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The Mysterious Teenage Ghost That Haunted Taft's White House

There have been many tales of ghosts in the executive mansion in Washington, but the one that set the staff on edge during the Taft administration became the subject of a White House cover up. President Taft's personal assistant, Major Archie Butt, told the story to his sister-in-law in a letter, which is the only surviving written account of the ghost that terrified the household staff in 1911. This ghost made his presence known by touching people on the shoulder.

Several of the White House staff reported feeling this mysterious pressure on their shoulder, only to turn around to an empty room. Just one member of the household, though, said she actually saw the ghost. Marsh, First Lady Helen Taft’s personal maid, reported not just feeling the ghost leaning over her shoulder, but seeing the ethereal figure, whom she described as a young boy with light, unkempt hair and sad blue eyes. “Now who on Earth this can be,” Butt mused, “I cannot imagine.”

Taft responded to news of the spooky rumor with “towering rage,” Butt said, banning anyone in the house from speaking of the ghost under threat of firing. The president worried that the story would get out and the press would have a field day with the news. But his aide seemed to have a sense of humor about the whole situation. “I reminded him that the help was in such a state of mind that, if it was positively believed that the upper floor of the White House was haunted, the servants there could not be kept in their places by executive order,” Butt wrote.

Although Butt wasn't afraid of any ghost, he did investigate the reports. Read about "The Thing" that haunted the White House at Mental Floss.

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