By far the most frequently reported sighting in the White House over the years has been the ghost–or at least the presence–of the celebrated 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, whose life was cut tragically short by an assassin’s bullet in April 1865. Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge (1923-29), was the first person to say she had actually seen Lincoln’s ghost. According to her, the lanky former president was standing looking out a window of the Oval Office, across the Potomac to the former Civil War battlefields beyond. Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson (1963-69), reportedly felt Lincoln’s presence one night while watching a television program about his death.
Most notably, sightings of Lincoln’s ghost were frequently reported during the long administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45), who also presided over his country during a time of great upheaval. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used the Lincoln Bedroom as her study, and said she would feel his presence when she worked there late at night. During her visit to the White House, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands heard a knock on her bedroom door in the night; when she answered it, she reportedly saw Lincoln’s ghost, wearing his top hat, and fainted dead away. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who visited the White House more than once during World War II, told a story of emerging naked from his evening bath smoking his customary cigar, only to find a ghostly Lincoln sitting by the fireplace in his room.
When Lillian Rogers Parks, the seamstress, once investigated the sound of someone pacing an upper level of the White House, another staff member told her the room in question had been unoccupied, and “that was old Abe pacing the floor.” Psychics have speculated that Lincoln’s spirit remains in the White House to be on hand in times of crisis, as well as to complete the difficult work that his untimely death left unfinished.