I developed a love of travel, of history, and things that go bump in the night thanks to my Mom. In fact, one of the reasons ghostvacation.com came about is to tell the spooky stories of historic places and influential people that I loved so much growing up. And one of the things I’ve most been fascinated with are the tales of the ghosts of our dead Presidents.
I got as much of this as I wanted growing up, even though we couldn’t always travel very far from home. Because I was lucky to have grown up in the state of Virginia, which is truly a place rich in history (and ghost stories).
Virginia has more than its share of dead Presidents
Most people probably wouldn’t say that Virginia is the most influential State in the country anymore. But that wasn’t always the case. Early in our country’s history, Virginia was the home state of many of our greatest patriots. In fact, 4 of the first 5 Presidents of the United States hailed from Virginia.
George Washington, the country’s first (and probably still the most famous of all dead presidents) was a Virginian. And so was Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and our third President. Our fourth President, Virginian James Madison, was the writer of the Bill of Rights. Finally, this amazing run of Virginia statesmen becoming President culminated when James Monroe was elected our country’s fifth President.
With this in mind, here’s some of the historic sites these dead Presidents are said to still visit in the after-life. Places they were so fond of when alive, they never wanted to leave them after-all.
George Washington’s Mt. Vernon
The first President is famous for not telling lies, but our question is whether he lays at rest? Many visitors to his famous estate, Mt. Vernon – which sits not too far from the city that bears his name – say ‘No’! In this case, even the website for this historic location hints at it with several spooky stories.
In fact, accounts of Washington’s ghost making appearances at Mt. Vernon go as far back at the early 1800s. First appearing not long after his death. The most common anecdotes revolve around the President’s ghost chatting up visitors to his estate. Especially those staying as guests in his former bed chamber.
Most of us will probably never be given a chance like that. But we’ll bet you a dollar you still think it’s still worth a trip to Mt. Vernon. Indeed, you never know what vision might appear to you. Perhaps, even, the spirit of one of the most beloved dead Presidents.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
To be sure, the country’s third President, Thomas Jefferson, cut a striking figure throughout his life. Tall with eye-catching red hair, the man lovingly known as “The Squire” was hard to miss. And by most accounts, the place he always missed being away from the most was his estate, Monticello, overlooking the city of Charlottesville, VA.
Even in his retirement, it was common for people to call on the former President. They’d often come unannounced, while he attempted to work in his first floor office. The incursions became so regular, that Jefferson even designed and installed special shutters. Which allowed natural light into the room, but blocked onlookers from staring at him through the windows.
But perhaps now, the situation has reversed. As reports of people seeing the ghost of the statesman observing them while touring his famous home are relatively common. There’s even been accounts of disembodied whistling of old, forgotten tunes, which was a well-known habit of Jefferson’s while he was alive.
In terms of setting the stage for the rights that many of us now take for granted, there’s little doubt that Jefferson is still one of the most important dead Presidents.
James Madison’s Montpelier
Perhaps Jefferson’s closest friend and political ally was the fourth President, James Madison. The two friends lived close to each other, with Madison’s Montpelier
estate only about 30 miles north of Monticello, near Orange, Virginia.
Two people could probably not be so different yet so alike. Whereas Jefferson was tall and handsome, Madison was short, and often described as sickly. Yet very few could hold a candle to the intellect of the diminutive statesman and driving force behind the Bill of Rights.
Biographers of dead Presidents often seek to humanize them, and what burned brightest inside this one according to most, was his love for his significantly younger wife, Dolley. Although a smallish figure resembling the former President has been recounted at Montpelier, sitting, brooding in the former President’s study, it is actually the ghost of his beloved wife that is most often said to be seen.
Both around Montpelier, but also up in Washington DC where she had lived as First Lady and often lived after Madison’s death. Perhaps in this case, one’s love of places can be split. Whereas she reflects on the loss of her husband at Montpelier while protecting the things she helped build in the nation’s capital, such as the famous Rose Garden at the White House.
James Monroe’s Highland
The estate of the country’s fifth President, James Monroe’s also sits only a few miles from Monticello. During his lifetime, the fifth President was said to be a popular but unassuming character. And perhaps the same can be said for the relatively modest Highland, especially when compared to extravagance of nearby estates like Monticello.
And though Monroe will always be connected with Highland, his ghost is most often seen in a couple of other places. Unfortunately, during his later years, he fell on hard times financially and was forced to give up his estate. After which he lived with his daughter and her husband’s family in New York. Upon his death, he was laid to rest there, in the family crypt.
But a few decades later, his body was moved to Hollywood Cemetary in Richmond, VA. And it is there that you may be able to get a glimpse of the former President. Sitting quietly, in stoic contemplation. It’s also said that you’ll see the apparition rub one of his shoulders with a sense of pain and soreness. Many claim this proves it’s the ghost of one of our most underrated dead Presidents. As he was injured in battle during the Revolutionary War and suffered with a musket ball buried deep in his shoulder for the rest of his life.
The after-life of beloved dead Presidents
So there you have a brief recount of what some of our Founding Fathers may still be up to in death. Although these men played pivotal roles in the formation of our country, many of them found themselves forlorn or destitute in later years. Perhaps that has been one of the causes of their restlessness. As they seek the former fame and glory they once possessed in life.