Mary Lincoln consulted with multiple mediums while she resided at the White House, often in attempts to make contact with her deceased son Willie.

She was not alone. Belief in spiritualism soared as war fatalities and victims of childhood disease did.

A Washington medium named Colchester threatened Mary Lincoln that, if she did not get him a War Department pass to New York City, he might have some unpleasant things to say to her.

Noah Brooks, a reporter who was friendly with the president, attended one of Colchester’s seances and tried to expose him as a swindler. Brooks jumped up in the dark and tried to grasp a hand beating a bell against a drum, but the drum hit him on the head, leaving a bloody gash.

Soon after that, Brooks arranged a meeting with Colchester at the White House, confronted him with his bloody scar and warned him to give Mrs. Lincoln no further trouble or he’d wind up in prison.

Source: Reveille in Washington by Margaret Leech