The paranormal has even surrounded the highest office in the U.S. - the presidency. From Washington to Lincoln to Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton, the unexplained has taken its place in the lives and fates of these powerful men.
The ghost of Abraham Lincoln is probably the most well-known paranormal phenomenon related to a U.S. president. Assassinated in 1865, Lincoln lives on in the White House, according to a variety of witnesses who claim to have heard and even seen the 16th president at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
* Lincoln's ghost seems to have been most active during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, perhaps because they were both in power at times of great war for the United States. During their 13-year occupancy of the White House, the Roosevelts used the former Lincoln bedroom as a study for Eleanor, the first lady. Although she never claimed to have seen Lincoln's spirit, Eleanor spoke of the sense of someone watching her as she worked in the room. She believed Lincoln was there with her.
* A young clerk in the Roosevelt White House claimed to have actually seen the ghost of Lincoln sitting on a bed and pulling off his boots.
While spending a night at the White House during the Roosevelt presidency, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was awakened by a knock on the bedroom door. Answering it, she was confronted with the ghost of Abe Lincoln staring at her from the hallway.
* Ever the gentleman, it seems, Lincoln knocked often. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman all reported hearing unexplained rappings on their bedroom doors. What made them think it was Lincoln is unknown.
* It's well known how Lincoln anguished over the horrors of the Civil War. His spirit may have continued worrying long after his death. Calvin Coolidge's wife reported seeing on several occasions the ghost of Lincoln standing with his hands clasped behind his back, at a window in the Oval Office, staring out in deep contemplation toward the bloody battlefields across the Pototmac.
* During one of Winston Churchill's visits to the United States during WW2, he spent the night in the White House. Churchill loved to retire late, take a long, hot bath while drinking a Scotch, and smoke a cigar and relax. On this occasion, he climbed out of the bath and naked, but for his cigar, walked into the adjoining bedroom. He was startled to see Abraham Lincoln standing by the fireplace in the room, leaning on the mantle. Churchill, always quick on the uptake, blinked and said "Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Lincoln smiled softly and disappeared. (Thanks to Mark McCarthy)
There haven't been any sightings of Lincoln since the Truman administration because, some believe, of the many renovations to the presidential home. Lincoln's ghost was not confined to the White House however. His spirit is said to have been seen walking near his gravesite in Springfield, Ill. Some also claim to have seen his ghostly funeral train many years after it carried his body back to Springfield. There are two trains, according to some witnesses, seen on the anniversary of that journey. The first train pulls a line of black-draped cars, and the second pulls just one flatbed car on which is the slain president's casket.
That Lincoln had a precognitive dream about his own untimely death is well documented. He related the dream to his close friend, Ward Hill Lamon:
"About ten days ago, I retired very late. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room. No living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds met me as I passed alone. I was puzzled and alarmed. Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room. Before me was a catafalque on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng or people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers. 'The president,' was his answer. 'He was killed by an assassin.'"
The Lincoln-Kennedy Connection
Besides being beloved (and despised) presidents who were both assassinated, the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy share a number of other astounding parallels and coincidences:
* Lincoln was elected on November 6, 1860; Kennedy was elected on November 8, 1960.
* Both had previously been members of Congress. Lincoln was first elected to Congress in 1846; Kennedy in 1946.
* After their assassinations, both men were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson - and both Johnsons were born 100 years apart: Andrew Johnson in 1808; Lyndon Johnson in 1908.
* Both men were killed on a Friday by shots to the head as their wives sat beside them.
* John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre and fled to barn; Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's accused killer, shot from a schoolbook warehouse and then fled to a movie theatre. Both assassins were killed before they could be brought to trial.
* Both assassinations were the result of conspiracies (even though the conspiracy surrounding Kennedy's death is still disputed by some).
* Lincoln was shot inside Ford's Theater; Kennedy was killed in a Lincoln limousine, made by the Ford Motor Company.
* Just as Lincoln foresaw his own death, Kennedy seemed to have a premonition of his death as well. Just a few hours before he was murdered in Dallas, John Kennedy told Jackie and Ken O'Donnell, his personal advisor: "If somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about it."
Kennedy also received other psychic warnings about his death. Psychic Jeanne Dixon advised the president that she foresaw his assassination as he traveled through the South. He also received a warning from his secretary that his trip to Dallas could have tragic consequences and urged him not to go. Her name was Evelyn Lincoln.
Washington's Vision of the Future
As the first president of the United States, the entire future of the nation lay before him. Washington, in fact, had a prophetic vision of America's fate during the harsh winter of 1777 after retreating to Valley Forge. The prophecy was eventually written down by writer Wesley Bradshaw and is said to foretell of three great perils that would befall the republic. Here are excerpts from that published vision as Washington related it:
"I do not know whether it is owing to the anxiety of my mind, but this afternoon, as I was sitting at this table engaged in preparing a dispatch, something in the apartment seemed to disturb me. Looking up, I beheld standing opposite me a singularly beautiful being. So astonished was I... that it was some moments before I found language to inquire the cause of the visit. A second, third, and even a fourth time did I repeat my question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor except a slight raising of the eyes.
"Gradually, the surrounding atmosphere seemed to fill with sensations and grew luminous. Everything about me seemed to rarify, the mysterious visitor also becoming more airy and yet more distinct to my sight than before.
[The First Peril]
"Presently, I heard a voice saying, 'Son of the Republic, look and learn,' while at the same time my visitor extended an arm eastward. I beheld a dark, shadowy being, like an angel, standing, or rather floating in mid-air between Europe and America. Dipping water out of the ocean in the hollow of each hand, he sprinkled some upon America with his right hand, while with his left he cast some over Europe. Immediately, a cloud arose from these countries and joined in mid-ocean... then it moved slowly westward until it enveloped America in its murky folds. Sharp flashes of lightning gleamed through... and I heard the smothered groans and cries of the American people. [Some have interpreted this as a vision of the Revolutionary War, then taking place.]
[The Second Peril]
"A second time the angel dipped water from the ocean and sprinkled it out as before. I cast my eyes upon America and beheld villages and towns and cities springing up one after another until the whole land from the Atlantic to the Pacific was dotted with them. From Africa I saw an ill-omened specter approach our land. The inhabitants presently set themselves in battle array against each other. I saw a bright angel on whose brow rested a crown of light on which was traced the word 'UNION.' He was bearing the American flag. He placed the flag between the divided nation and said, 'Remember, ye are brethren.' [This could obviously be interpreted as The Civil War.]
[The Third Peril]
"The dark, shadowy angel placed a trumpet to his mouth, and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he sprinkled it upon Europe, Asia and Africa. Then my eyes beheld a fearful scene. From each of these continents arose thick black clouds that were soon joined into one. And throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red light by which I saw hordes of armed men. These men, moving with the cloud, marched by land and sailed by sea to America, which country was enveloped in the volume of cloud. And I dimly saw these vast armies devastate the whole country and burn the villages, towns and cities which I had seen springing up. As my ears listened to the thundering of the cannon, clashing of the swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat, I again heard the mysterious voice saying, 'Son of the Republic, look and learn.' Where the voice had ceased, the dark shadowy angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth, and blew a long and fearful blast. Instantly a light as of a thousand suns shone down from above me, and pierced and broke into fragments the dark cloud which enveloped America. At the same moment the angel upon whose head still shown the word UNION, and who bore our national flag in one hand, and a sword in the other, descended from the heavens attended by, legions of white spirits. These immediately joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well-nigh overcome, but who immediately taking courage again, closed up their broken ranks and renewed the battle. Again, amid the fearful noise of the conflict I heard the mysterious voice saying, 'Son of the Republic, look and learn.' As the voice ceased, the shadowy angel for the last time dipped water from the ocean and sprinkled it upon America. Instantly the dark cloud rolled back, together with the armies it had brought, leaving the inhabitants of the land victorious." [Is this a prophecy of things yet to come for the U.S.?]
The Reagans and the Astrologer
Many regard the presidency of Ronald Reagan as one of the strongest of the 20th century. Yet it wasn't widely circulated until after he left office that the most powerful man on Earth and his influential wife, sought the advice of an astrologer on many occasions - even on matters of world importance.
Joan Quigley became Nancy Reagan's astrologer after the two met on "The Merv Griffin Show" in the 1970s and reportedly provided astrological advice during Reagan's bid for the Republican nomination in 1976. After reaching the White House, the Reagans sought Quigley's horoscope readings even more. Some of her alleged influences include:
* She devised elaborate horoscope charts that showed dates and times - down to the last minute - that were both good and bad for the president. Nancy would provide Quigley with the president's itinerary, she would calculate the times most advantageous for success, and then Nancy would pass along the scheduling requirements to the White House staff.
* She contributed to the timing of international summits, presidential announcements and even the flight schedule of Air Force One.
* Shortly after Reagan was shot by John Wayne Hinckley, Nancy learned through Merv Griffin that Quigley had told him that Reagan's chart showed that this would be a bad day for him. She could have warned him that his life was in danger. Of course, this was after the fact of the shooting.
* Nancy Reagan had special private phone lines installed in the White House and at Camp David expressly for talking to Quigley.
* "I was the Teflon in what came to be known as the Teflon presidency," Quigley later wrote, taking credit for the timing of his actions that would deflect criticism.
Hillary Goes into a Trance
In the book The Choice, Bob Woodward of Watergate fame describes how Hillary Rodham Clinton attended some mystical sessions with a New Age guru when Bill was first running for the presidency.
Mrs. Clinton, according to Woodward, had been friends with a psychic researcher named Jean Houston, who often wrote and lectured about the existence of unseen spirits of the dead. In 1995, during a séance in the White House solarium, the book says, Hillary sank into a trance and channeled the spirits of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi.
After Woodward's book broke this story, and fearing comparisons to Nancy Reagan and her astrologer, both Hillary and Houston downplayed the event. They said they were just imagined conversations and idea sessions.
No doubt, this is not the last that we'll see of a paranormal connection to the President of the United States.
A Few Other White House-Related Spooks
• A worker who was killed during construction of the rotunda of the Capital building has been seen floating around carrying a tray.
• President Harrison is said to be heard in the attic of the White House.
• President Andrew Jackson is thought to haunt his White House bedroom.
• The ghost of First Lady Abigail Adams was seen floating through one of the White House hallways, as if carrying something.
The Phantom Cats of Forewarning
A phantom black cat is said to be seen in the basement of the White House at the advent of some great national tragedy. A guard claimed to have seen it a week before the great stock market crash of the 1920s. It was also seen right before JFK died.
This "ghost of Lincoln" photo was created by William Mumler by an accidental double exposure, but started a series of fake "spirit photographs."