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.
The streetlights started to glow around dusk.
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.
While we were crossing the street on the way to Lincoln’s home, we turned to see this view of the Illinois State Capital.
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.
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.
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.
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.