Lincoln's Ghost?

You can’t talk about famous ghosts without mentioning the most beloved one in America; Abraham Lincoln. The haunting of the White House by Lincoln is a favorite story amongst historians and romantics in America. After all, when you have a parent that you trust and you believe is a good and honest person, then who replaces them? We have yet to have a president we regard in quite the same one as the man responsible for stitching America back together again. His early loss makes him an likely suspect to malinger (think of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe). Perhaps we're not ready to get rid of the ideals that put America on the map. But then, again, perhaps we sense that he really is still amongst us...

(From Wikipedia) President Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman have all claimed to have heard unexplained knockings on their bedroom doors. What made them think it was Lincoln is unknown. Calvin Coolidge's wife reported seeing on several occasions the ghost of Lincoln standing with his hands clasped behind his back, at a window in the Oval Office, staring out in deep contemplation toward the bloody battlefields across the Potomac. Carl Sandburg, Lincoln's biographer, said he did not see the ghost but "strongly felt his presence" when he stood at this same window during a tour of the White House. Elenaor Roosevelt often sensed someone watching her in the former Lincoln bedroom. Winston Churchill said he stepped out of the bath to the adjoining bedroom and saw Lincoln standing neare the fireplace. Lincoln's ghost made many apparitions during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Roosevelt was (coincidentally like Lincoln) president during war time. Maureen Reagen (President Ronald Reagen’s daughter) said she had seen ghost several times in Lincoln’s bedroom. The Reagen’s dog apparently would bark at the door but not enter. Lyndon Johnson supposedly spoke to the ghost of Lincoln, asking his advice. Senator McCarthy proclaimed that he entered Lincoln’s old office and a bust of the president flew across the room and nearly hit him. (Of course, in McCarthy’s case, Lincoln was a bad aim—-he should have hit him upside the head and knocked some sense into him).

The Roosevelt presidency saw the most activity and many conjecture that it was because he was a president during a wartime. If that were so, Lincoln should have been pounding on Bush’s head to get his attention. Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands visited during Roosevelt’s presidence and she was awakened by a knock at the door to find President Lincoln there. Why do you suppose he showed himself for some and not for others? Was he a harbinger of some message to beware?

Rapping on bedroom doors was reported by many presidential families. In a place like the White House such a thing would be a common daily activity by servants and the like, so it’s entirely possible that element is a residual memory of the building.

Following Truman’s time in office, Lincoln has rarely been seen. Some wonder if it might be because of massive renovations or perhaps the time period has lengthened from his demise. Still, he has been seen in modern times, only less frequently.

Is this pure romanticism for the man and the sacred place in which these people reside? Is it because earlier generations identified with him more? If so, then Kennedy should have been seen wandering the halls for the yuppie-time presidents.

When I did my study of 50 haunted places, the White House was not a strong contender because it lacked a lot of traumatic history within its walls and the geology was weak. The building’s construction is promising. The thing that might outweigh all other factors is the symbolism of the White House. If a ghost of an average Joe can haunt his home because it was his beloved sanctuary, then surely an assasinated president could linger in a place he felt very protective of and very proud of.

Should we give more weight to the impressive list of witnesses above? Well, here is a bit of proof that may show that Lincoln might have been a man more determined and more sensitive to haunting the White House. This is what he told a dear friend one time of a precognitive dream:

About ten days ago, I retired very late. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like 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. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room. No living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds met me as I passed alone. I was puzzled and alarmed. Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room. Before me was a catafalque on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng or people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. `Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers. `The president,’ was his answer. `He was killed by an assassin.’”

Lincoln’s life would appear to be quite serendipitious and perhaps that carried over into his passing. Many people note connections between Lincoln and Kennedy. At this site they listed them out:

Lincoln was elected on November 6, 1860; Kennedy was elected on November 8, 1960.
Both had previously been members of Congress. Lincoln was first elected to Congress in 1846; Kennedy in 1946.

After their assassinations, both men were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson - and both Johnsons were born 100 years apart: Andrew Johnson in 1808; Lyndon Johnson in 1908.

Both men were killed on a Friday by shots to the head as their wives sat beside them.

John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre and fled to barn; Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's accused killer, shot from a schoolbook warehouse and then fled to a movie theatre. Both assassins were killed before they could be brought to trial.
Both assassinations were the result of conspiracies (even though the conspiracy surrounding Kennedy's death is still disputed by some).

Lincoln was shot inside Ford's Theater; Kennedy was killed in a Lincoln limousine, made by the Ford Motor Company.

Just as Lincoln foresaw his own death, Kennedy seemed to have a premonition of his death as well. Just a few hours before he was murdered in Dallas, John Kennedy told Jackie and Ken O'Donnell, his personal advisor: "If somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about it."

Kennedy also received other psychic warnings about his death. Psychic Jeanne Dixon advised the president that she foresaw his assassination as he traveled through the South. He also received a warning from his secretary that his trip to Dallas could have tragic consequences and urged him not to go. Her name was Evelyn Lincoln.

So, what do you think? Does Lincoln still linger? I have to admit my skepticism with the ideal of beloved figures dying early and haunting, but in the case of Lincoln, there appears to be a kind of alchemy and almost astrological destiny that makes me think…he’s still there.


  1. I always found the comparisons with the presidents (Lincoln & Kennedy) and the Johnsons a very interesting one. When I was in the basement of the Ford Theatre and looking at Lincoln's clothes that he wore when he was assinated, I felt his spirit there. He has been known to haunt there as well. It is definately a must see if you get to Washington DC.

  2. Hey Julie;
    I grew up in DC, so I have to admit that I've felt him in a lot of places. Strangely not at his memorial. I remember on one school field trip we were in the Smithsonian and I kept seeing this tall man in a dark suit, very gaunt. He was watching our group with these beady dark eyes. One kid poked me and said it was Lincoln. I stayed behind to look at a display and I looked up and the man was maybe 15 feet away. He turned as if realizing I saw him and I smiled and he smiled and nodded. I went to meet the group and they had circled back to stop at the display. It was the one the man was looking at when he smiled and nodded. It was a display about Lincoln. Now, that gave me shivers!

  3. Well, if it's possibe for a ghost to haunt a place, then I don't see why it wouldn't be possible for Lincoln to haunt the White House. The Lincoln-Kennedy connections are cool too...very synchronistic.

    In regards to the Churchill sighting, I heard (not sure if it's true) that Churchill saw Lincoln and said something to the effect of(since he had just stepped out of the bath), "You seem to have caught me at a disadvantage Mr. President."

  4. You're right Jeff, that's what he said. Supposedly when McCarthy asked him what he should do, Lincoln replied, "don't go to the theater." Of course, I don't necessarily believe a thing McCarthy ever had to say :-)


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