print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation

Ask the White House
Privacy Policy

Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Gary Walters
Gary Walters, Former Chief Usher

Click here for more stories
October 31, 2003

Gary Walters
Hi, good to be back. Glad to have the opportunity to take some questions today.

John, from Naperville writes:
I've heard that Queen Wilhemmina (sp?) saw the Lincoln ghost and passed out. Is that true?

Gary Walters
Yes, that story is out there, but there is no credible written record to support this story.

Andy, from Falls Church writes:
What have some of your colleagues told you?

Gary Walters
Most, who will say anything, suggest feeling a presence in certain rooms -- especially in the Lincoln Bedroom but few have claimed to actually see or be in the presence of a ghost.

Zoe, from Pearl River, NY writes:

Gary Walters
No, I haven't but I had an experience that I can't explain -- along with three other police officers. I was standing at the state floor of the White House adjacent to the staircase that comes up from the ground floor . 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.

We checked to see if there were some condition that may have caused the rush of air like others doors being opened or an air system starting and could find no evidence of any cause for the rush of air or the doors closing. This feeling of the passage of cold air has been related by other members of the staff through the years.

David, from Virginia writes:
You know what building looks scary to me is the Old Executive Office Building. Is that building haunted too?

Gary Walters
Although I don't work in the Old Executive Office building I have heard that people working overnight especially in the early moring have seen images in the hall but there hasn't been any confirmation to my knowledge.

Gale, from Rawlings writes:
Have you ever had calls from professional Ghostbusters that want examine the house?

Gary Walters
Not from professional ghostbusters but from those who are interested in unexplained phenomena who are interested in writing a book or an article on haunted houses or old buildings. They are not granted access.

Jeanette, from Johnson City writes:
Did Mrs. Lincoln have seances in the White House?

Gary Walters
Yes, she was said to try and recall the spirit of their dead son Willie who died in the White House during his father's Presidency. After Willie's death, Mrs. Lincoln was seated at a table and held the seance in the green room to try and contact Willie's spirit.

David, from Boston writes:
Are the supposed ghosts at the White House usually friendly?

Gary Walters
Absolutely. 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. That is a positive ghost story!

Steve, from Gary, Indiana writes:
Have most of your staff experienced ghost sightings?

Gary Walters
Not most , but some claim to have had some feeling of contact with spirits of previous presidents. A number of the staff have related their personal experiences and we recorded some of their experiences. Click here to go to the White House ghosts page.

Theresa, from LA writes:
Is the White House spooky at night?

Gary Walters
Absolutely. 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. In the Carter Administration, when Amy Carter's cat Misty ran out from under a chair as I was turning out the lights for the night, it scared me to death.

Michael, from Bay area writes:
I've heard that Andrew Jackson haunts the White House. What is this legend?

Gary Walters
Legend has it that Mary Lincoln reported hearing him walk around the halls of the White House and supposedly swearing up a storm.

Tom, from Buffalo Falls writes:
I've never heard the Dolly Madison ghost story. What is it?

Gary Walters
Another popular legend is that of Dolley Madison coming back during the Wilson Administration when Mrs. Wilson wanted the rose garden dug up. Dolley's ghost arrived, supposedly, and told them not to disturb her garden.

Jenna, from DC writes:
Has President Bush ever seen a ghost in the White House?

Gary Walters
If he has, he hasn't told me.

Ruben, from Gaithersburg, MD writes:
Have you heard about any ghosts from the press haunting the White House? Ghost reporters trying to get their story from days of old.

Gary Walters
I'm certain there have been many ghost writers about the White House but how many of them were from the press I don't have any idea.

Scott, from DC writes:
Ghosts in the White House??? Say it ain't so Do you feel the ghosts tend to float left or right, ideologically speaking of course?

Gary Walters
I can't say it ain't so. There have been many people who claim there are ghosts and to our knowledge they've all been right down the center.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
What is the spookiest story or legend of the White House?

Gary Walters
The spookiest story I'm aware of is the one related by Mr. Tony Savoy who works here in the White House and claims to have seen President Lincoln. The video is on the White House ghosts page. Click here.

Matt, from Ohio writes:
Are ghosts real?

Gary Walters
I've never had the opportunity to ask one.

KC, from Alexandria, VA writes:
Hi Gary, my questions is has anyone ever captured any of the fabled White House ghosts on film or video? With as many press cameras there maybe someone has caught a glimpse or something resembling a ghost.

Gary Walters
To my knowledge, you are not able to capture ghosts on film or see them in a mirror. So no I don't believe anybody has.

Nick, from Sykesville, MD writes:
Do British ghosts of War of 1812 vintage ever show up?

Gary Walters
There is a story of a British soldier who died on the White House grounds during the war of 1812 in 1814 when the White House was burnt by the British. 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.

Eric, from Omaha, Nebraska writes:
Hi Mr. Walters Happy Halloween. Have any of the members of the current or past first families seenfelt ghosts? Thanks for your time today.

Gary Walters
I can't answer for the families, but I know some of them have certainly felt a presence of former presidents at the White House. Mrs. Carter played a trick on her daughter one halloween. She had some friends over to spend the night in the Lincoln's bedroom to look for Lincoln's ghost. Mrs. Carter and one of the maids covered themselves with sheets and burst in to the room to the young girls screams.

Alex, from Grayslake, Illinois writes:
Hi Mr. Walters, Do you think there are any kind of supernatural entities in the White House? If so, which historical Americans?

Gary Walters
Once again, all of the presidents that I've had the honor of working for have said they have a kindred spirit with the past presidents who have lived in the house and certainly have talked about the feelings that they have personally with those spirits and how they've affected their lives at the White House.

Max, from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania writes:
Has anyone ever roller skated within the White House?

Gary Walters
Yes, Amy Carter in the East Room on the wood floors with a couple of her friends but that didn't have anything to do with Halloween.

Bob, from Ohio writes:
What is the spookiest area of the White House?

Gary Walters
I believe the spookiest area of the White House could certainly be also the most endearing and that would be the family's private quarters. When we turn off the lights at night, the house is dark and every sound resounds through the halls.

Lindsey, from USA writes:
Do you believe the ghosts are real? Are you going to dress up tonight?

Gary Walters
I can't really say whether ghosts are real or not. I stopped dressing up a few years ago at my own home. I would put on a very scary mask and answer the door to hand out candy and one night I opened the door on two very small children who left without getting their candy screaming for their parents. So I think tonight I will let my wife answer the door.

Aaron, from Vermont writes:
As Chief Usher, in your travels throughtout the White House have you found any secret passageways? Have you heard of any stories of secret underground tunnels that were once used by the President in case of an emergency? Have ever witnessed any paranormal activity while working at the White House? Thank you for your time.

Gary Walters
There are no secret passageways at the White House. Many families have lived here and if they were secret , someone would have talked about them by now. Reference once again my story on the web site for my encounter with paranormal activity.

sarah, from winter writes:
are you a ghost

Gary Walters
my family thinks so.

Bob, from Scranton, Pennsylvania writes:
Have there been any sightings of the ghosts of recent Presidents who have past away in recent years and have returned to visit the White House from the great beyond.

Gary Walters
I'm not aware of any.

Jeremy, from Brooklyn, NY writes:
Mr. Walters, Have you or your staff ever found some sort of artifact or document that had long been forgotten or missing? By the way, just between you, me and the few million people who visit this website every day, how many ghosts have you seen?

Gary Walters
Yes, as with many old structures, when you perform maintenance, you open up some cavities in the wall or the floor and from time to time, we will find old newspapers, or notes left by previous workers and sometimes alcohol bottles that were hidden in the walls and covered up many years ago. All of these are past along to the curators of the White House to document these activites that may be noted by these artifacts.

In fact, when we replaced the floor in the State Dining Room some years ago, when we removed the floor planks and looked on the reverse side, we found them stamped with words that indicated the wood was processed in occupied Japan which would have sent President Truman on a ghost trip.

Richard, from Europe writes:
Has Frankenstein ever visited the White House? If so, did he scare the Secret Service?

Gary Walters
The Secret Service is a very efficient security and they've kept Dr. Frankenstein at bay.

Walt, from Fla writes:
Do you want to run the Haunted Mansion at Disney World?

Gary Walters
No, Mr. Disney. No interest, thank you.

Cary, from Birmingham, Michigan writes:
Is there a ghost that haunts the oval office? If so, who? And when does this ghost haunt?

Gary Walters
We have not heard of any ghost stories or related activities in the Oval Office.

Tom, from Boston College, Massachusetts writes:
Mr. Walters, Give everyone at the White House my regards from Boston College; love the work that you all are doing for the Country. Keep it up Based on your experience, or from what you've heard, which of our Presidents has been most scared of the White House Ghost stories? Thanks, Tom

Gary Walters
Likewise Tom, please give my regards to my daughter who is a senior at Boston College. Presidents aren't scared of ghosts. They may have some thoughts about ghost-writers but I'm not aware of any who are scared of ghosts.

The presidents that I've had an opportunity to serve from Nixon forward have all remarked about their personal feelings of sharing the same space as previous residents back to John Adams. The presidents talk about walking the same halls as Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jackson, etc. and the bonds that they share through their common experiences.

Cale, from Singapore writes:
What is the Secret Service protocol should the President ever meet a ghost? Does it involve bulletproof vests or vials of holy water?

Gary Walters
I refer you to the Secret Service information officer as I'm not aware of the specifics in the security area.

Davis, from Wynnewood writes:
In school I learned that the White House was burned. Does any fire damage still show?

Gary Walters
Yes, it is true. The British came through Washington in 1814 during the war of 1812 and burned all of the federal buildings in Washington, including the White House. A number of years ago, when we started a restoration project of the exterior stone walls of the residence, we were amazed to find scorch marks around the windows and doors that were deep into the stone and were obviously part of the damage from this fire in 1814.

davis, from ontgomery writes:
what is in the lincoln bedroom now?

Gary Walters
What is now known as the Lincoln bedroom was actually President Lincoln’s office and cabinet room. It was President Truman who decided to move many items from the Lincoln Administration into this room including the grand bedroom suite that was purchased by the Lincolns and that is how this room has become the Lincoln Bedroom.

Gary Walters
Thank you for all your interesting and haunting questions. Hope everyone has a good day. Trick or treat.