Ancient Origins IRAQ Tour

White House at night. (350z33 / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ghosts of Presidents Past In The Oval Office

Ghost stories abound about American presidents haunting the Oval Office. Wandering spirits returning from the dead to haunt the places they lived and worked in have been central components in folklore, myths and fireside tales for thousands of years in most ancient cultures around the world. The entire concept of a ghost, or specter, is based on the ancient belief that a person’s spirit exists independently from the body, and that it continues to exist after the body’s demise. Thus, many prehistoric societies performed complex funeral and death rituals to ensure dead people’s spirits would not return to haunt the living after they were buried. However, if historical records are explored it quickly becomes apparent that this did not always go according to plan. A profusion of ghostly forms populate human history, who are believed to be associated with an event, occurrence or emotion in the ghost’s past, most often at the former home or the place where the person departed this life.

The Greek Stoic Philosopher Athenodorus Rents a Haunted House by Henry Justice Ford (c. 1900) (Public Domain)

The Greek Stoic Philosopher Athenodorus Rents a Haunted House by Henry Justice Ford (c. 1900) (Public Domain)

Apparently the first century AD Roman author, Pliny the Younger, was the first person to record the classic ghost story. He told the chilling story about the specter of an old man with a long beard and rattling chains haunting his servant in his Athenian home, and such a story always comes across as somewhat more valid sounding when it is recorded by such a giant of thought. The first written record of a spirit disturbing a house, known today as a poltergeist, occurred in 856 AD at a farmhouse in Germany where the malevolent spirit was reported to have thrown stones at the family while curtains swayed. Despite cold breezes chilling the rooms, the spirit started fires through the night and terrified the family into fleeing.

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