A common occurrence during my tenure, one which continues to this day, went something like this…a local, usually an older gentleman, would accompany some visiting family or friends to the tomb. The group would listen quietly, politely to whatever we had to say. Upon the conclusion of our presentation the man would turn to his guests and say, "You know, he's not really buried here." I've seen it countless times. Well, despite what the old-timers say, Lincoln is buried in the Lincoln Tomb and his spectral form is not wandering the grounds.
What of the stories then? If Lincoln doesn't haunt his tomb then who does? The answer is, I believe, no one. While this assessment may come as a shock to some readers (and maybe a relief to the staff of the tomb!) I believe it is a reasonable conclusion. But (and there's always a "but" to a good ghost story) something may be happening at the Lincoln Tomb-something a little subtler than your traditional ghost. Something that I believe began as a result of the attempt to steal Lincoln's corpse and the subsequent movements of the coffin all over the grounds.
During my time at the tomb and because of an obsession with Lincoln, I've spent countless hours in the building under all kinds of conditions (the most exciting was during an raging blizzard when we lost power) and can honestly say I've never encountered anything I believe to be paranormal in nature. But others have. Consider this email account from the fall of 2001. "My boyfriend and I recently visited the Lincoln Tomb…" wrote Jennifer, a college student from Bloomington, "we had an experience there you might be interested in." Jennifer and Tom, an art student at Illinois State University in Normal, were videotaping the tomb and discussing the various statues placed along the hallways of the building. Nothing odd was noted at the time but when they got home and watched the tape for the first time…
"We were taping these statues they have and Tom had just commented on one and a voice on the tape says, 'Put it down!' It's a man and it's very clear on the tape." Could it be a voice from beyond the grave or just the echo of another visitor resounding thru the tomb? According to Jennifer, she and Tom were the only people there aside from the staff member in the front hall.
Another bizarre tale comes from a woman who identified herself as "Bonnie" in her initial contact with me. I've since met "Bonnie" and was surprised to learn she was actually a fairly well known (former) news person in Springfield. Her encounter with the supernatural at the Lincoln Tomb occurred on February 12, 2002 -- the 193d anniversary of Lincoln's birth. "Bonnie" was there with another man. As they stood before the great marble stone that marks Lincoln's grave, "I just got very sad all of a sudden. It was like a wave of grief just washed over me. I don't really care at all about Lincoln but suddenly it was like I was so sad over his death or something."
She turned to her friend to find him staring at the south wall where the remains of Mary Lincoln and three of the Lincoln sons are entombed, "He had tears rolling down his cheeks," she told me, "He felt the same way I did and he couldn't explain it either. I only go there for the job or I feel obligated to take visitors, not because of any particular interest in Lincoln so I can't imagine why I'd care at all; and especially "Bill", who knew even less than me about Lincoln."
The pair left the tomb and felt fine once they got outside, "I've been in there dozens of times before and since but have never felt that way marble halls. Perhaps on some quiet afternoon at the Lincoln Tomb you'll hear it too…let me know.