The Rathbones

On April 14, 1865, newly engaged Clara Harris and Major Henry Rathbone went to see a play at the invitation of Mary Todd Lincoln.  It would be a night that changed the course of history and ruined their lives forever.   John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln splattering Clara Harris’ dress with blood.  Clara took the infamous white satin dress back to her parents home, Loudon Cottage in New York.  The dress so unnerved her she had the dress walled up.  Then the haunting began.  Abraham Lincoln was spotted and so frightened the residents that some sources claim the dress was ultimately set free from its walled prison and burned to end the ghostly visitations.


Clara Harris

Clara Harris had stayed on the nine-hour death watch with Mrs. Lincoln while Major Rathbone fought for his own life.  In an attempt to stop Wilkes from leaving the theater, Rathbone had been stabbed in the hand a wounded in the head.  Major Rathbone did physically recover from the attack and the marriage went forward.  Mentally, however, the attack destroyed him.

Major Henry Rathbone was appointed as a consul and they and their three children moved to Germany.  Henry hoped the change in location would help him regain his mental health.  It failed to do him any good at all and he continued to deteriorate.  He suffered from terrible headaches and it left him thin and sickly.  Mentally Henry became extremely jealous of the children, moody and paranoid.


Major Henry Rathbone

December 23, 1883, Henry woke Clara up before dawn and asked to see the children.  She protested as it was far too early to wake them up.  He then shot and killed Clara and stabbed himself six times, the same number of times he had been stabbed by Wilkes.  Reenacting both Lincoln’s murder and his own attack.  He survived the stabbing.  The police found him bloodied and ranting about people hiding behind the pictures.  He lived out the rest of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane in Hildesheim, Germany.   He existed in a constant state of paranoia.   In 1911 he died in the asylum  and was buried next to Clara.   In 1952 their remains, their graves being forgotten by the family, were disposed of.

After Clara’s murder her spirit was said to haunt Loudon Cottage her childhood home.  On the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination people claim to hear a gun shot and see not only Abraham Lincoln but a weeping girl in a white satin dress stained with blood.  Major Henry Rathbone too has a place in ghost lore.  His neighbors claimed to have heard him crying in his old home on Lafayette Square in Washington DC after his death.  The home where he found his greatest success and happiness before all hope ended.


2 thoughts on “The Rathbones

  1. Stop wondering whether befriending ghosts is still an option… And also whether one could think of a better plot ever since “Murder She Wrote” and “The Social Network” finally met, if only their respective authors… Actually, I must admit this one has got to be the best ever, at all !!

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