Past Presidents Believed The White House Was Haunted By These Ghosts

View of the White House in Washington DC, residence of US president. | Ed-Ni-Photo/iStock/Getty Images
The White House has a lot of history. In addition to the specters of wars, political conflicts, and moral debates past, the White House has long been thought to host apparitions of a different kind. Throughout the years, numerous presidents have reported seeing and hearing ghosts of former White House residents. Staff, members of the first family, and famous politicians have also reported ghost sightings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So is the White House haunted? We’ll let you be the judge. Read on to get the spooky details on the most well-known ghost sightings at the White House.



1. Abraham Lincoln

  • In office: 1861 to 1865
  • Saw the ghost of: Willie Lincoln

The Washington Post reports that Abraham Lincoln — who would later become one of the most famous White House ghosts, as you’ll see in the coming pages — reportedly received regular visits from the ghost of his son, Willie. Willie died in the White House in 1862, at just 11 years of age, of what was likely typhoid fever. Additionally, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the only White House resident at the time who saw Willie’s ghost.

The Post explains that Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, “so grief-stricken by the loss that she remained in her room for weeks,” reportedly saw her son’s ghost at the foot of her bed. But Willie wasn’t the only ghost that Mary Todd Lincoln is said to have encountered during her time in the White House. She also reportedly heard Thomas Jefferson playing the violin in the Yellow Oval Room. And she also said that she heard Andrew Jackson swearing.

Next: This first lady held séances and encountered numerous ghosts.

2. Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Tod LincolnMary Todd Lincoln was a big believer in ghosts. | White House Historical Association
  • In residence: 1861 to 1865
  • Saw the ghost of: Andrew Jackson

Sure, she’s not a president. But Mary Todd Lincoln reportedly believed strongly in the occult and held séances in the White House to communicate with the spirit of her son. According to History, she told friends that she heard Andrew Jackson stomping and swearing in the halls of the presidential residence. The Rose Room, where Jackson slept as president, is reportedly one of the most haunted rooms in the White House.

Lincoln wasn’t the only White House resident to mention Andrew Jackson’s ghost. In a letter to his wife, Harry S. Truman wrote to his wife that he often listened “to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study. 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].”

Next: This president saw one of the creepiest ghosts to haunt the White House.

3. Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. GrantHe was disturbed by multiple ghosts. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1869 to 1877
  • Saw the ghost of: A white-haired old man

During his time in the White House, Ulysses S. Grant was reportedly disturbed by the ghost not of a former president or first family member. According to the White House Historical Association, not every ghost that has haunted the White House is a well-known figure, like a president or a first lady. Presidents have also spotted lesser-known apparitions, like the white-haired old man that appeared to Ulysses S. Grant.

The same ghost, as it turns out, also appeared to Chester Arthur, who became president in the early 1880s. Though there doesn’t seem to be a detailed description of the ghost from the era of the Grant administration, at least one journalist took an interest in the story during Arthur’s administration.

Next: This president saw a ghost with a “phosphorescent” beard and hair.

4. Chester Arthur

United States President Chester A. ArthurThe ghost he saw wasn’t anyone specific. | National Archives/Newsmakers
  • In office: 1881 to 1885
  • Saw the ghost of: A white-haired old man

The same ghost that appeared to Ulysses S. Grant also reportedly disturbed President Chester Arthur at night. And this time, somebody wrote down a description of what the ghost looked like in appearances to the president and to members of his staff.

An 1883 article in the newspaper The Washington Critic described the ghost, who haunted the Second Floor bedrooms, as “an aged and bent man with long, phosphorescent, white beard and hair, ghastly and wavy, bright and glaring eyes, and long scrawny fingers. His walk is noiseless but stately, and his presence is always indicated by a peculiar electric sensation which pervades the surrounding air.”

Next: This president saw the ghost of one of the most iconic presidents.

5. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore RooseveltAbraham Lincoln was seen by another president. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • In office: 1901 to 1909
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln goes down in history as one of the most frequently sighted ghosts at the White House. Theodore Roosevelt, interestingly enough, seems to have been one of the earlier presidents to spot the ghost of Abraham Lincoln at the White House, according to

Other notable White House residents who have spotted Lincoln’s ghost over the years? First Lady Grace Coolidge saw him looking out a window in what had been his office, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands found him knocking at her door when she slept in the Lincoln bedroom. (She promptly fainted.)

Next: This president ordered staff members to keep ghost sightings a secret.

6. William Taft

William TaftWilliam Taft saw a former First Lady. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1909 to 1913
  • Saw the ghost of: Abigail Adams

President William Taft also considered the White House haunted, and reportedly spotted the ghost of Abigail Adams. Abigail, wife of the nation’s second president, John Adams, moved to the newly built White House when, as puts it, “Washington D.C. was just a swampy little town.” She would hang wet laundry to dry in the East Room, as it was the warmest and driest part of the White House.

Her ghost has been spotted, in a cap and a lace shawl, with arms outstretched as though carrying a laundry basket. She always seems to be heading toward the East Room. Taft reportedly saw her ghost floating through doors on the second floor, as if she were taking laundry upstairs to dry. During Taft’s administration, staff members also saw “The Thing,” the ghost of a young boy. According to the White House Historical Association, Taft ordered the staff to keep the ghost’s presence a secret.

Next: This president’s staff saw the ghost of a famous first lady.

7. Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow WilsonDolley Madison didn’t take kindly to them touching her garden. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
  • In office: 1913 to 1921
  • His staff saw the ghost of: Dolley Madison

Abigail Adams isn’t the only first lady who has reportedly been spotted haunting the White House. The Washington Post reports that during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, staff spotted the ghost of Dolley Madison, who for her eternal pastime seems to have chosen taking care of the garden.

The Post reports that at the time, the Wilson administration staff had been asked to move the garden originally planted by Dolley Madison. ABC notes that Edith Wilson, the wife of Woodrow Wilson, had grown tired of the garden planted on the lawn. But according to the groundskeepers who went to dig up the garden, “out of nowhere the spirit of Dolley Madison swooped out of the sky, chased them away and saved the garden from destruction.”

Next: This president saw one of the most famous White House ghosts.

8. Herbert Hoover

Abraham Lincoln’s ghost just liked to wander. | Central Press/Getty Images
  • In office: 1929 to 1933
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

Another president who considered the White House haunted? Herbert Hoover. reports that Hoover numbered among the many famous White House residents who claimed to have encountered Abraham Lincoln’s ghost in the White House. As you might have guessed by now, Lincoln’s ghost seems to be the spirit that’s most often seen at the White House.

But as National Geographic reports, “The notion of Lincoln’s wraith roaming the rooms of his former residence is in some ways ironic, since Lincoln himself wasn’t a strong believer in an afterlife, according to his biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin.” Though Lincoln’s wife did dabble in spiritualism, he didn’t take much of an interest. However, Lincoln did seem to have strangely prophetic dreams — including one about his own assassination.

Next: This president presided over a country in crisis — and a visiting ghost may have wanted to help.

9. Franklin D. Roosevelt

United States president Franklin Delano RooseveltLincoln comes back when things are amiss. | Central Press/Getty Images
  • In office: 1933 to 1945
  • Saw the ghost of: Abraham Lincoln

History reports that sightings of Lincoln’s ghost were also frequent during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. Roosevelt presided over the country during a time of great upheaval, which may explain why so many people saw Lincoln’s ghost during the Roosevelt administration. Several of Roosevelt’s staff members claimed they saw Lincoln, according to And so did Roosevelt’s personal valet, who reportedly ran screaming from the White House.

As History notes, “Psychics have speculated that Lincoln’s spirit remains in the White House to be on hand in times of crisis.” And Jared Broach, who offers haunted tours of the White House, tells the Washington Post, “They say Lincoln always comes back whenever he feels the country is in need or in peril.”

Next: This first lady also saw and felt the presence of Abraham Lincoln.