10 White House ghost stories that will send a chill down your spine

The White House decorated with cobwebs for Halloween.
The White House decorated with cobwebs for Halloween. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
  • White House occupants, staff, and visitors have reported ghost sightings and paranormal activity.
  • First families and world leaders have reported seeing Abraham Lincoln’s ghost.
  • George W. Bush’s daughters say they heard opera singing and 1920s music coming from a fireplace.
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White House staff have reported seeing the ghost of first lady Abigail Adams hanging laundry to dry in the East Room.
Abigail Adams portrait.
Abigail Adams. Stock Montage/Getty Images
Staff have also reported smelling wet clothes and lavender laundry soap in addition to the ghost sightings, according to the White House Historical Association.
President Abraham Lincoln has become known simply as “The White House Ghost,” with frequent sightings over the years.
Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln. Mathew B. Brady:The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
First ladies Grace Coolidge, Lady Bird Johnson, and Jacqueline Kennedy, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands all said they encountered the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, or felt his presence, in the White House.

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt also reported feeling Lincoln’s presence as she worked in her office in the Lincoln Bedroom, as if he were peering over her shoulder. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s valet once ran screaming from the White House after seeing Lincoln’s ghost, writes Dennis William Hauck in “Haunted Places: The National Directory.”

First lady Mary Todd Lincoln held séances in the Red Room of the White House and is said to have communed with President Andrew Jackson’s ghost.
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Lincoln reported hearing Jackson swearing and stomping through the Executive Residence.
There have also been reported sightings of the ghost of the Lincolns’ son Willie, who died when he was 12 years old.
A sketch of Willie Lincoln, son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.
Willie Lincoln. Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Willie Lincoln died of typhoid fever in 1862. In the 1870s, staff of President Ulysses Grant said they saw his ghost in the White House.
President Andrew Jackson is said to haunt the Rose Room, where he used to sleep.
Andrew Jackson
President Andrew Jackson. traveler1116/Getty Images
Jackson has reportedly been spotted lying in his old bed and heard laughing.
William Henry Harrison, who was the first president to die in the White House, was said to haunt the attic, which is now the third floor.
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison. Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images
Harrison was president for just 31 days before his death in 1841. His ghost is said to have been heard moving around the attic of the White House. In 1927, the attic was renovated and turned into an expansion of the Executive Residence.
President Harry Truman reported several instances of paranormal activity during his time in the White House.
Harry Truman
President Harry Truman. Getty Images
In June 1945, Truman wrote to his wife, Bess, about life in the White House during the first two months of his term.

“I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches — all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study,” he wrote. “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].”

In 1946, he wrote Bess another letter after he heard a knock on his bedroom door but no one was there.

“I jumped up and put on my bathrobe, opened the door, and no one there,” he wrote. “Went out and looked up and down the hall, looked in your room and Margie’s. Still no one. Went back to bed after locking the doors and there were footsteps in your room whose door I’d left open. Jumped and looked and no one there! The damned place is haunted sure as shootin’. Secret Service said not even a watchman was up here at that hour … You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off.”

When President Ronald Reagan’s dog Rex began barking at the doorway of the Lincoln Bedroom, he suspected a ghostly visitor.
President Ronald and first lady Nancy Reagan hold their dog Rex.
President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan with Rex. Pete Souza/Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images
At a 1986 state dinner, Reagan told guests that Rex had barked at the entrance to the Lincoln Bedroom and refused to go inside. Reagan’s daughter and son-in-law also reported seeing ghostly figures in the bedroom.
President George W. Bush’s daughters, Jenna and Barbara, heard opera singing and 1920s piano music coming out of a fireplace in their bedroom.
Jenna and Barbara Bush in 2012.
The daughters of President George W Bush, Jenna (left) and Barbara. Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images
“We knew that if anyplace was haunted, it was this house, but we tried to rationalize it,” Jenna wrote in her 2017 memoir with Barbara, “Sisters First.”

When White House butler Buddy Carter asked the girls how they slept, they told him about the mysterious singing and music that they heard.

“‘Oh, Ms. Jenna, I believe you. You wouldn’t believe what I have seen and heard over the years.’ Buddy hasn’t yet told me his ghost stories, but I keep hoping,” she wrote.

First lady Michelle Obama said that she and President Barack Obama once heard noises coming from the hallway outside their room.
President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama on Halloween in 2015.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
She also said that family members felt an odd sensation as if someone was gnawing at their feet — perhaps the ghost of a White House pet.