Tuesday, November 8, 2016

HGB Ep. 162 - The White House

Moment in Oddity - The Doppelganger of Emilie Sagee
Suggested by: Michael Rogers

Many of you paranormal aficionados know what a doppelganger is, but for those of you who do not, it is either someone who looks like somebody else or the ghost of a living person. Seeing a doppelganger generally is bad luck. Emilie Sagee was a teacher in the 19th century in the country of Latvia. Julie von Güldenstubbe was a student of Emilie Sagée and she told an unbelievable tale to American writer Robert Dale Owen who wrote it down. One day in class, all of Emilie's 13 students saw a woman who looked exactly like her standing at the blackboard mimicking the moves of Emilie. The teacher was completely unaware of her doppelganger being there. Later, when Emilie was in the garden working, her students saw her doppelganger sitting at the desk. Some have reasoned that Emilie was able to project herself in some way, possibly just by her will. For example, as she worked in the garden, she thought to herself that she really should be in the classroom to keep the kids from mischief. Is this why her doppelganger appeared in the classroom while she was in the garden? The dobbelganger appeared several times and Emilie claimed that she never saw it, but she did say that she felt drained when it was nearby. If this doppelganger story is true, than it certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Assassination Attempt on Hitler at Burgerbraukeller

On this day, November 8th, in 1939, Georg Elser attempts to assassinate Adolph Hitler at the Burgerbraukeller. Sixteen years before, Hitler had launched the Beer Hall Putsch from Burgerbraukeller, which was one of the largest beer halls and located in Munich, Germany. This was a failed coup and resulted in the arrest of Hitler for treason. But it started the Nazi movement that would eventually come to power and install Hitler as Chancellor in 1933. Because of this, Hitler would return to this location every year to commemorate the Beer Hall Putsch. Georg Elser knew this and planted a time bomb inside a pillar of the beer hall. The bomb did go off and killed eight people and injured 57. But Hitler had cut his speech short and he had already left by the time the bomb exploded. Elser was arrested and executed for the assassination attempt.

The White House (Suggested by Bob Sherfield and April Rogers-Krick, Research Assistance April Rogers-Krick)

For over two hundred years, a building called simply "The White House" has housed the most important leader in the United States of America, the President.The structure that sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue today is not the original. And even after being rebuilt, it has been transformed throughout the decades both outside and inside. Despite the changes, the White House has always been a symbol of the great republic that America is and how seamlessly leadership is transferred from one presidency to the next. Running alongside the regular history of this building is a supernatural one. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the White House.

After the Revolutionary War, in 1790, Congress established a federal district to be the center of the government and called it Washington, D.C. They chose a spot along the Potomac River that was between the northern and southern states. George Washington was president and he asked French Architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant to survey the area and design a complete city. L'Enfant was presented with a blank canvas and he relished the opportunity. He arrived in Georgetown in March of 1791 and designed an ambitious city. Thomas Jefferson did not like the plan and preferred a design he came up with that was more simple. Washington liked L'Enfant's design that was a mall that would be open to all the people. And the White House would be more than just the President's house, it would be the people's house.

L'Enfant envisioned a palace for the President. President Washington hand picked the site for the White House. As the construction of Washington, D.C. began, L'Enfant got into numerous conflicts with builders and refused to allow any compromises. Before long, he was fired for insubordination. Someone else needed to be hired as architect for the White House. A competition was held in 1792 and several architects submitted designs. A design submitted by Irish-born architect James Hoban was chosen. Hoban was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1758 and immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina in 1785. He moved to the nation's capitol after winning the competition and spent the rest of his life there, even serving as a member of the City Council from 1802-1831. The house was built from Aquia Creek sandstone painted white.

After eight years of construction, President John Adams and his wife Abigail, finally moved into the unfinished house in 1800.  Thomas Jefferson became President in 1801 and moved into the house. He had architect Benjamin Latrobe add colonnades on each wing that helped conceal the stables and storage located there. During the war of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C. On August 24, 1814, they broke into the White House, ate the meal prepared for the President and set fire to the White House. Most of the building was a total loss as were many of the buildings in the city. President Madison urged Congress to rebuild the buildings right there and not move the government to another city.

James Hoban was appointed to rebuild the house. Hoban had the walls dismantled down to the basement level., except for the middle section and he held onto the carved ornamentation even though they had scorch marks. While it took ten years to build the original house, the rebuild took only three years. President James Monroe moved into the building in 1817.  Benjamin Latrobe drew up proposals for a north and south portico to be added to the house. During Monroe’s administration, in 1824, the South Portico was constructed. In 1829, President Andrew Jackson oversaw the construction on the North Portico. They were both constructed from Seneca sandstone that was quarried in Maryland.

Once these porticos were finished, the White House we see today was completed. In 1829, Andrew Jackson furnished the East Room for the first time. Offices were moved as the 19th century brought in presidential families with children and more living space was needed. The ground floor was a utilitarian basement area that housed the servants living quarters, storage rooms, kitchens, a furnace and workspaces. President James K. Polk ordered that a statue of Jefferson by French sculptor Pierre Jean David d Angers be set up on the front lawn of the White House in 1848. The statue stood in the center of the lawn, which was cut and rolled and seasonally decorated with flower beds. This garden was the people's garden and open to the public every day. This statue of Jefferson was moved to the Capitol building in 1873.

President James Buchanan was elected in 1857. He was unmarried and his niece served as First Lady and she urged him to add a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the west terrace that was adjacent to the State Dining Room. It was a garden wonderland that guests could visit until it burned in 1867 and was replaced by an iron and wood structure twice as large as the earlier one. President Chester Arthur transformed the interior of the White House drastically when his presidency began in 1881. Twenty-four wagon loads of furniture were transported away from the house. Interior Decorator Louis Tiffany added his touches, which featured artistic painting and many surfaces were transformed with his decorative patterns and then there was his trademark colored glass. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt was elected President. The White House had been referred to by various names ranging from the "Executive Mansion" to the "President's House"to the "President's Palace." Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name.

President Roosevelt also began a major renovation to the White House in 1902. He wanted the offices moved from the second floor to the new Executive Office Building, which is now known as the West Wing. This building would take the place of greenhouses that grew roses, orchids and bedding plants. The New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White oversaw the renovation. President William Howard Taft, had the Oval Office constructed within as an enlarged office wing and every president since has decorated the office according to his own tastes. President Woodrow Wilson's wife turned the attic into a space for herself and in the 1920s, President Coolidge's wife had a sunroom built that eventually became the current solarium.

The original architect Hoban did not make the best decision when he kept the damaged walls in the rebuilding after the War of 1812 and much of the White House needed to be demolished and rebuilt starting in 1948. That reconstruction would finish in 1952 and was supervised by architect Lorenzo Winslow. The Truman family moved back in after the construction in 1952. The White House consists of 6 levels which include 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. There are 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators. 

*Fun Firsts: There have been a few historical first that have taken place in the White House.  President James Polk (1845-49) was the first President to have his photograph taken.  President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) was the first President to ride in an automobile and also the first President to travel outside the country when he visited Panama.  President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45) was the first president to ride in an airplane.* 

Every President since John Adams has occupied the White House, and the history of the building extends far beyond the construction of its walls.  From the Ground Floor Corridor rooms, transformed from their early use as service areas, the State Floor rooms, where countless leaders and dignitaries have been entertained, the White House is both the home of the President of the United States, his family and a museum of American History.  The White House is a place where history continues to unfold.  Some of that history continues to haunt the grounds today.

When President John Adams and his wife Abigail moved in to the White House in 1800, construction was not complete and the home was not yet fully furnished. Abigail must have loved the house or left quite an imprint on it because her apparition has been seen many times. Looking for a place to hang and dry laundry, Abigail had chosen the East Room for this task. Over the years, many people have claimed to see Abigail Adams with her arms outstretched as though she is carrying the laundry, entering the East Room. President Howard Taft claimed to have seen the ghost of Abigail Adams floating through doors on several occasions.  

Dolly Madison, the wife of President James Madison, was known for her lavish social gatherings and parties. She planted the lovely Rose Garden we still enjoy today. When President Woodrow Wilson was in office, his wife Ellen decided to have the rose bushes moved. The gardeners were busy digging and preparing the roses to be moved when all of a sudden they saw the apparition of First Lady Dolly Madison coming towards them yelling and waving her arms frantically. Her message was clear. She was not happy about her roses being moved. They refused to continue the work and the Rose Garden stayed where it was planted. Others have seen her strolling in the garden as she must have many times while she was still alive.

The War of 1812 left a mark on the White House that was more than just the one left by fire. Since 1814, the ghostly figure of a British Redcoat has been seen trying to set the house on fire as a type of residual haunting. One account is from the 1940’s and was told by a diplomat and his wife who were spending the night in the White House. They were asked if they slept well and the diplomat replied that they had not. He said that his wife kept waking up during the night claiming that a British soldier was trying to burn the bed.

The Lincoln family has added two apparitions to the White House. Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to see the apparition of her young son Willie. He had died in the White House in 1862. From 1862 to 1863, she would hold séances in the Red Room trying to reach her son.  Spiritualism was highly popular during the Civil War and Mrs. Lincoln became quite the aficionado. She also claimed to hear President Andrew Jackson stomping and cursing around the hallways. During the 1870s, President Ulysses S. Grant claimed to see the apparition of young Willie Lincoln on several occasions. The daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed to have seen the ghost of Willie in her room and that was the room where he died.

President Abraham Lincoln is the most seen ghost in the White House. In the 1940s, Queen Whilimenia of the Netherlands was visiting FDR and she was staying in the Queen’s Room.  Looking rather tired at a cocktail party, she related the story of the night before.  She heard a knock at her room's door and when she answered it, there stood the full-bodied apparition of Lincoln. She fainted to the floor and there she spent most of the night passed out. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also claimed to have seen the ghost of Lincoln. White House employees and First Lady Grace Coolidge also claimed to the see the ghost of Lincoln in the Yellow Oval Room, which Lincoln used as his personal library. He is seen in there standing and looking out the windows.
One of the most famous sightings was reported by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He was staying at the White House in the 1940s and he had just finished with a bath and was walking into the Lincoln Bedroom naked. He found Lincoln leaning against the fireplace mantle. Churchill remarked, "Good evening Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Lincoln smiled and then disappeared. President Harry Truman also claimed to have encountered the ghost of Lincoln.  He heard a knock on his bedroom door and when he answered it, no one was there. He stepped out of the room into a cold spot and as he walked down the hall he heard footsteps and shuffling down the corridor.

The list of those who have claimed to see Lincoln also include First Ladies, Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, Presidents Hoover, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower, and Presidential children Susan Ford and Maureen Reagan and her husband had seen the ghost several times at the White House, usually as a red or orange aura. An unnamed prominent actor claimed to have awakened because of a voice pleading aloud. He rolled over to see Lincoln lying prostrate on the carpet, with his arms outstretched and his fingers digging into the carpet. Tony Savoy, White House Operations Foreman, has had the last reported sighting of Lincoln and that was in the 1980s. He saw Lincoln sitting in a chair at the top of the stairs.

It has been said that President William Harrison, who was the first president to die in office just one month into his first term in office, has been seen haunting the attic. They say he is looking for something but no one knows what. The ghost of President Andrew Jackson has been spotted in the Rose Bedroom.  He is always either laughing or swearing and a cold spot can be felt on the canopy bed. It's not all presidents and their families seen in the afterlife here. David Burns, the man who sold the land that the White House was built upon, has been heard in the attic and several other rooms. Lillian Rogers Parks, was a White House seamstress that worked there for 30 years. In her 1961 memoir, she told the story of a valet to President Franklin D. Roosevelt who claimed to have heard a disembodied voice in the Yellow Oval Room, saying “I’m Mr. Burns.” A guard serving during Harry S. Truman’s administration, claimed to hear a similar voice say the same thing, but he thought it was Secretary of State James Byrnes. When he went looking for him, he learned that the secretary hadn’t been at the White House that day.

The following is a retelling of a story told by President Reagan: "According to the President, Rex, the King Charles Cavalier spaniel who had recently replaced Lucky as First Dog, had twice barked frantically in the Lincoln Bedroom and then backed out and refused to set foot over the threshold. On another evening, while the Reagans were watching TV in their room, Rex stood up on his hind legs, pointed his nose at the ceiling and began barking at something invisible overhead. To their amazement, the dog walked around the room, barking at the ceiling. ‘I started thinking about it,’ the President continued, ‘And I began to wonder if the dog was responding to an electric signal too high-pitched for human ears, perhaps beamed toward the White House by a foreign embassy. I asked my staff to look into it.’ The President laughed and said, ‘I might as well tell you the rest. A member of our family [he meant his daughter Maureen] and her husband always stay in the Lincoln Bedroom when they visit the White House. Some time ago the husband woke up and saw a transparent figure standing at the bedroom window looking out. Then it turned and disappeared. His wife teased him mercilessly about it for a month. Then, when they were here recently, she woke up one morning and saw the same figure standing at the window looking out. She could see the trees right through it. Again it turned and disappeared.’"

And then there are stories of the demon cat that many have claimed to see in the basement. It only shows itself when a significant national disaster is about to happen. It was last seen sometime before 9/11. Let's hope nobody ever sees it again. The Rose Room and Lincoln Bedroom are claimed to be the most haunted rooms in the house. So is the White House haunted by all of these ghosts? That is for you to decide!

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