Chasing Ghosts in Springfield, Illinois: Lincoln’s Ghost Walk

Confession: I am fascinated by ghosts and other haunted things. Nothing too scary, though. Never in my life did I ever predict I’d chase the Lincoln ghosts.

This past week I had the opportunity to join Sara of Travel With Sara on a road trip to Springfield, Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. She was graciously invited by the Springfield Illinois Convention and Visitors Bureau who coordinated everything from lodging to activities.

My curiosity was piqued when I saw the Visitors Bureau provided tickets to Lincoln’s Ghost Walk. I’ve never participated in a ghostly activity before and was intrigued to say the least. The tour’s description stated it was appropriate for all ages and was heavier on “bizarre history,” rather than the scary. Even so, I was little scared.

The Lincoln’s story is so rich and intricate that I could never begin to do it justice here. I won’t try to retell the vast amount of history our guide spun on the tour. Rather, I’ll share some highlights.

We convened in the Old State Capital Plaza sandwiched between the restored Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices and the Old State Capital where Lincoln tried cases. After he was assassinated, his body was taken from Washington D.C. to Springfield on a funeral train procession. He was prepared for burial at this capital and the public visited to pay their respects.

More people saw Lincoln after he had passed away than when he was alive.

Watermarked Old Capital.jpg

The streetlights started to glow around dusk.

Lincoln Ghost Statues.jpg

Lincoln’s final resting place is in a tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetary in Springfield along with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and their three sons Edward, Willie and Tad. Their oldest son Robert chose to be buried at Arlington National Cemetary.

In May of 2015, the city is hosting a Lincoln funeral reenactment for the first time.

This is the vibrant red door of First Presbyterian Church where Mary Todd Lincoln was very fond of pew number 20. The guide shared the church welcomes visitors and is happy to show them the pew.

Mary's church.jpg

While we were crossing the street on the way to Lincoln’s home, we turned to see this view of the Illinois State Capital.

Downtown View Ghost Walk.jpg

The Lincoln home is situated on a quiet street managed by the National Park Service and is the only national parkland in Illinois. The Lincolns’ son Robert donated the home to the National Park Service in 1887 so long as they kept it open to the public to visit free of charge. The park service continues to restore homes on this street to match what the Lincoln family experienced. They are either open for tours or serve as office buildings.

Our guide spun tales of how this intersection in front of the Lincoln home is supposedly haunted. Tour guides claim to have experienced encounters with ghostly carriages.

Lincoln Home Ghost Walk.jpg

The Lincoln home is to the left with the bright green shutters and brown fence.

Mary Todd Lincoln dabbled in Spiritualism like many others of her time. Our guide explained that Spiritualism was trendy back then and that seances were common party activities.

According to legend, Mary Todd Lincoln makes appearances at their Springfield home while Abraham Lincoln visits the White House and has surprised the likes of Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt’s maid. The National Park Service maintains the house is not haunted.

Our guide thinks Mary Todd haunts their old house to be closer to her family’s happiest memories. This explanation put children at ease.


Replica of Mary’s wallpaper based upon photos of their home.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected president, the family moved to Washington and chose to leave their beloved dog Fido in the care of their neighbors. Fido was brought to the family’s home one last time after Lincoln was assassinated and he died one year later. It wasn’t hard to imagine the family enjoying their day-to-day life along this street, pre-inauguration.

Walking to Light.jpg

Walking towards the light.

We did not encounter any ghosts on Lincoln’s Ghost Walk, but I felt the weight of Mary Todd’s sadness and a glimpse of her loss. I could almost see the crowds gathering around the depot to see the funeral train and the majestic floral tributes.

When the sun went down, the neighborhood felt peacefully real. The houses may not be occupied by families anymore, but, at dusk, the lightning bugs danced and it truly felt like we were standing in Lincoln’s neighborhood in Lincoln’s time, for just that moment.


  1. Sara Broers

    So glad you accompanied me to Springfield! I learned a lot and I have to say our 16th President truly inspired me.

    • Jeni Flaa

      I’m so thankful you were willing to take a road trip buddy. I feel the same way!

  2. Beth Ann Chiles

    Who knew there was all this going on in Springfield???? Not me! It looks like a great place to visit and the Convention and Visitor’s Center did a great job at highlighting the best their city has to offer. What a fun trip. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeni Flaa

      It was indeed fascinating. There was so much to see and we tried to fit in as much as possible.

  3. Feisty Eats

    What an interesting tour activity! Your photos look like postcards. Thanks for sharing your travel adventures.

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thank you. I love unusual experiences.

  4. Tracie B.

    I really want to do this tour. Especially after you describe what it feels like in the still of dusk. I love that feeling, when you feel like you could be in another time, in the same space.

    • Jeni Flaa

      Well if you ever come this way, let me know:)

  5. Kristin

    I went on this tour a few summers ago and loved it. It was fascinating. We had a great guide.
    I’ve recommended it to many people as a must do if you visit Springfield.

    • Jeni Flaa

      It’s fun to hear from another person who went on the tour. We had a great guide too. Hopefully more people will be curious to visit. It was cool to see the youth so interested in Lincoln.

  6. SDpfeiffy

    Thanks for sharing this trip! I’ve always been very sympathetic toward Mary Todd Lincoln. By today’s standards, she’s portrayed as a spendthrift, hysterical liability. I’ve always just thought she had depressive tendencies and so, so much loss.

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