Monday, November 24, 2014

The Attic Ghosts of the White House

Today, Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State Facebook page is devoted to the hauntings of the White House!  Staying with that theme, today's blog post is dedicated to just one of the many, many ghosts associated with our nation's capitol!


1927 construction of the third floor residential areas
When construction of The White House was completed, it came complete with a traditional third floor attic space.  Accessible only by ladder, the majority of the space was used as storage, but there were several small servant bedrooms that were initially created as space for Zachary Taylor's slaves. During Abraham Lincoln's presidency, it was a favorite place for his children to play.  It wasn't until 1902 that a staircase was added, along with several more rooms used as guest bedrooms, clothing storage, ironing, etc.

Each subsequent president did a little more work to the attic space until 1927 when a major renovation took place, turning the traditional attic into a more modern residential living space.  Many paranormal enthusiasts will be quick to point out that renovations often have a way of stirring up paranormal activity and that seems to be true in this case because even though the dark, dank attic was now transformed into a pleasant living area, the ghost stories could not be deterred.

William H. Harrison
The main ghost of the White House attic seems to be that of our ninth president, William Henry Harrison.  Harrison passed away from pneumonia on April 4, 1841--only serving 32 days in office.  Unexplained noises coming from the attic, especially over the area of the Yellow Oval Room, have been attributed to Harrison, who seems to be rummaging through the storage area, looking for something.  Harrison has even been SEEN in the attic.  Witnesses report that his apparition appears to take on a blue glow, and that the sounds of his hacking cough often accompany his sightings. 

William Henry Harrison may not be the ONLY ghost that roams the attic, though.  In 1790, David Burns, the original owner of the White House property, was forced to give up his land in order to build the iconic presidential home.  He would die nine years later, apparently carrying a chip on his shoulder throughout his afterlife. FDR's valet may have been the first person to publicly come forward with his encounter with David Burns.  He had heard someone say his name, and when he turned to see who it was, there was no one there.  However, he heard a loud voice in his ear say, "I am Mr. Burns."

Ten years later, a security guard working under the Truman administration also heard the voice saying "I am Mr. Burns," and assumed it was the voice of James Byrnes, Secretary of State.  The voice has been heard in the Yellow Oval Room, which at one time served as Abraham Lincoln's library (and isquite haunted in its own right), seemingly coming from the attic above...but its also been heard in the attic as well, especially in the area over the Yellow Oval Room.

What is President Harrison looking for so intently and will he ever find it...and why has David Burn chosen the attic and the Yellow Oval Room as his favorite spots to haunt?  Until paranormal investigators are allowed in and allowed to publish their findings, we may never know.

White House Museum-The Third Floor
Mr. Lincoln's White House
David Burns from Washington Oddities


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