8 Historical Ghost Stories: A Past of Fear

Updated April 29, 2021
female ghosts in period dress

American and world history is filled with stories of creepy and scary hauntings. Almost every community has at least one resident historical ghost, and people who have encountered them come away with frightening ghost stories. Stories of historic ghosts haunting places around the world abound. Many people share real-life ghost stories about their encounters with history.

Anne Boleyn Haunts the Tower of London

The second wife of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, was executed in the Tower of London in the mid-1500s. She was the second wife of Henry VIII. Anne wielded powerful religious and political influence over the King. It was Henry's desire to divorce Queen Catherine so he could marry Anne that resulted in England breaking away from the Catholic Church.

Once she became Queen, Anne delivered a girl heir, Elizabeth, but Henry desired a male heir. After three subsequent miscarriages, Anne's fate was sealed. Henry turned his affections to Jane Seymour and accused Anne of incest, adultery, and the high treason of plotting to kill him. Anne became the first wife of Henry to be beheaded, but she was not the last. Her daughter, Queen Elizbeth I, declared her mother to be a martyr who played a vital role in the English Reformation. It's said that Anne's ghost roams not only the site of her execution in the Tower of London but also her childhood home in Kent.

Wives of King Henry VIII

Elizabeth Bathory Haunts Čachtice Castle in Slovakia

Elizabeth Bathory, also known as the Blood Countess, lived in Slovakia in the 1500s. She is rumored to have tortured her servants, mostly young women, and she was caught in the act of murder at Čachtice Castle. According to Guinness World Records, she holds the title as "the most prolific female murderer and the most prolific murderer of the western world." This noblewoman was the niece of the Prince of Transylvania, who later became the King of Poland.

Her station in society afforded her privileges that, for some time, made her beyond reproach in her murdering of virgin girls between the ages of 10 and 14. She was accused of murdering, mutilating, torturing, and cannibalizing over 600 girls and women. It was said that she used the blood of the young virgins to drink and bathe in. She believed the blood preserved her own youth. She was eventually tried and convicted to spend the rest of her life in a room in her castle, although stories claimed she moved freely about her castle until her death in 1614. Her brutality is said to have inspired Bram Stoker's famous book, Dracula.

The ruins of Čachtice Castle are believed to be haunted not only by Elizabeth Bathory's victims, but by the countess herself. People claim to see black mists shaped as humans among the ruins, and to hear the screams of victims reliving the torture at the hands of the Blood Countess.

Cachtice Castle in Slovakia

Andrew Jackson's Ghost

The seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, is known as a defender of the common man and was dedicated to the preservation of the Union. His presidency was one of controversy as he put down the threat of succession of South Carolina, dismantled the Second Bank of the United States, and signed the Indian Removal Act that led to the Trail of Tears. Jackson supported the statehood of Texas. His ghost is said to walk the halls of the White House.

President Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, swore Andrew Jackson haunted the White House, and on one occasion she heard him swearing as though he were angry and upset. President Harry S. Truman (33rd president) also wrote of encountering Jackson's ghost while he was in the White House. Truman slept in the Rose Bedroom, where Jackson had also slept. One time when Truman's wife and daughter were away on a trip, he wrote that he was awakened by someone knocking on his bedroom door, but no one was there. He later reported hearing footsteps in his wife's room, but again, no one was there. Truman wrote to his wife, "You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off."

Close up Andrew Jackson

Abraham Lincoln's Ghost

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the US during the tumultuous American Civil War. Lincoln won the war, preserved the Union, and abolished slavery. He was assassinated six days after the Civil War ended. His ghost has been reported haunting the White House ever since, especially during times of government crises. In fact, his ghost was seen so often, it was dubbed, The White House Ghost.

Stepping from his bath, a naked British Prime Minister Winston Churchill entered the Rose Bedroom to find Lincoln leaning against the fireplace mantel. Churchhill said, "Good evening, Mister President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Lincoln smiled as though amused and then disappeared.

The Grant, Taft, and Eisenhower administrations had numerous reports from frightened White House employees who saw Lincoln's ghost in the Capitol rooms, lying in bed, putting on his boots, and even standing outside the White House. Other notable sightings include:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of President Franklin D Roosevelt 32nd president) held séances, and Lincoln came through many times.
  • President Calvin Coolidge's wife, Grace, saw Lincoln looking out a window staring across the Potomac.
  • Netherland's Queen Wilhelmina reported someone knocked on her door and when she opened it, she fainted at the sight of Lincoln standing there.
Abraham Lincoln profile

White House Demon Cat

No one knows how long the demon cat has been lurking about the White House. This ominous creature is called DC for short and said to appear in the basement or the area of the White House known as The Crypt. To see this demon cat signals an impending national disaster. Just before the 1929 stock market crash, a guard claimed to witness the cat as an innocent kitten that suddenly grew larger, into a frightening black cat. Another sighting was allegedly witnessed shortly before John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The White House at Dusk

Ghost of Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, the second President of the United States, and the mother of the sixth President, John Quincy Adams. Abigail was her husband's confidant and advisor. She was very knowledgeable about politics and governing. The Adams were the first residents of the nearly completed White House, although the construction was overseen by Washington. The most common sighting of Abigail's ghost is in the East Room. Her ghost is seen hanging and folding laundry, just as she did during their residency.

Dolley Madison's Ghost

Dolley Madison was the wife of the fourth President of the United States, James Madison. Dolley was an accomplished hostess and credited with creating the bipartisan concept through her social skills as First Lady. She held large parties and always invited members of opposing political sides in her effort to promote the idea of finding common ground for understanding and compromise. She also undertook the task of furnishing the White House and creating the famous rose garden.

President Woodrow Wilson's wife was determined to dig up Dolley's rose garden, but she quickly changed her mind after a disturbing ghostly visit. It seems First Lady Dolley Madison appeared to the workmen as they prepared to dig up the rose bushes. The ghostly apparition warned the men not to touch her precious roses. Those rose bushes still bloom today in what is now called the White House Rose Garden.

Gettysburg Ghosts

One of the most well-known ghostly battlefields is located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Battle of Gettysburg resulted in the loss of nearly 8,000 Confederate and Union soldiers, with an estimated total of 51,000 casualties. There was also a loss of animal life, with over 3,000 horses slain during the battle. It's no wonder there are restless spirits surrounding the battlefield and adjacent areas, where these military skirmishes were conducted over a three-day period. To give you an idea how massive this battle was, there were nearly 40 battlefield sites, and over 10 hospital locations, that compromised the Gettysburg battlefield.

The ghosts of soldiers from both sides have been seen walking about the battlefield. Visitors have reported disembodied voices, horses' neighing, cannon fire, gunshots, groans, and battle cries. Several videos have been posted on the internet of purported ghostly figures captured at various sites along the battlefield. Mysterious orbs show up in photos, sounds are heard inside the surrounding buildings, and visitors report hearing doors close, phantom footfalls, or lights turning off and on.

Devil's Den at Gettysburg

Devil's Den is considered one of the most active and haunted areas of the battlefield. A marksman was able to hide among the unique rock formation that creates a den-like area, as he killed several hundred soldiers before being spotted and killed by the Union army. A military photographer moved several soldiers' bodies so he could stage a better shot of the scene. It's believed he disturbed the soldiers' spirits and is why there are so many reports of people seeing ghost soldiers in this area.

Historical Real Life Ghost Stories

There are thousands of ghost stories throughout the entire world, featuring hauntings in famous hotels, inns, railroads, coastal cities, battlefields, and cemeteries. You never know when you may come face-to-face with a real ghost from the past.

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8 Historical Ghost Stories: A Past of Fear