It would seem that one of the most haunted houses in the U.S. is also one of the most famous. Many spirits have been reported roaming the halls of the White House, but the one that’s seen most often is 16th president Abraham Lincoln—and that includes sightings by some of the most powerful people in the world.
1. GRACE COOLIDGE
In a series of articles for American Magazine, First Lady Grace Coolidge revealed that she once saw Lincoln standing by a window in the Lincoln Bedroom, which had previously been his office. She noted that he was gazing out the window across the Potomac, to a spot that had once been the site of a Civil War battlefield.
2. QUEEN WILHELMINA OF THE NETHERLANDS
Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands stayed at the White House during a state visit in 1942, and apparently heard a knock at the door around midnight. When she opened it, the 16th president was standing there. The queen promptly fainted.
3. MARY EBEN, ELEANOR ROOSEVELT’S SECRETARY
The First Lady’s secretary once reported seeing Honest Abe in the northwest bedroom. He was sitting on the bed, pulling his boots on hurriedly as if he had somewhere important to be.
4. WINSTON CHURCHILL
There’s a famous story about how the British Prime Minister met Lincoln’s ghost. During one of his stays at the residence in the 1940s, Churchill had just finished a bath and was walking into the main bedroom, completely nude, when he saw the president standing by the fireplace. “Good evening Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage,” Churchill is said to have quipped. Though he handled it well, the Prime Minister requested different rooms on subsequent visits.
Before you dismiss the story out of hand, note that it does get one thing right—Churchill was known for lounging around his White House quarters in the buff.
5. AND 6. MAUREEN REAGAN AND DENNIS REVELL
Ronald Reagan’s daughter Maureen was no stranger to overnight visits at the White House. On at least one occasion, her husband Dennis woke up to see a shadowy figure standing by the fireplace. Maureen didn’t believe him until she, too, saw a man in a red coat standing in their room in the middle of the night. She initially thought it was her father in a red bathrobe—until she realized she could see right through him.
When the president heard of the encounters, he said, “Why don’t you send him down the hall? I’ve got a few questions I’d like to ask him.”
7. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Ike once told press secretary James Hagerty that he was once walking down a hallway when he spied a figure coming down the hall straight toward him. After a moment, he realized it was Abraham Lincoln.
8. LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Lady Bird Johnson’s press secretary, Liz Carpenter, once said that the First Lady had been watching a documentary on Lincoln’s death when a plaque hanging in the room caught her attention. When she read it, she realized that it mentioned Lincoln’s time in the room—and a feeling of coldness and unease washed over her.
9. FDR’S VALET, CESAR CARRERA
It’s been reported that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s personal valet, Cesar Carrera, ran from the White House screaming on one occasion—he had just spotted the 16th president’s shade.
10. TONY SAVOY, WHITE HOUSE OPERATIONS FOREMAN
Savoy has said that he was working on the second floor of the residence in the early 1980s when he happened upon a snazzily dressed Lincoln. Wearing a pinstripe suit, the president was sitting in a chair with his hands folded together and his legs crossed. Savoy blinked, and Lincoln was gone.
11. HARRY TRUMAN
Truman never saw Lincoln, but according to one story, he believed that phantom knocks on the door were caused by his predecessor. The rappings often happened when he was working on important speeches. Truman's daughter Margaret said her father actually wished Lincoln and other deceased presidents would drop by. “I’m sure they’re here,” he told her. “I won’t lock my doors or bar them if any of the old coots in the pictures want to come out of their frames for a friendly chat.”
It wasn’t the only time Truman talked about the ghosts in the White House. In 1945, he wrote a letter to his wife, Bess, that said, “the floors pop and the drapes move back and forth—I can just imagine old Andy and Teddy having an argument over Franklin.”
12. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT
Eleanor used the Lincoln Bedroom as her study, and though she never saw him like her secretary did, she reported feeling his presence, especially when she was working alone late at night. The Roosevelt's Scotch terrier, Fala, was prone to staring intently at nothing while barking, which FDR chalked up to Lincoln's ghost.
NICE TRY, BETTY FORD
On her last night in the White House, Gerald and Betty Ford’s daughter Susan slept in the Lincoln bedroom with a friend, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous apparition. Nothing appeared, but Betty Ford tried to make it up to them—in the morning, she entered the room wearing a sheet, making scary noises, and reciting the Gettysburg Address. “We were like, yeah mom, we’re a little too old for that, but it was funny,” Susan later said.