First Lady Mary Lincoln held seances in the White House hoping to communicate with her dead sons, Eddie and Willie. What she did not reckon with was hearing what she identified as the ghost of President Andrew Jackson
cursing and stomping around the White House. Given Mary Lincoln's subsequent confinement to a mental institution one might tend to dismiss her claims were it not for the reports from others about hearing Jackson's laugh in the Rose Room (now the Queen's Room) where Jackson slept. And then there are the stories of one area on the canopy bed in the Queen's Bedroom that is always cold.
As the calendar approaches the spookiest day of the year and the White House prepares to host young trick-or-treaters on Halloween night there continues to be speculation whether or not there is a ghostly presence in the White House--that of President Abraham Lincoln. There have been many people, residents and visitors alike, who believe the answer to that question is "yes". Guests such as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands reported sightings of Lincoln. Queen Wilhelmina apparently was so startled she fainted. For the most part, people report sightings of his image in the Lincoln Bedroom, although during his administration Lincoln used the room as his office and Cabinet meeting room.
First Lady Grace Coolidge claimed that she saw Lincoln gazing out the window. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower remarked that they felt Lincoln's presence in the room. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said: "Sometimes when I worked at my desk late at night I'd get a feeling that someone was standing behind me. I'd have to turn around and look." Through the years, White House maids and butlers claimed they saw ghostly images of Lincoln. Even President Reagan's dog reacted by barking outside the bedroom but never entering it. Archibald Butt talked about a different ghostly presence in his memoir "Taft and Roosevelt: The Intimate Letters of Archie Butt, Military Aide", vol. 2, Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1930. He relates a ghostly tale from a White House housekeeper of seeing a young boy "I should think about fourteen or fifteen" from the housekeeper's description that "has been felt more than seen...... and caused such fright among the servants." Could this ghostly presence be Willie Lincoln, President Lincoln's son who died in the Lincoln Bedroom? First Lady Mary Lincoln did hold seances in the White House to try and get in touch with him. Are there even more ghosts haunting the White House? Check back this week to find out more.
Now that the government shutdown is over, the White House will open the grounds for the annual Fall Garden tours this weekend, Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27. Visitors will be able to view the Rose Garden, First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden, the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden (pictured at left) and the South Lawn. Tickets will be available beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day on a first-come, first serve basis at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion located at 15th and E streets. A 24-hour information line (202) 456-7041 will be open so visitors can check the status of the tours in case of inclement weather. If you have never visited the White House this is an opportunity to see what things are like on the other side of the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Please be aware that security checks will be in place and there are some items not permitted on the grounds. Consult this list for details.
Forms of Identification:
All guests 18 years of age or older will be required to present a valid, government-issued photo identification (detailed below). All foreign nationals must present their passport. All other forms of foreign identification will not be accepted.
All information submitted (e.g. name, date of birth, city, etc.) must exactly match the government-issued photo ID you will present when arriving at the White House.
The following forms of photo ID are acceptable for presentation to the Secret Service upon entry to the White House complex:
Valid government-issued United States identification card (e.g. drivers license, military ID, etc.) Valid United States or other official government-issued passports
No other forms of identification will be accepted; photocopies, expired IDs, or other transmissions of these documents are NOT valid. Prohibited Items
Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, the following:
Cameras or Video Recorders Handbags, book bags, backpacks or purses Food or beverages, tobacco products, personal grooming items (i.e. makeup, lotion, etc.) Strollers Any pointed objects Aerosol containers Guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size
The U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to prohibit any other personal items. Umbrellas, wallets, car keys, and cell phones (including those with cameras) are permitted. However, guests will not be allowed to use cell phones inside the White House. Phones used inside the White House may be confiscated by US Secret Service.
Please note that no storage facilities are available on or around the complex. Individuals who arrive with prohibited items will not be permitted to enter the White House.
President Obama has been receiving daily email devotionals from Joshua Dubois, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who started the ritual of sending the President short Christian reflections during the 2008 presidential campaign and has kept up the practice ever since. Three hundred and sixty-five of them are contained in Dubois' book "The President's Devotional". Dubois stated in an article this week in TIME that his purpose in sending the emails was to help President Obama "grow closer to God and cultivate his relationship with Christ." Dubois also is quoted in the article saying that the President is" a "committed Christian and so am I." (Photo by: official White House photographer Pete Souza)
Lest you think President Obama and White House operations are not affected by the Federal government shutdown, this recent New York Times article points out it is not business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Making do is the order of the day since more than 1,200 of the 1,700 people employed by the White House have been furloughed.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are observing their 38th wedding anniversary today. When Bill proposed to Hillary she said she needed time to think about it. He informed her that he would not ask her again so the story goes. Two years later Hillary apparently made up her mind and the wedding took place on October 11, 1975.
At the end of President George Washington's term in 1797 the Capitol building was still unfinished as was the White House. Jefferson's Republican party thought the White House was a "folly" and Congress threatened to use it as their base of operations or house the Supreme Court there. President Washington would have none of it and insisted that what citizens called "the president's house" be just that. "I require it" he wrote. Although George Washington never lived in the White House he was the grand overseer and visionary of the project, tinkering with the design, and viewing the building's progress as he traveled back and forth from the capital in Philadelphia to his home at Mount Vernon.
It seems hard to believe that, until the 1950s, food in the White House main kitchen was prepared in fireplaces. Even though the location of the main kitchen on the ground floor of the White House has not changed since the 19th century nothing else remains the same. The kitchen is now a model of efficiency with six ovens, a 16-foot stove, eight refrigerators, five dishwashers, a soup kettle, meat grinder, a 30-gallon ice cream freezer and a deep fryer. The kitchen pantry is equipped with two dumbwaiters that lift the food up to the butler's pantry on the first floor where the State Dining Room is located. All this equipment assures that the staff can turn out food for a 5-course State dinner of 135 people served in exactly 55 minutes, or prepare appetizers for 1,000 people.
The White House employs five chefs to oversee all this activity and also prepare meals for the President and his family. And, there is a Chocolate Shop where the White House pastry chef works his magic creating chocolate confections and other pastries.