“I dreamed that John Wilkes Booth shot me”

john wilkes booth

April 14th was the fateful night Abraham Lincoln went to the theatre. It was also the night that a woman who was fond of John Wilkes Booth, had a curiously prophetic dream.

Was it Telepathy?

Some years before the blood of our revered, and martyred President Abraham Lincoln had blotted each kindly thought of John Wilkes Booth from the hearts of his friends, and the horror of his crime had hushed each kindly word of him on their lips, we made the acquaintance of the Booth family.

There are probably none of them living at present to be wounded by any incidents to be recalled. As in the passing of forty years not one of our family is left to refresh my memory, these remembrances of them are, of necessity, from a child’s viewpoint. They may however be of interest, for connected with them is a most inexplicable dream.

After a long absence in California I went with my mother and a friend to call upon Mrs. Booth in New York. It must have been a painful visit, for beneath every subject of conversation were thoughts that could not be uttered. A forgotten parasol caused me to return to the house, almost immediately after leaving, when I found the dear old lady weeping bitterly. Poor heartbroken mother, in her great and lonely grief! With what a flood of sorrowful memories, the visit of my mother must have overwhelmed her.

In the autumn of 1860 my father went to California, leaving my mother and the rest of the family in a large house in Longwood, a beautiful suburb of Boston·. In the spring of 1861 a noble looking, sad faced gentleman came to our house to ask if my mother could take into her family, for a few months, his mother, sister, and two brothers. The gentleman was Edwin Booth, saddened by the recent death of his wife. His mother, Miss Anna Booth, John Wilkes, and Joseph Booth boarded with us that summer.

John Wilkes Booth was then about the age of my eldest brother, perhaps twenty-four years old. To my childish eyes he was very handsome, with dark hair curling over a high forehead, brown eyes, and dark mustache. He was, I believe, an attractive man, with a winning manner and a pleasant smile.

My mother with her gracious dignity, and ready sympathy always drew young people to her, and John Booth responded to her motherly interest, with the respectful affection that a young man sometimes gives to a lady much his senior.

It must be remembered that, in those days, he seemed so worthy of friendship, as anyone now held in high esteem. That he could ever be guilty of crime, was then unthinkable. As little anticipated was the feeling of abhorrence with which every photograph, letter, and every reminder of him whatsoever was afterwards destroyed by us.

Those were the first months of the Civil War, and fathers, brothers, husbands, and lovers were leaving home and dear ones, for the battlefield. In speaking of this conviction that he ought to go to war John Booth told my mother that he felt that he ought to be a Christian first. In none of his conversations with my mother did he lead her to infer that his sympathies were with the South. Our family were strong Republicans, and had voted for Abraham Lincoln. Their sympathies were wholly for the Union and the North. My mother thought naturally that he intended to enter the northern army.

At the end of the summer the family left us, and we afterwards saw them only occasionally. The following winter John Wilkes Booth acted in Boston. Now and then he came to see us. Child-fashion, I usually appropriated the lion’s share of his visits to myself.

In October, 1863, my mother and the rest of us followed my father to California. Soon after we ceased to hear from the Booths.

One night my mother awoke my father suddenly, saying, “O Charles! I have had such a terrible dream! I dreamed that John Wilkes Booth shot me! It seemed that he sent me seats for a private box in a theatre, and I took some young ladies with me. Between the acts he came to me and asked how I liked the play. I exclaimed, ‘Why John Booth! I am surprised that you could put such a questionable play upon the stage. I am mortified to think that I have brought young ladies to see it.’ At that he raised a pistol, and shot me in the back of the neck. It seems as if I feel a pain there now.” After awhile my mother fell asleep and dreamed the same thing a second time.

Was it possible, that just before the commission of this infamous deed, he thought of my mother as one of his friends whom his atrocious crime should fill with consternation and horror?

The next morning came the terrible news which plunged our nation into grief and mourning.

Almost at the hour of my mother’s dream–President Lincoln was assassinated: shot, in the back of the neck, in a private box in a theatre, by John Wilkes Booth.


As was customary with the ASPR, Dr. Hyslop wrote for further details and corroboration.

Nov. 2, 1909.

James H. Hyslop, Esq.,

Dear Sir: Your favor with regard to my article sent recently (my mother’s dream of John Wilkes Booth) is at hand.

I will write immediately to any relative and friends who know about our acquaintance with the Booth family or who have heard of the dream of my mother.

I cannot give you very satisfactory answers to your questions.

I was twelve years and six months old March 27, 1865, old enough to be vividly impressed by events of importance.

To the best of my knowledge and belief my mother told her dream to the family at the breakfast table the next morning. I heard her tell it repeatedly to friends from time to time, so that my recollection of it is perfect. My mother died Dec. 20, 1879.

I am quite sure that the dream was told before we received news of the assassination. I was not up when the family heard of it. On my way to school (probably) I saw Captain Lawton of the coast survey running up his flag at half-mast in front of his home. In answer to my questions he told me the terrible news.

None of the family had heard directly from the Booth family for a long time previous to the tragedy. I think my mother had no knowledge of the whereabouts of John Booth except what might have been obtained from newspapers.

Mother did not report any feeling that she was in Washington at the time.

Nothing was done to ascertain the time of the dream. I am quite sure that the dream was on the night of the assassination–so the story was told over and over.

My brother, my youngest brother, and I left New York Oct. 23, 1863, Str. Champion for San Francisco; we called in New York on Edwin Booth, and received from him a walking doll to take from him to his little niece Mary Booth in San Francisco.

Her father famous Brutus Booth was there at that time; but I am certain that he left there for the East before 1865. We visited his home in 1870–” Manchester by the Sea “–and met Mrs. Agnes Booth—I think she and his daughter Mary Booth are living….

My mother was highly educated in an English school in Maine, warm-hearted, and spiritually minded, but not a sentimental dreamer. I remember that sometimes for an evening diversion she would take part in the tipping of tables, etc., much to my childish fear and discomfort. She was often told that she would make a good medium. In these days I suppose she would have been called psychic….

Pardon my having written at great length.

Hoping that your investigations will be satisfactory with regard to the dream, I am,

With great respect,



Ella Hughes does not seem to have been a public figure, although she was the daughter of noted San Francisco architect S.C. Bugbee. I’ve found a notice of one of her son’s weddings and she published an insipid poem in “The Craftsman” of April, 1913.  I doubt that she was a professional writer.  Before moving from Massachusetts to California, the Bugbees were friends with the Booth family and are mentioned in biographies of John Wilkes Booth.

Here is a previous post on some of the lesser-known premonitions of Abraham Lincoln’s death. Other prophetic tales of President Lincoln’s assassination? Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

See also the post “Dr Armstrong and the Assassin,” about a man rumored to have been Booth, who had somehow not been shot in 1865.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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