Ghost Stories From The White House That Will Make You Believe It's Haunted

Is the White House really haunted? "If I said no, I'd be calling about eight different presidents liars," Jared Broach, founder of Nightly Spirits, a haunted tour company, told The Washington Post. If any home in the United States is going to have a ghost or two, it makes sense that it would be the White House. Both presidents and various members of their families have passed away within its walls. During the War of 1812, it was invaded by hostile forces and nearly burned to the ground. There have been scandals, weddings, and protests in and around the home. It's a place ripe for spirits to hang around and have their say.

Not only that, but multiple presidents, their families, and long-serving staff members have all reported encounters with a few things that go bump in the night. It doesn't quite make sense for an elaborate prank to span hundreds of years across multiple administrations. Whether or not you want to believe it, these are some of the spookiest stories from the most famous house in America.

The Rose Room is one of the most haunted rooms in the entire building

The Rose Room is President Andrew Jackson's old bedroom. Many who have stayed overnight in the White House, or worked there long term, have reported hearing him laughing and moving around near that area. According to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, President Harry S. Truman had the most encounters with the spirits in this part of the house.

"I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches — all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study," he wrote in 1945. "The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth — I can just imagine old Andy [Jackson] and Teddy [Roosevelt] having an argument over Franklin [Roosevelt]." And he's not the only one who has allegedly heard these goings on. Mary Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln's wife, also recorded that she heard President Jackson stomping around and using foul language.

William Henry Harrison died in the White House and never left

According to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, President William Henry Harrison was the first president to die at the White House. He was the ninth president overall and died on April 4, 1841, at age 68 from complications of pneumonia. However, some say that his pneumonia wasn't really the cause. Instead, he died as a result of the Curse of Tippecanoe.

The Curse of Tippecanoe, sometimes called Tecumseh's Curse, was allegedly cast in 1809 by Shawnee Indigenous leader Tecumseh after a conflict with President Harrison over land rights negotiations. Tecumseh is said to have enlisted the help of his brother, Tenskwatawa, to curse all future presidents who came into office in years ending with zero. The Shawnee people knew Tenskwatawa as a prophet, so many took his words seriously. Harrison won the presidency in 1840 and caught his death after being exposed to the elements on a cold, rainy inauguration day in March of 1841. His ghost is still said to roam the halls of the White House.

Other victims of the curse include President Lincoln, who came to office in 1860, James Garfield in 1880, and William McKinley in 1900. All three men were shot. Warren G. Harding was elected in 1920 and suffered a massive stroke, and even JFK, famously elected in 1960, went on to be assassinated (via ThoughtCo).

David Burns, the first owner of the White House Land, stills haunts the area

According to History, David Burns used to own most of Washington D.C. He sold the United States government the land to build the new nation's capital city, including the plot of land where the White House now sits. Burns' otherworldly presence on the property was first reported by a seamstress, Lillian Rogers Parks. She worked at the White House for over 30 years and wrote a memoir about her time there.

She alleges that staff members and presidents have heard him in the quieter moments around the house. This includes a valet during the Roosevelt Administration and a guard during the Truman Administration. The guard thought he heard a man's voice, clear as day. It was so real that he thought Secretary of State James Byrnes was speaking to him, so he searched around in the nearby hallways looking for his boss. However, it turns out that Byrnes wasn't even on site that day.

Mary Todd Lincoln held seances to speak to her deceased son, Willie

According to The White House Historical Association, Mary Todd Lincoln held seances to speak to her deceased son, Willie. William Lincoln died in February 1862 at age 11. He died of typhoid fever. His death was one of a string of tragedies that Mrs. Lincoln experienced in her lifetime, including the death of her mother when she was a young girl, and the eventual assassination of her husband.

In her grief, Mrs. Lincoln sought out a group of psychic mediums in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington D.C., to communicate with her son. She began to host seances in the Red Room of the White House to stay in touch with him. "Willie lives. He comes to me every night and stands at the foot of the bed with the same sweet adorable smile that he always has had," she wrote. She had already lost another child, Edward, too. Occasionally, she reported that both boys visited her sometimes, normally at the same time.

President Lincoln dreamed of his own death before it even happened

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most sighted ghosts in White House lore. According to History, he even dreamed of his own death before it even happened. Could it have been a sign of his connection to things beyond? Ward Hill Lamon was close friends with the president and made a journal entry of what Lincoln told him about the ominous dream, which occurred in 1865.

"About ten days ago I retired very late," the president told his friend. "I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a deathlike stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. I arrived at the East Room." He then goes on to describe seeing a dead body in funeral clothes, resting in the room. Soldiers were guarding the body amid a room full of people weeping. "'Who is dead in the White House?" asked Lincoln as he dreamed. The reply is bone-chilling, as one of the soldiers answered, "The President. He was killed by an assassin." Less than four months later, on April 14, 1865, his premonition came true.

Plans to relocate the Rose Garden were scrapped after the Ghost of Dolley Madison showed up

According to The Washington Post, there were once plans to relocate the Rose Garden at the White House during the Wilson Administration. Staffers were too spooked to proceed with their plans after the ghost of Dolley Madison allegedly started hanging around the garden again. Because of this, they thought it best to leave things as they were, lest Dolley decides to follow.

Dolley was the wife of President James Madison and lived in the White House from 1809 to 1817. She was known to be enthusiastic, friendly, and a great hostess. Many enjoyed attending events she put on when she was First Lady (via the National First Ladies Library). All this is to say that perhaps her presence in the Rose Garden after her death wasn't necessarily an ominous one, but rather an exuberant presence ready for another party.

Prime Ministers and Queens have seen ghosts during their stays at the White House

Some non-believers might think that most of the ghost stories that come out of the White House are just hearsay or spooky tales perpetuated by staff members across the generations for entertainment. But Prime Ministers and Queens have seen ghosts during their stays at the White House. Could they be making it up, too? It is possible, but unlikely that these prominent public figures would spin tales.

According to the National First Ladies Library, Queen Wilhelmina of Holland heard a knock on her bedroom door during an overnight visit. However, when she got out of bed to see who was there, she didn't see a living staff member but rather the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. She fainted in shock. U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was later given the same bedroom on a state visit and had a similar experience. He was returning to the bedroom after a trip to the bathroom and reported having seen Lincoln sitting in a chair by the fireplace.

Susan Ford reportedly saw Abraham Lincoln

Susan Ford was the daughter of President Gerald Ford, who was in office from 1974 to 1977. According to Our White House, when Susan was a young girl, she also saw an apparition of former President Lincoln sitting in a chair by the fireplace in the Lincoln bedroom. She reportedly was so scared of what she saw that she never wanted to enter the room again out of fear of a second encounter.

However, towards the end of her father's time in office, one of her friends dared her to sleep over in the room. Susan accepted, and she and her pals slept in the haunted room before waking up to a horrifying sight: Her mother, Elizabeth Ford, covered in a sheet and reciting the Gettysburg Address. "We were like, yeah mom, we're a little too old for that," Susan later joked about the experience. Maybe the real ghost took the evening off so Mrs. Ford could play a few tricks on her unsuspecting daughter.

Anna Surratt has been reported to roam the halls of the White House

Anna Surrat is the daughter of Mary Surratt, who was executed in 1865 for her role in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. According to Our White House, Anna is relentlessly seeking justice for her mother's fate nearly two centuries later. Anna is typically spotted near the North Portico of the White House, and she bangs on the doors and rattles the gates, yelling and pleading for her mother to be spared.

But it's too late, as Mary Surratt was hanged on July 7, 1865. Many speculate that the reason Anna's spirit is so passionate about her mother's innocence is because even at the time, Mary's conviction was controversial. She managed a boarding house in Washington D.C., and some historians think that Mary only thought her tenants aimed to kidnap the president, not kill him (via Britannica). Mary maintained her innocence until her death.

President Truman believes in ghosts

According to The Washington Post, some of the most modern ghost encounters in the White House happened to President Truman. He got so spooked by a few encounters that he even called Secret Service agents to check out the mysterious noises he was hearing. "I jumped up and put on my bathrobe, opened the door, and no one was there," he wrote in a letter to his wife about one of the encounters. "Went out and looked up and down the hall, looked in your room and Margie's. Still no one."

After checking things out, President Truman went back to bed, but his ordeal wasn't over yet. "There were footsteps in your room whose door I'd left open," he continued. "Jumped and looked and no one there! The damned place is haunted sure as shootin'. Secret Service said not even a watchman was up here at that hour." Margie was President Truman and his wife Bess' only child. "You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off," wrote the president.

The Bush twins received a phone call from the other side

Jenna and Barbara Bush recall a few spooky encounters while living in the White House with their father, President George W. Bush. According to Today, the twins heard a phone ringing in the middle of the night. "It woke us up in the middle of the night," Jenna explained. "We had a fireplace in our room, and all of a sudden we started hearing, like, 1920s piano music as clear as day coming out of the fireplace."

The twins shared a room at the time, so Jenna immediately ran over to her twin's bed as there was safety in numbers. They were both awake and terrified of the bizarre noises but tried shrugging them off. However, about a week later, the girls heard the same spooky music whispering out of the fireplace. Barbara and Jenna attempted to write things off, but after speaking to a few White House staffers, they remained on high alert. Apparently, the staffers have also heard a few things that go bump in the night. However, Jenna particularly remains hopeful about the nature of the encounter. "They were friendly ghosts," she said.

Bennie Pierce was killed in a train accident and visited his grieving mother

Mrs. Pierce spent most of her husband's presidency grieving the loss of her child and conducting seances at the White House. According to Richard Howe, on January 6, 1853, President Pierce, his wife Jane, and their 11-year-old son Benjamin boarded a train from Andover, New Hampshire, to Concord, their hometown. He had recently been elected president and went on to spend the Christmas holidays in Andover. As the family headed home to collect their belongings for the big move to the White House, their train derailed.

Unfortunately, young Bennie had been standing up to look out the window when the train crashed and suffered brutal, unspeakable injuries. He died instantly and was the only official casualty of the incident. Upon President Pierce's inauguration, Mrs. Pierce withdrew from public life due to the trauma of the incident. The public gave her nicknames like the Phantom First Lady or the Shadow in the White House (via The History Reader).

A terrifying creature called The Thing tormented President Taft's staff

Most of the ghosts that allegedly call the White House home are former residents, like presidents and their children. However, there was one apparition during the Taft Administration that defies explanation. According to D.C. Ghosts, in 1911, a terrifying creature called "The Thing" tormented President Taft's staff, making for a pretty hostile working environment.

"The ghost, it seems, is a young boy about fourteen or fifteen years old, with rumpled blondish hair and sad blue eyes," President Taft's military aide, Major Archibald Butt, recorded. "They say that the first knowledge one has of the presence of the Thing is a slight pressure on the shoulder, as if someone were leaning over you to see what you might be doing." Whether or not The Thing was just checking up on everyone's work, or wanted to cause mayhem or harm, President Taft wanted nothing to do with any of it. The whole situation scared him so much that he forbade further discussion of The Thing or otherworldly encounters in his presence.

Jeremiah Smith worked at the White House for 30 years and is the source for many ghost stories

If you've ever wondered who has seen the most spirits on site, it's often the White House staff who have had most of the recent encounters. According to Voice of America (VOA), Jeremiah Smith worked at the White House for 30 years and is the source to verify many of the ghost stories circulating in modern American culture.

"He started as a footman and then served many roles in the White House, and he claimed to have seen a ton of ghosts," said White House Historical Association historian Lina Mann. "Including ghosts of Lincoln, [President Ulysses S.] Grant, [President William] McKinley, also several first ladies, so he definitely helped spread a lot of those late 19th century ghost stories around." So, whether you want to believe Smith or not, 30 years in a haunted house is definitely plenty of time to give anyone credibility.