Blog Post

Is There Such a Thing as a “Friendly” Ghost?

ST writes: “I just read a story about President Bush’s daughters who claim they had encounters with a “friendly” ghost in the White House. Is that even possible?”

Of course! But there a few very important caveats that you need to be aware of.

First, God can and does facilitate appearances of the dead who return to the world of the living in order to ask for prayers. The annals of Church history are replete with tales of saints who visited mortals to deliver messages or warnings. All of these would qualify as “friendly” ghosts.

However, the event that you are referring to involves Bush daughters Jenna and Barbara who heard eerie music in the middle of the night on two occasions. These manifestations may not fit so handily into the "friendly" category.

According to Fox News, Jenna Bush Hager recently told the audience of the Today Show that she and her sister were visited by a paranormal spirit twice while they resided in the presidential mansion.

“My phone rang, it woke us up in the middle of the night," Jenna said. "We had a fireplace in our room, and all of a sudden we started hearing, like, 1920s piano music, as clear as day, coming out of the fireplace. I jumped in Barbara’s bed, we were both awake.”

The next week, they heard the same thing, only it was opera. " . . . [W]e talked ourselves out of it, but then I said to a guy, Buddy, one of my favorite men in the world, who still works at the White House. I said, ‘Buddy, you wouldn’t believe what we heard last night.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, Jenna, you wouldn’t believe what I’ve heard.”

Jenna insisted that the White House is haunted but believes that the ghosts are friendly.

She's not the only one to have these encounters in the White House, although not everyone found them to be friendly.

According to The History Channel, residents have attested to seeing a variety of ghosts, such as that of Abigail Adams who is usually spotted hanging laundry in the East Room.

The Rose Room, which served as the bedchamber for President Andrew Jackson, is believed to be one of the most haunted rooms in the White House.

David Burns, the man who sold the government most of the land on which the city of Washington and the White House were built, is also said to haunt the house. Lillian Rogers Parks, a White House seamstress, documents an incident in her 1961 memoir about a valet to President Franklin D. Roosevelt who heard a disembodied voice say, “I’m Mr. Burns.” Thinking it was then-Secretary of James Byrnes, he went looking for him only to learn that the secretary hadn’t been at the White House that day.

The most frequent sightings involve Abraham Lincoln whose wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was a known dabbler in the occult. In fact, she used to host seances at the White House in order to communicate with her dead sons.

Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge, was the first to report a sighting of Lincoln who she claims to have seen standing beside a window in the Oval Office and looking out across the Potomac.

During a visit to the White House, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands heard a knock on her bedroom door and when she answered, saw Lincoln standing in the hallway. She apparently fainted on the spot.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill swore that during a visit to the White House, he had just finished taking a bath when he found Lincoln sitting by the fireplace in his room.

Others, such as Lady Bird Johnson and Eleanor Roosevelt swore that they felt his “presence” at certain times.

Harry Truman, America’s 33rd president, wrote a letter to his wife Bess in June, 1945, and mentioned the spookiness of his new home in Washington. “I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches–all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth–I can just imagine old Andy [Jackson] and Teddy [Roosevelt] having an argument over Franklin [Roosevelt].”

Because we know that God will often allow souls in need of prayer to return to ask for relief, is it possible that some of the souls who allegedly haunt the White House are doing so for the same reason?

Probably not. Adam Blai, Peritus of religious demonology and exorcism for the Church who trains priests in exorcism and consults on cases from around the world, says that human-spirit manifestations are limited to the communication of a need for help. In his book, Possession, Exorcism, and Haunting, he says that in rare cases, they may also be permitted to convey some specific wrong they did that needs to be righted, but only  if there is a need beyond general prayer.

“Souls in purgatory do not make manifestations that are inherently terrifying; they usually limit them to a sound, a word, or a limited movement of objects,” he writes. “Souls in purgatory do not engage in prolonged communication or dialogue.”

The sounds heard by the Bush sisters were indeed terrifying and conveyed no message of a need for prayer; nor did any of the other alleged ghosts who are said to be haunting the White House. In addition, the so-called ghosts of Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and David Burns have been appearing for many years, which is another red flag.

God does not permit spirits to come back from the dead solely to frighten us. Although they may try to get our attention by knocking on the walls, making floorboards creak, or emitting scents associated with the deceased, it’s always for a purpose.

Those who hang around just to give people the creeps are probably not from God and, therefore, should never be considered “friendly.”

It sounds like the White House may need an exorcism. Melania Trump was said to have insisted that the White House be exorcised before she moved there in 2017 but, unfortunately, this turned out to be a rumor. Maybe someone needs to take this suggestion more seriously!

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