'Tis the season. If a good ghost story floats your bones, The Civil War spawned a plethora of hauntings. One of our most famous players in the conflict seems equally famous, undead.
It's hard to keep a good man down.
Our most famous ghost ( with his own Wiki page ), whose death dates from those awful years was arguably the last and most famous casualty of the war. President Abraham Lincoln, shot in the back ( by a coward ), seems to not have taken his death very seriously. Despite his official status as deceased, Lincoln makes regular appearances in a few of his residences as well as riding a phantom train through an Ohio town.
Grant's staff claimed to have seen Lincoln's ghost as early as his administration and we've heard of Churchill's encounter, taken at a disadvantage without his clothing while visiting the Executive Mansion- which Churchill pointed out to him. Fresh from a bath, Winston came face to face with the former resident. You couldn't flap old Winnie. Lincoln apparently liked the witticism, smiling before fading back into legend.
In case anyone feels Churchill may have been pickled at the time or dreaming, Grace Coolidge got a good eyeful of Lincoln in the Oval Office, looking out a window. And there's Harry Truman's ( archived ) letter to his wife... 1946. Someone knocked on his bedroom door.
“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 ****ed 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.”
Ronald Reagan's dog refused to go into Lincoln's bedroom. He'd bark at the door but nope- you couldn't bribe Rex to go in there.
Jerry Smith was a 25 year employee of the White House who claimed renovations scared Lincoln's ghost away- he said Lincoln was a regular visitor, saw him frequently and bemoaned the changes seeming to prevent him from coming back.
Mary Eban, of Eleanor Roosevelt's staff, screamed until the Secret Service arrived on the scene. She'd just encountered Abraham Lincoln on his bed, pulling on boots. Mrs. Roosevelt, in 1932 said “I get a distinct feeling that there is somebody in the room,” her chosen office being
On a White House visit, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands answered a knock on her bedroom door , saw Lincoln’s top hatted ghost, and fainted. Lincoln was nothing if not fond of a joke.
The Lincolns escaped the summer heat of 1862, 1863 and 1864 by moving to what is now The Armed Forces Retirement Home, built in 1842, established as Soldier's Rest, in the 1850's. Visitors strolling the grounds report seeing a tall man ( and that hat ) conversing with a bearded man, exchanging bows. They'll fade ( like any self respecting ghosts ) when approached. The thing is, poet and Civil War nurse Walt Whitman was a very frequent visitor- in 1876 Whitman left us this, from his time spent nursing wounded there.
Grounds of Soldier's Rest during the war, Washington, DC
“Mr. Lincoln generally rides a good-sized easy-going gray horse, is dressed in plain black, somewhat rusty and dusty; wears a black stiff hat, and looks about as ordinary in attire, &c., as the commonest man…I saw very plainly the President’s dark brown face, with the deep cut lines, the eyes, &c., always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression. We have got so that we always exchange bows, and very cordial ones. "
1865, April 29, Lincoln's funeral train arrived in Columbus, Ohio. Lincoln’s body was displayed in the state rotunda for twelve hours, fifty thousand people paid their respects.
Engine ' Nashville ', at the head of Lincoln's funeral train.
Stories of a ghostly train began appearing along the path of the funeral train, almost immediately. Said to be crewed by skeletons with a skeleton honor guard standing over the casket, the sound of the train’s whistle could be heard, the stack appearing through mists. One station reports sighting the train stationary, at the siding where the funeral stopped- and for minutes at a time, not just the usual ghostly flash. Crossing guards at one junction mysteriously drop, no malfunction to be found, nothing on the tracks.
Yes, yes, scoffers please note- it's not necessary to throw cold water all over the topic- we know you're out there with a bucket. It's Halloween.