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Does Abraham Lincoln's ghost haunt The White House?

By Laura Brown
updated September 29, 2021
Getty Rf 476225882
©Sean Pavone/Getty Images

The White House is one of the USA's most iconic buildings. Imagine how much its walls have seen since it opened in 1800. The spirits of countless scandals, wars, assassinations, and other political skullduggery are commonplace. 

But what if other spirits haunt the walls of The White House? 

As it turns out, multiple people report being haunted by one particular ghost - that of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, who was assassinated on April 14, 1865 and died just a few blocks from The White House, has been said to haunt the halls since his death. 

The first reported haunting of Abraham Lincoln's ghost happened in 1870. A photographer named William H. Mumler took a photo of the widowed Mary Todd Lincoln. When the photo was processed, the ghost of her husband can be seen standing behind her. Sharp minds might dismiss this as an accidental double negative, or some other type of trick with film. But, consider these other reports.

Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of her husband. Photo by William H. Mumler (public domain)

Several First Families have reported hearing footsteps pacing the hall outside the Lincoln bedroom. Eleanor Roosevelt reported that her dog, Fala, would often bark at what she presumed to be Lincoln's ghost. Harry Truman's daughter Margaret reported hearing a specter tapping on the door of the bedroom. President Truman himself reported being jolted awake in the middle of the night by taps on the Lincoln bedroom door. Other White House employees have reported seeing shadows of Abraham Lincoln sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, or pulling on his boots. 

People also claim to have seen Lincoln's ghost directly. First Lady Grace Coolidge was the first person to report physically seeing the ghost - she saw Abraham Lincoln standing at a window, staring outside. On one occasion, FDR's personal valet ran screaming from The White House after he saw Lincoln's ghost. 

President Lyndon Johnson also reported seeing Abraham Lincoln's ghost, in times of distress. Johnson reportedly asked the ghost of Abraham Lincoln how to handle war, and reported Lincoln's response to be "don't go to the theater." 

Lincoln Bedroom Haunted
The Lincoln Bedroom. Source: Library of Congress.

Lincoln's presence doesn't just haunt Americans. In 1942, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands claims to have heard footsteps outside the bedroom she was staying in at The White House. She answered a knock at the door, and then found Abraham Lincoln, in his coat and top hat, standing before her. 

Winston Churchill reportedly met Abraham Lincoln's ghost while naked. Churchill was fresh out of a bath, where he loved to drink scotch and smoke a cigar to relax. He walked into his White House bedroom fully naked, still smoking a cigar, only to see the apparition of Abraham Lincoln standing near the fireplace. As Churchill told it later, he tapped the end of his cigar and said "Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Reportedly, Lincoln laughed to himself and disappeared. 



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Inspiration

How to safely celebrate Halloween in the US this year

Let’s face it, Halloween is going to be different this year. Because of the pandemic, the CDC recommends skipping trick-or-treating and in-person parties in favor of lower-risk activities like carving and decorating pumpkins with your family or having virtual costume contests with friends. If you’re willing to wear a mask and stay at least six feet from others, moderate-risk activities like outdoor costume parties and visits to pumpkin patches are fine, but indoor costume parties and traditional haunted houses are now considered to be higher-risk. While theme park favorites like Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World have been cancelled—die-hards can still attend socially distanced Halloween-themed events at Hersheypark, Dollywood, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and select Six Flags theme parks as long as they book tickets ahead of time, wear a mask and have their temperatures checked upon entry—communities around the country have been forced to get creative and figure out fun ways to keep the spirit of Halloween alive this year. Here’s how you can still celebrate safely. Salem, Massachusetts While Salem is best known for its witch trials of the late-1600s, it’s also a hot spot for all things Halloween. This year, however, Salem will be closed the last weekend of October and its Haunted Happenings events are moving online. Visit the Virtual Haunted Happenings Marketplace to see and buy creative wares from local artists, tour a historic home on a virtual house tour and tune in to see who wins the Halloween at Home Costume Contest. Hudson Valley, New York While most of Sleepy Hollow’s Halloween events have been cancelled due to the pandemic, some, like the All Shorts Irvington Film Festival and Tarrytown Music Hall’s Harvest Hunt and Virtual Ghost Tour are moving online this year. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Walking Tours and a few other in-person events are also being held with Covid-19 restrictions in place, though you’ll need to book tickets online since no last-minute walk-ins will be allowed in this year. Nearby in Croton-on-Hudson, don’t miss The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, happening now through November 1, then Nov. 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time online and mask wearing and social distancing are required. Long Island, New York In Old Bethpage, you’ll find the second location of The Great Pumpkin Blaze, operating at limited capacity now through November 1, then Nov. 4-8. In Yaphank, fans of drive-thru haunted houses can brave The Forgotten Road in Southaven County Park. Purchase tickets and download the audio tracks before you go, then play them as you drive up to each of the marked signs in this immersive 30-minute Halloween experience. Washington, D.C. From ghost tours and scary drive-in movies to pumpkin-centric celebrations and Halloween happy hours, there are plenty of ways to celebrate safely in the capitol this year. Yorktown and Norfolk, Virginia For a real treat, head to the Paws at the River Market pet costume parade at 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, part of Yorktown Market Days. Nearby in Norfolk, it’s Halloween at the Chrysler Museum of Art, where staff members dress up as their favorite works of art and kids can create their own glass-blown pumpkins (timed tickets are available online). Spooky virtual tours are also happening via Facebook Live at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, as is a virtual Mystery at the Museum Zoom event starting at 7 p.m. Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia The Savannah Children’s Museum is hosting “Tricks, Treats, and Trains,” at the Georgia State Railroad Museum. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta also has a number of Halloween themed activities happening from October 24–31, like a costumed dance party, spooky exhibits about spiders in The Science Bar and Halloween themed arts and crafts in the Creativity Cafe. Tickets must be booked in advance and all children ages five and up are required to wear a mask. New Orleans, Louisiana Pick up a pumpkin from Lafreniere Pumpkin Patch, dress up for the Jefferson Community Band Halloween Concert on October 29, watch Ghostbusters from your car at the Pontchartrain Center, and visit the New Orleans Nightmare Haunted House, among other themed events this year in Jefferson Parish. Chattanooga, Tennessee This year, Chattanooga Ghost Tours is running its Murder & Mayhem Haunted History Tour as well as a neighborhood Halloween decorating contest, listing the most spirited houses on its website so people can check them out from their cars. Louisville, Kentucky Don’t miss the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular drive-thru experience at Iroquois Park, happening now through Nov. 1 from dusk until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Be aware that there may be up to a 2.5-hour wait, so bring along your favorite Halloween movie to watch in the car until it’s your turn to go through. Miami, Florida Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables is hosting a special Yappy Hour and pet costume parade on Oct. 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Both humans and their dressed up fur babies will receive complimentary snacks during the ticketed event. Over in Miami Beach, restaurants along historic Española Way are offering Halloween night specials on food and cocktails, making it a great spot to grab some outdoor grub. Chicago, Illinois Chicago’s popular Crypt Run is a virtual 5K this year, so sign up through the website and run it on your own terms. This year’s iteration of the Music Box Theatre’s annual scary movie marathon will take place at the Chi-Town Movies Drive-In through Oct. 31. Fans of The Shining will love Room 237, an interactive pop-up experience and lounge at Morgan Manufacturing. You’ll be a guest at the Overlook Hotel, with its giant hedge maze, Gold Room cocktail bar, photo-ops based on movie scenes and specially themed drinks like “Redrum” and “Come Play With Us.” Hocus Pocus fans should stop by the “I Put A Spell On You” pop-up bar and kitchen at Homestead On The Roof now through Nov. 8, where you can taste cocktails and dishes inspired by the film. St. Louis, Missouri Celebrate Halloween at Union Station now through Oct. 31, by wearing your favorite costume, spending 30-45 minutes walking through the tent maze and four historic train cars—all decked out in spooky decorations featuring witches, skeletons and other creepy creatures—and taking home some candy and a pumpkin to decorate. Book your tickets ahead of time online, where there’s also an option to add a scenic ride on the St. Louis Wheel. San Diego, California Mostra Coffee is hosting Movie Nights Under the Stars, where you can catch a showing of Casper or Coco on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30, enjoy dinner and dessert, and win a $50 cash prize in the costume contest. Each adult ticket comes with a Mostra beverage, while each children’s ticket comes with a trick-or-treat bag full of candy. Those with little ones should check out Gyminny’s Spooky Drive-Thru, where you can safely catch a circus show, dress up in your favorite costumes, and get some goodie bags from your car.

Inspiration

The face in the courthouse window

In Carrollton, Alabama, west of Tuscaloosa, almost to the Mississippi line, sits the Pickens County Courthouse. This courthouse was built in 1877, after it was destroyed several different times during the unrest of the civil war and reconstruction. People who visit the courthouse today can still see a ghost of these times - the terrified face of a man, etched permanently in a window. Legend has it that the face belongs to a Black man named Henry Wells, a freedman who had previously been enslaved nearby. In 1878, Henry was arrested for allegedly burning down the previous courthouse. He was taken to the courthouse to await trial. After word of his arrest spread through the town, a mob of drunken white men gathered outside the courthouse. Henry, watching the mob gather outside, is rumored to have yelled "I am innocent! If you kill me, I will haunt you for the rest of your lives!" At just that moment, a bolt of lightening struck the courthouse. The flash illuminated the scared look of terror on Wells' face. The face in the courthouse window. Photo by Brian Collins (Flickr). The mob eventually forced their way into the courthouse, where they took Henry Wells outside and lynched him. When the light of day arose the next day, people noticed that Henry's face and the look of fear, that had been illuminated by the lightening, was somehow etched on the window of the courthouse. The face remains there to this very day. In the centuries since, people have tried to wash the face off the window to no avail. They even tried to replace the glass, but nothing has been able to remove the terrified face of Henry Wells from the window.

Inspiration

Ghosts of Grand Canyon: the mysterious disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

On October 20, 1928, newlyweds Glen and Bessie Hyde launched down the Colorado River in a homemade 20-foot scow, embarking on a journey that would take over a month and celebrate Bessie as the first woman to boat the river in its entirety. On November 18, one month into their trip and mere weeks from making history, they were seen for the last time. Glen Hyde, an Idahoan farmer and avid outdoorsman, met his wife, Bessie Haley, an artist from West Virginia, on a passenger ship to Los Angeles. The two fell in love and married in Idaho on April 12, 1928. For their honeymoon, they decided, they would embark on a boating adventure down the Colorado River. Were they to succeed in their endeavor, they would not only make Bessie the first woman to complete the trip, but also set a record for the fastest excursion down the river. The Colorado River, which runs through Grand Canyon, Arizona, is known for its brutal and difficult whitewater. Glen was experienced in river rafting. Bessie was new to this type of adventure. About halfway through their long journey, the couple stopped at the Bright Angel Trail, one of the most popular trails that run through Grand Canyon National Park. At the time, Emery and Ellsworth Kolb owned a photography business at the trailhead. The two brothers met the Hydes, who came to the rim to restock their supplies before completing the rest of their trip. The Kolbs said that Bessie seemed apprehensive. “I wonder if I’ll ever wear pretty shoes again,” she said wistfully, admiring a well-dressed young girl before venturing the 10 miles back down the dusty trail to the scow. She never wore pretty shoes again. The couple had intended on returning to Idaho by early December of 1928. When they didn’t arrive, Glen’s father helped launch a search that discovered their scow abandoned near river mile 237, just 40 miles from the end of their journey. The scow was upright, held in place by its tow line caught underwater, still toting their coats and boots, a gun and Bessie’s diary, with its final entry on November 30. The shore near the boat was undisturbed. Glen and Bessie were nowhere to be found. Ninety-two years later, the mystery of the couple’s disappearance remains unsolved and lends itself to spooky riverside tales and a wealth of elaborate conspiracy theories. In the early 1970s, an elderly woman on a river trip down the Colorado River announced that she was Bessie Hyde. She was about the age Bessie would have been, claiming to have killed Glen in disagreement and hiked out of the canyon. She later recanted the story, which was proven untrue. Another conspiracy theory emerged suspecting Georgie Clark, a respected river guide, of being Bessie Hyde. Following the death of Clark, whose real name was Bessie DeRoss, in May of 1992, Hyde’s marriage license and a pistol were found in Clark’s home. However, this theory was also debunked. In 1976, the skeletal remains of a young male were found on the Kolb brothers’ property. The skull still had a bullet in it, and there was suspicion that Emery Kolb was somehow responsible for Glen Hyde’s death. However, a forensic investigation later deduced that the remains belonged to a man much younger than Glen who had likely committed suicide no earlier than 1972. Legal investigations into the disappearance have ended and the couple was pronounced dead by drowning, but the mystery remains unsolved. While Glen and Bessie didn’t achieve fame in the way they had hoped, their names live on in books and eerie campfire ghost stories.

Inspiration

See the winners of our travel photo challenge

We teamed up with GuruShots, the world's favorite photo game, to run a travel photo contest. Almost 100k photos were submitted to the challenge, and we are pleased to feature the top 500 travel photos from around the world! Without further ado, here are the contest winners: Top Photographer: Wilson Valverde, United States Top Photo: Vikranth Thupili, Finland Guru's pick: gm.geetamaurya, India Zdeněk Janovský, Czechia Fabio Brocchi, Italy Nikhat, Australia. logansh, United States Dewan Karim, Canada Margarida Afonso Silva, Portugal Guy Wilson, Israel Margie Troyer, United States Mirjana Bocina-Anabella, Croatia Georgian Grigore, United States iso_d0pe_photography, United States Elisardo Minks, Chile Gil Shmueli, Israel Pat MahhMahh Sheep, France Ilan Horn, Israel Alexandra Surkova, Spain Anne Mortlock, United Kingdom