While there’s no word on whether there were s’mores present, Girl Scout troops from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Oklahoma camped out at our nation’s capital Tuesday night for the first time in history.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) July 1, 2015
Little did they know, they were visiting one of the most haunted places in America. Cue the flashlight.
The First Couple invited a group of Girl Scouts to camp out in their backyard in an endorsement of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside campaign. The initiative is a subset of the Let’s Move program, encouraging young people to exercise more in the great outdoors.
The Obamas joined the Girl Scouts for stories and songs around the campfire. The president reportedly told the girls they sounded “pretty good,” pointing out that Michelle was “rocking out” to the music.
As heavy rain and lightning storms rolled into Washington, D.C., the girls were forced to take shelter on this dark and stormy night in a conference room in the office building located next to the White House. While no word yet on what ghost stories were told, Obama had lots of material to work with.
According to the White House Ghost Stories compiled by the White House Historical Association in October, there have been regular sightings of more than 10 ghostly apparitions since the late 1860s.
Mary Todd Lincoln, for one, was known to participate in “spirit circles or séances” in the Red Room of the White House, in an attempt to contact her son, Willie, who died. According to the White House Historical Association’s report, “spiritualism was wildly popular during the height of the Civil War as families sought comfort for the loss of loved ones.”
Dozens of White House inhabitants and visitors have also claimed to have seen her husband, Abraham Lincoln, in the Lincoln Bedroom (formerly a meeting room during his presidency, where he signed the Emancipation Proclamation) and Yellow Oval Room.
As reported by Ancestry.com, Winston Churchill took a long bath, after which, he exited to the adjoining bedroom (naked, carrying a cigar), where he encountered President Lincoln leaning against the fireplace. “Good evening, Mr. President,” Churchill said to him. “You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” Lincoln reportedly smiled before disappearing into thin air.
Churchill never stayed in this bedroom again.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the other creepy occurrences at the White House according to the White House Historical Association’s report:
- Andrew Jackson’s laugh has echoed around the White House and the surrounding grounds since the late 1800s.
- Thomas Jefferson also plays his violin in the Yellow Oval Room, while Dolley Madison guards her Rose Garden (she first appeared after First Lady Ellen Wilson tried to dig up the roses in the early 1900s).
- John Tyler, the tenth president of the United States, haunts the Blue Room. Here, he often proposes to his second wife, Julia Gardner.
- William Henry Harrison, famous for being the first president to die in the White House, frequents the attic. According to an article published on Listverse, it’s located right above the Oval Office and many presidents have cited unexplained noises coming from upstairs.
- While Abigail Adams is busying hanging laundry in the East Room, Anna Surratt bangs on the front door of the White House, begging to see President Johnson. She is pleading with him to pardon her mother, Mary Surratt, for her crimes as a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination.
- An unnamed British soldier, who is said to have died in the War of 1812, also circles the White House grounds, carrying a torch.
- David Burnes, who owned the land where the White House was built (and who was later forced to sell to the federal government), is often seen or heard in the Yellow Oval Room.
- There’s also a demonic cat that lives in the basement of the White House. The closer you get in proximity to the animal, the larger and more ferocious it becomes. Though it’s rarely seen, this feline foreshadows a national disaster. “A White House guard saw it a week before the stock market crash of 1929 and it was also reportedly seen before Kennedy’s assassination in 1963,” says the Huffington Post.
Girl Scout troops take note: these are what scary stories are made of.
Illustration by Max Fleishman