Monday, October 31, 2005

The British Monarchy in America

By: BonnieBlueFlag

HRH Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall

Camilla's tiara, a circle of brilliant-cut diamonds arranged as forget-me-nots and lyres, was made by Garrads in 1911 for Queen Mary. It was last worn in public by the Queen Mother in 1947, when Queen Mary lent it to her for an official tour to South Africa. It became part of the Queen Mother's private jewelry collection which was passed to her daughter after her death. It is believed that Queen Elizabeth has never worn the priceless piece of jewelry

It was announced some time ago that England's most famous newlyweds, Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall, would make their first official overseas tour to the United States in November.

I had been so looking forward to their visit, and to their stay at the White House, and in particular their occupancy of the Queen's Room and the Lincoln Bedroom. However, it seems that Presidents Lincoln and Jackson will not be afforded the opportunity to personally greet our royal guests this week, at least not in the bedrooms that they seem to find most comfortable for an audience.

It has been pointedly stated repeatedly by the United Kingdom print media, that Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla will not be staying at the White House. Just who will be hosting the royal couple has been kept a secret for security reasons.

President Bush and the First Lady will welcome the couple to the White House for lunch on Tuesday, November 2, and on the evening of that same date, Charles and Camilla will be the honored guests of an official White House State Dinner.

I cannot say whether or not President Bush extended an invitation to Prince Charles, to stay at the White House while he was in Washington, but I did detect in the British press, a coolness by the Royals to accepting such an invitation if it had been offered.

Was this decision made for the convenience of the Royals and their entourage? Or, perhaps it is widely known among members of the European monarchies, and the heads of state, that accommodations at the White House can be less than restful, and even unnerving?

On the other hand, I also noted in the British press, that they who have given the world the less than charismatic Prince Charles, have gone so far as to call President Bush "a wet blanket;" because, this will be only the sixth White House State Dinner during this administration, while the Clintons hosted 30 State Dinners.

President Lincoln has not been confined to his bedroom all these years, as he often appears throughout the White House. Perhaps he will choose to attend this week's official state dinner, and be inclined to be seated at the table of The Prince and The Duchess.

And, I feel quite certain that President Jackson could spark a lively dinner conversation with the Royals, as his defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans, must seem like only yesterday to him.

General Jackson, the British are coming!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The "East" Wing

By: BonnieBlueFlag

One last note on the haunting of the White House for now, below you will find a floor plan of the second floor, showing the locations of the Lincoln bedroom and the Queen's (Rose) room, along with exterior photos. I thought you might enjoy knowing where these rooms are situated, when you see the White House in movies, or on television.

It was necessary to use older photographs, where the view of the windows was not obscured by the shrubbery that has grown up over the years.

The North Portico

The Rose bedroom, is on the second floor, the three windows to the left. The outside corner window faces the sitting room, while the two inside windows belong to the room that contains President Jackson's bed.

This is the room where the spirit of "Old Hickory" has been heard pacing about in his heavy boots, while cursing and laughing.

Pindar, one of our readers has suggested that perhaps Pol the parrot, who was known to be able to curse loudly in two languages, has joined President Jackson in the afterlife for these tirades.

As you can see in the above floor plan, the two most notably haunted rooms are directly across from one another. Is it any wonder that Queen Wilhelmina was frightened into a dead faint that night? She was sleeping in Jackson's bed while Lincoln was knocking on her bedroom door.

The South Portico
Circa 1945

The South Portico may look a little unfamiliar to you in this picture, because the second floor balcony was added later by President Truman, and since then it has been known as the Truman balcony.

The Lincoln bedroom is on the second floor, the three windows to the right in this photograph.

Upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, Vice-president Harry S Truman, was inaugurated president on April 12, 1945. After the inauguration, President Truman, his wife, Bess, and their daughter, Margaret, moved into the White House.

President Truman was a no nonsense kind of guy from Missouri, some of you may recall his war time dealings with General McAuthur. Even so, in letters to his wife he said the following:

"The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth. I can just imagine old Andy and Teddy having an argument over Franklin," he wrote to her in June 1945.

"The damned place is haunted, sure as shootin . . . You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off." Harry Truman, in a letter to his wife Bess, September 8, 1946.

By the way, President William Henry Harrison, our ninth president, has been heard making quite a ruckus up in the attic of the White House. He seems to be looking for something in all of the various boxes and cartons that are stored there. But, I will tell you more about the death of President Harrison, the first president to die in office, and the curse put on him by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, when I pick up where I left off with the War of 1812.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Seance In The White House

By: BonnieBlueFlag

The White House, Circa 1846

If ever there was a mixed team, it was the marriage of Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) and Mary Todd (1818-82), on November 4, 1842, in Springfield, Illinois. But, despite their differences, it did seem to be a love match.

Abraham stood 6' 4" tall, with piercing gray eyes, and a very magnetic personality. And yet, his demeanor was somber and serious, almost morose in his outlook on his own life in particular. He had occasionally given hints to those around him, of his own psychic visions concerning himself, especially after he had moved into the White House.

On the other hand, Mary was a petite 5' 2", lively, and outgoing, with long light brown hair and beautiful blue eyes. A true daughter of the South (all of her brothers would enlist in the Confederate Army), she was prepared for, and eager to be, a fashionable hostess in Washington. What better role could she hope to play, than that of First Lady on a world stage, in the house of the President of the United States.

Abraham was from humble beginnings, while Mary's family had been financially able to see to her desires. Unaccustomed to frugality, it would not be long before Mary was insisting that Congress give her additional funds, and she would soon be hiding the mounting debts for her gowns, and other finery from her husband.

The Lincolns would have four sons: Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926), Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-50), William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln (1850-62), and Thomas "Tad" Lincoln (1853-71). Little Eddie died very young, and well before his father became the 16th president on March 4, 1861. It would be the death of everyone's favorite, Willie, that would change the mood of the White House, and all of those who had known him.

From the left, Mary, Willie, Robert, Thomas "Tad," and President Abraham Lincoln.

Willie was described as very bright, studious, and as having a very sweet temperament. His mother also mentioned that he had been a peculiarly religious child.

Shortly after Christmas of 1861, little eleven year old Willie became very ill, with what is thought to have been typhoid fever. On February 20, 1862, Willie passed away as he lay on his mother and father's bed, both of them were at his bedside, and inconsolable in their grief. He had looked so small on that huge bed, the one that had been specially ordered by Mary, for herself and her very tall husband.

Distraught over the loss of a second son, her favorite child, Mary turned to Spiritualism for solace.

Spiritualism had initially come to the United States from Europe at the beginning of the second half of the 19th century. At first, it was the upper echelon that dabbled in Spiritualism, as it was rumored to be of interest to the European noble class.

The belief in communicating with the spirits of the dead, seemed to spread like wildfire after one cold March night in 1848; when on a small farm in Hydesville, New York, two sisters, Kate and Margaret Fox, suddenly insisted that they were in contact with the spirit world.

On that particular night, the sisters said that they were communicating with a man who had been murdered there some years earlier. They would ask questions, and receive answers from the spiritual world, by way of a series of knocks.

The Fox sisters would become nationally known, and by then a third married sister, Leah Fox Fish, had joined them. Clairvoyants and Mediums could soon be found in all of the larger cities and towns.

By 1862 there were quite a few Mediums and Clairvoyants in and around Washington. Mary began to visit the home of the Laurie family in Georgetown, and to invite them to the White House, for the purpose of contacting her sons, Willie and Eddie. In time she would tell her sister that Willie had come to her on many occasions, and that he often brought Eddie, or their own dear dead brother, Alex, with him. Lt. Alex Todd had died as a Confederate soldier during the war.

The exact number of seances that were held at the White House is not known, nor is the exact number of them that were attended by Abraham. It is thought that there may have been about eight seances at the White House, plus those that were held at the Laurie home. The President did visit the Lauries, and became friendly with the oldest daughter, Mary Isabella "Belle" C. Laurie, who it is said was the most powerful Medium in the family.

It has been well documented that President Lincoln dreamed about, and foretold his own death by assassination. Something that would seem less prophetic in view of the death threats he must have received during the Civil War, or the economic chaos he caused in the South by the Emancipation Proclamation.

After the President's death on April 15, 1865, his body, and that of Willie, was moved back to Illinois for burial. A long black train, with Lincoln's coffin on display on a flat bed car, traveled slowly through the towns and countryside from Washington to Springfield.

It is said that even to this day, the train can be seen making its long sad trek home, on the anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination.

Mary was completely devastated by the loss of her beloved husband, and she would later say that when other friends had deserted her, the friends that she had made through Spiritualism remained to comfort her.

She also found a great deal of comfort in a photograph that seemed to show that her husband continued to watch over her, and to be by her side.

Sometime during President Calvin Coolidge's administration (1923-29), First Lady Grace Coolidge (a very well educated and accomplished woman), saw the spirit of President Lincoln for what may have been the first time.

Mrs. Coolidge was outside the White House, and as she walked the path towards the Oval Office, President Lincoln appeared in the window. He held his arms behind his back, and seemed to be looking across the Potomac River, as if he was watching his Union troops, something he did during the early days of the war.

After that incident, and to this day, numerous people have admitted to seeing President Lincoln in the White House: Harry Truman, and his daughter, Margaret Truman; Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt; Winston Churchill; Queen Wilhelmina; Jacqueline Kennedy; Maureen Reagan, and her father, Ronald Reagan's dog, Rex, who would not enter the Lincoln bedroom, he would only stand at the doorway and bark.

Through the years, many members of the White House staff have also reported seeing President Lincoln hand in hand with a little boy, Willie no doubt. One of the more recent sightings by a White House employee, can be viewed at The Haunted White House.


Spirit Photography

By the way, did I mention that there is the spirit of a black cat in the basement of the White House. It is thought to be a spirit, because of the numbers of years it has been there, and it is only seen just before a national crisis or tragedy occurs.

The cat has been seen a numbers of times, most notably it was seen just prior to the 1929 Stock Market crash, and before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

There were some who believed that the cat had belonged to President Lincoln.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands

By: BonnieBlueFlag

Queen Wilhelmina

It was 1945 and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was in Washington, D.C. on an official state visit. She was happy to be with friends, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the President and First Lady of the U.S. The war had brought about quick and lasting friendships for many of the heads of state, because, they had been through so much together, in their joint effort to stop the spread of the Nazis throughout Europe.

The German Army had invaded Holland at the onset of the war, in May of 1940. When the royal family and members of the government, realized that the Netherlands would be occupied in its entirety, they were forced to flee to London.

Upon reaching London, Queen Wilhelmina immediately declared that city the capital of the Netherlands, this action would allow the Queen and other members of the Dutch government, to legally continue to operate on behalf of the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies.

Taking a page from Winston Churchill, Queen Wilhelmina began broadcasting late night messages of encouragement to her countrymen. The Dutch would hide from the Germans, and eagerly await the news from Queen Wilhelmina, with their ears pressed against their illegal radios.

She had lived in exile for five long years, she had lived for her subjects to the exclusion of everything else in her life, and she was homesick for her native land. After this important visit to the United States, she would return to the Netherlands, to lead her country in their recovery from the war. If her plans did not go awry, she would be home for her 65th birthday in August.

Tonight's dinner had been a delight, especially since various food items that had been so sparse in England, seemed to be available here in America. It had been a lovely evening with the Roosevelts and others guests, full of lively conversations about Hitler, the war, and future plans, but now she was ready to retire to her rooms. What was it they had called her suite? Oh yes, the Rose Room, presumably because of the rose colored decor. Not very creative these Americans, she thought, perhaps they will call it the Queen's Bedroom after her visit.

Picture of the Rose Room, Circa 1947

Became known as the Queen's Room in the 1960s.

The Queen had slipped under the covers on the soft and surprisingly comfortable bed. It was a tall bed, with four carved posters and a rose colored canopy that matched other furnishings in the room. Her maid had bid her good night, as she closed the door behind her, in a moment she would be asleep.

After what seemed like only a short while, Queen Wilhelmina opened her eyes, she had suddenly awakened, but did not know exactly why. She looked around the room. There was a small bit of light illuminating the bedroom, it was coming from a lamp in the sitting room, so she was able to see that nothing seemed to be amiss. The windows were still dark, so she must try to get back to sleep.

She had just closed her eyes, when there was a tap, tap, tap, so soft that she could only barely hear it, what was that sound? There it was again . . . tap, tap, tap. It was someone knocking at her bedroom door. Who could it be? The door was locked from the inside, but her maid who was directly across the hall had a key. She would have to go to the door. Tap, tap, tap. "One moment," she called out, as she found her dressing gown and shoes. Tap, tap, tap.

The Queen began to become fully awake, as she realized it could be an urgent message for her from the Netherlands, or from someone in the Dutch government who had remained in England. Yes, yes, that must be what it was, because it was already morning in Europe. She opened her bedroom door expecting to see one of her staff, or the White House staff, with news from home.

To her surprise she did not know this person. Who was this odd looking man, wearing an old fashioned top hat in the middle of the night? He was much taller than she and very imposing; and as she began to see more detail in his gaunt and care worn face and eyes, she also began to feel a chill. Yes, yes, the room had quickly grown very cold!

All thoughts of home had been removed completely from her mind by the sudden appearance of this man. It was then, that she realized that the light from her room had spilled out into the hallway, making it possible for her to clearly see every detail of the door to the room across the hall, even though it should have been completely obscured by the presence of the man standing before her.

She gasped loudly, as she felt her blood run cold and her knees buckle, and that was the last that she would remember prior to falling to the floor in a dead faint.

When she awoke again, she was lying on the bed beneath the rose colored canopy, and she was surrounded by her maid, and other people that she did not know or wish to see at this minute. A stranger's voice said that there was a doctor on his way, he would be here in just a few minutes.

Her maid had placed a cool moist cloth upon her forehead, and was speaking to her in a soothing tone, asking her if she could say what had happened.

The Queen looked around the room searching for a particular bearded face in the crowd, the one she had seen at her doorway, but he was not there. Had she actually seen such a man, or was she hallucinating due to the many years of stress that she had endured?

The doctor arrived, he quickly examined her in a cursory manner, and announced that while her pulse seemed a little faster than normal, he could find no other indications of anything wrong with her.

By now the First Lady had arrived, and she was obviously very concerned about the Queen's well being. Eleanor, along with everyone else, was waiting for the Queen to tell them why she had fainted in the open doorway of her room.

The Queen began to relate her story of the knock on the door, and how she thought perhaps it was a message from home. She hesitated, should she mention the odd looking man? She decided that she would, but that she would not say anything about being able to "see through" the man.

Very quickly, the First Lady began to shoo everyone except her personal maid from the room. The Queen was pleased to see them all go, but she thought she detected a strange reaction in Eleanor's behavior.

Once all the doors were closed and only the three of them were alone in the room, the First Lady began to apologize profusely. She repeated over and over again how sorry she was for this to have happened to the Queen. The Queen was now more confused than ever, wondering what Eleanor was talking about.

Finally, the First Lady sat on the edge of the Queen's bed, and began to describe to her exactly what the man at her door had looked like. Yes, yes, that was him, that was the man I saw. She was feeling much better, now that she knew he was not a product of a vivid imagination. Eleanor had seen him too on occasion.

Her relief, however, was very short lived when her hostess went on to explain that the man she saw had been dead for 80 years.

His name was Abraham Lincoln, a former president, and all of his belongings had been moved to what had been his War Room during his presidency. That was the room directly across the hall from the Rose Room, and it was now known as the Lincoln Bedroom.

The Lincoln Bedroom, Circa 1947

Queen Wilhelmina abruptly left the White House as soon as possible. She was able to return home to the Netherlands, where she was warmly greeted by her people, and she never returned to the United States.

Top hat allegedly worn by Abraham Lincoln to Ford's Theater on April 15, 1865.

In 1867 this hat and other relics from Lincoln's assassination were removed from exhibition at the Patent Office and transferred to the Smithsonian.

For many years the hat was kept in storage, because museum officials believed it was in poor taste to show objects connected with the assassination of a president.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Laughter of President Jackson

By BonnieBlueFlag

And, then there is General Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the U.S. A first generation Scots-Irishman born in a log cabin on the border of North and South Carolina. Orphaned at age 14 in the land of the pioneers of that day. He grew up while fighting in the Revolutionary War. He was a man's man who would later be elected president, as a man of the people, much to the chagrin of Washington's high society.

President Jackson came to the White House angry, and in the mood for vengeance, on those he blamed for the death of his beloved wife, Rachel.

Rachel's health had been poor, but, the vicious gossip mongering of the campaign, had made her prefer death to living in the White House. She passed away at their home, "The Hermitage," near Nashville, Tennessee, in December of 1828, the month following Jackson's election to the presidency.

Sometime earlier, Jackson had surprised Rachel with the gift of a talking Green Parrot, named Pol, to keep as a pet. Pol was an Amazon Parrot, and they were very fashionable at the time, even Dolley Madison had one as a pet. But, when Jackson left for Washington, taking with him a number of dogs and horses, he left Pol behind in Tennessee.

The next eight years were filled with rancor, as President Jackson immediately fired about 2,000 government employees, and took on the Congress at every turn. He was the first president to use the "pocket veto," and he was also the first President to leave office with the U.S. treasury in the black.

Known for using language frowned upon by the Washington aristocracy, using "damn" was a punishable offense in New England. Jackson often exclaimed, "By the Eternal God!" Which was another way of saying, "tarnation" (from eternal), or "damnation."

In 1837 Jackson retired to "The Hermitage," and he died there on June 8, 1845.

Someone thought it would be a nice gesture to bring Pol the parrot to Jackson's funeral, and to place him near the President. However, by this time Pol had learned to curse and swear in both English and Spanish, and he proceeded to berate the mourners loudly. After much screeching and cursing, Pol had to be removed from the premises.

Years later, it would be First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, who would first mention that President Jackson could often be heard stomping around the White House, alternatingly laughing, cursing and swearing.

Mrs. Lincoln had begun holding seances in the White House, after the death of her favorite son, Willie, in 1862, which may have made her more open to recognizing that President Jackson still resided at the White House.

The focal point of President Jackson's haunting seems to be in the Rose Bedroom, which is also known as the Queen's Room, since his own four poster bed was moved to that room on the second floor. The Rose Bedroom is directly across the hall from the room that would later be known as the Lincoln Bedroom.

President Andrew Jackson has also made himself known, in the
Hauntings at The Hermitage.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Dolley Madison's Roses

By BonnieBlueFlag

Forgive me for being away so long. I sometimes find it difficult to have my mind in two centuries at once, the 1800s and the current events of 2005.

I have decided to seek temporarily solace in another world altogether, the "Spirit World." Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, but before I go any farther with that thought, I must say I am not into witchcraft (black or white), black masses, or animal mutilations. It is more of a belief that I have had all my life, that we are not alone as we live our daily lives, and that somehow over the centuries as we sought to live in a civilized world, we may have allowed a sixth sense to lie fallow.

In a supposedly enlightened age, those of us who talked of dreams and feelings, were thought a little odd, until more recently when it once again became fashionable to speak of such things.

Through the years there have been hushed whispers about some of the former occupants of the White House, those who have chosen to remain in spirit to complete an unfinished task, or to protect the occupants and surroundings in a proprietary way.

I introduced you to First Lady Dolley Madison earlier, when she saved the portrait of George Washington as the White House was threatened by fire. So as you can well imagine, Dolley though very lovely, and a popular Washington hostess, was also tough as nails.

She was forced to endure the sight of the burning of the White House by the British soldiers in 1814, but her spirit fought back early in the next century.

Sometime during President Woodrow Wilson's second term (1917-21), his then First Lady, Edith Wilson, decided to redesign the now famous "Rose Garden." She sent workmen to the garden to dig up all the antique roses.

The men gathered their shovels and tools and went to the rose garden. They stood about the garden joking and laughing, and deciding where they should begin their work. But, just as they were about to get down to digging up the rose bushes, Dolley Madison appeared from the past with a vengeance, to put an immediate stop to the destruction of her cherished roses.

The workmen and the gardeners dropped their shovels and tools where they were, and they ran from the garden as quickly as possible. They refused to go back for fear of encountering a very angry Dolley Madison again.

First Lady Dolley Madison had originally planned the "Rose Garden," seeing to every detail personally, and today almost 200 years later, it remains as she wished, and continues to bloom just as she had envisioned.