be heard. He dragged himself down the steps and out into the yard. Try as he would, it was impossible for him to gain sufficient control of himself to remain on duty and he went home.

The next day he was discharged. He would never tell the story of his gruesome experiences, hoping that he might be reinstated on the force and assigned to some other post, but now has succeeded in obtaining other employment and has told the story to a number of friends.

A phantom team drawn by a pair of pure white horses, it is said, has been seen to drive through the east gate, stop at the portico of the White House, and, after a few moments’ pause, leave by the west gate. This story has obtained credence among many people, but it is impossible to authenticate it, the policemen who patrol the grounds denying that any such occurrence takes place. This however, they would do in any event, as to tell of it would be equivalent to resignation.

Whatever spooks and spectres may haunt the Presidential mansion they have shown a commendable delicacy in the manner, time and place of their wanderings, and, so far as known, have not disturbed any of the Presidents or members of their families. They have not been so considerate, however, as to the servants of the household, and more than one valued employee has resigned from time to time without giving any reason therefore, except that after leaving they have told their friends that they heard strange sounds and saw shadowy forms and could not be induced to remain in a house that was haunted. - World, New York, NY - 17 October 1897


The Demon Cat 'DC'

The San Diego Union-Tribune of 11/1/1992 reported that a demon cat, referred to as 'DC', would meet someone alone in a dark corridor of the Capital Building and in the lower levels of the White House. It had large yellow eyes that seemed to hypnotize, and it would snarl. It would seem to grow larger and larger until it would make a final lunge toward its victim and then either explode or disappear over the victim's head. Historians recorded stories of guards firing guns toward the hissing cat as it disappeared only to find they were shooting into an empty hall. It was said to appear only on the eve of a national tragedy or the change of administrations.

'DC' has been seen periodically throughout the last 200 years. Reportedly, he was spotted in the White House before the assassination of Lincoln and Garfield, before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the death of Roosevelt, the assassination of Kennedy, the attempted assassination of Reagan, and there was even an account of the cat being spotted the night of September 10th, 2001. As well, it is usually seen during times when the presidency is moving to a new person.

DC's predicting ability isn't the only thing it is known for. It's said to live in a room originally intended to house the body of George Washington after death, a place that would remain empty as Washington was buried at his estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia. This empty room is one of the many places witnesses have spotted the mysterious creature.


Other Supernatural Encounters

A Truman-era security guard once reported hearing ‘I am David Burns’ coming from the attic above the Oval Office. In 1790, David Burns was the man forced to surrender his land so that the White House could be built.

When First Lady Ellen Wilson requested that the garden be dug up, garden workers reported that Dolley Madison’s ghost appeared and prevented them from destroying her garden. Since that time, other White House insiders have reported an occasional and inexplicable smell of roses in the White House. These instances are often credited to Madison’s ghost.

One of the most frequently reported White House ghosts is President Abraham Lincoln, and the second floor hallways (the First Family level) are some of his favorite haunts. Lincoln has been seen or heard by many residents, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. President Truman once claimed to have heard Lincoln pacing the hallway and knocking on his bedroom door. President William Howard Taft became the first person to report seeing the ghost of First Lady Abigail Adams, who he saw floating through doors on the second floor.

Various bedrooms on the second floor are used for the President’s family and other guests. One husband and wife pair reported that the ghost of a British soldier tried to set fire to their bed. It is presumed that this soldier was the man who set fire to the White House during the War of 1812. In addition, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter Lynda once reported seeing the ghost of Lincoln’s son Willie, who had died in the very room in which she was staying. Other reported activity includes the ghostly screams of President Grover Cleveland’s wife, the first woman to give birth in the White House. Following renovations in 1952, activity in the bedrooms has decreased significantly.

During Lincoln’s administration, the current Yellow Oval Room was Lincoln's personal library and one of his favorite rooms in the White House. Numerous White House employees have reportedly seen Lincoln gazing out the windows of this room. First Lady Grace Coolidge also claimed to have seen him here. First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln also reported seeing the ghosts of both Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler here.

The White House north portico entrance has a number of notable spectres. A torch-wielding British soldier is often seen standing outside the front door. People have also reported seeing long-deceased White House ushers and doormen still tending to their duties. Perhaps most bizarre is the ghost of Anne Surratt, whose mother Mary was hanged in 1865 for her role in the Lincoln assassination. Anne’s ghost has been spotted pounding on the White House doors begging for her mother’s release. She is also reported to sit on the front steps every July 7, the anniversary of her mother’s execution.

The East Room is a regular haunt of Abigail Adams’ phantom. During her tenure in the White House, this was the room in which she would hang her laundry. She is often seen in or en route to the East Room with her arms outstretched, as though carrying a laundry basket. Sightings were particularly abundant during the Taft Administration, but as recently as 2002 a group of tourists reportedly saw Adams. In addition to her sightings, many people report the faint smell of laundry soap around this area. Lincoln has also been spotted here, the room in which his body lay in state.

The Rose Bedroom is frequented by its former occupant, President Andrew Jackson. Numerous White House employees have seen or heard Jackson in the room, often engaged in hearty laughter or swearing violently. According to White House lore, there is an inexplicable cold spot on the canopy bed in the room where Jackson slept. Among the most notable reports, Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to have heard Jackson swearing and White House seamstress Lilian Parks felt his presence over her, which she recounted in her memoirs about her time in the White House. Not to be outdone, Lincoln has also been spotted here. When Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands stayed in this bedroom, she answered a knock on the door one night and saw Lincoln’s ghost standing in the hallway.

Winston Churchill famously refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom ever again after seeing the ghost beside the fireplace. (Churchill, it should be noted, had just emerged from a bath and was completely nude during the encounter.) Beyond those already listed as seeing Lincoln in other places, he has been spotted by: Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower; First Ladies Jackie Kennedy and Ladybird Johnson; and presidential children Susan Ford and Maureen Reagan. Maureen and her husband both saw Lincoln standing beside the fireplace, just as Churchill has seen him. Other guests have reported that lights in the bedroom will turn themselves on and inexplicable cold spots will occur in the room. whitehousehistory.org / listverse.com / knowledgenuts.com

"Ghosts: Washington Revisited" (The Ghostlore of the Nation's Capital)

Ghosts of the White House

Who's Haunting the White House?: The President's Mansion and the Ghosts Who Live There

The Ghost in the White House