Ghost Stories Haunt
The White House


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The White House at night is a dark and spooky place, haunted, according to legend, by ghosts of dead presidents and a former British soldier.
"It is a big old house, and when the lights are out it is dark and quiet and any movement at all catches your attention," longtime White House chief usher Gary Walters said on Friday during a Halloween chat session on the White House Web site
President Bush, who was spending Halloween at his Texas ranch, has never reported seeing a ghost, Walters said. But recent presidents have felt the presence of their predecessors, he said.
"The presidents that I have worked for have all indicated a feeling of the previous occupants of the White House and have all talked about drawing strength from the fact that the previous presidents have lived here," he said.
The spookiest area of the White House is probably the president's living area, Walters said. "Every sound resounds through the halls."
He declined to discuss any measures to protect the president from a malevolent ghost.
"I refer you to the Secret Service information officer, as I'm not aware of the specifics in the security area," he said.
The White House has long had a reputation for being haunted -- most famously by the ghost of former President Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln's wife, Mary, reportedly heard the ghost of Andrew Jackson "swearing up a storm," Walters said.
Other stories of the supernatural related by Walters included a seance by Mary Lincoln to recall the spirit of their dead son, Willie.
When the wife of President Woodrow Wilson wanted to dig up the rose garden, legend has it that the spirit of former first lady Dolley Madison appeared and warned them not to disturb her garden, Walters said.
"There is a story of a British soldier who died on the White House grounds ... in 1814 when the White House was burned by the British," Walters said. "It is said that some people have seen a British soldier with a torch in his hand, although I have no personal knowledge of this story."
Walters said several staff members have had eerie experiences and he described one he shared with three police officers.
"I was standing at the state floor of the White House. ... The police officers and I felt a cool rush of air pass between us and then two doors that stand open closed by themselves. I have never seen these doors move before without somebody specifically closing them by hand. It was quite remarkable."
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