Magazine article The World and I

City on a Hill - Haunted White House

Magazine article The World and I

City on a Hill - Haunted White House

Article excerpt

Every president since John Adams has occupied the White House, and it seems many of them have found it hard to leave. The ghost of Abigail Adams has been seen with both arms outstretched, as if carrying a large load of laundry, and her presence leaves a faint smell of soap and damp cloth in the East Room.

The Oval Office has its fair share of permanent occupants. Thomas Jefferson used it as a drawing room and relaxed there, playing his violin. Mary Todd Lincoln once said to a friend, "My, how that Mr. Jefferson does play the violin." Of course, this was almost forty years after Jefferson died. During Truman's presidency, a White House guard heard a voice calling to him from an attic above the Oval Office. "I'm Mr. Burns," it said. A short time later, a reporter came upon the story of the original owner of the land. David Burns was dubbed "Obstinate Davy" by President Washington because he had not wanted to sell the land. Could his ill-tempered ghost still be seeking attention?

The burning of the White House during the War of 1812 inspired another legend. A British soldier, supposedly killed there with a torch in his hand, still haunts the house. During FDR's time, a valet recalled packing luggage for obviously upset visitors, eager to leave. The husband told him: "Somebody, my wife insists it was a ghost, was trying to set fire to our beds all night long."

Abraham Lincoln is the White House's most popular apparition. His form is often seen standing at the center window of the Oval Office, looking out toward Virginia, as he did during the Civil War. …

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