LOS ANGELES — Jenna Bush Hager and sister Barbara Bush returned to D.C. last week for the debut of their new book, but given the time of year, it was natural they would be asked whether they had any White House ghost stories.
“There are ghosts in the White House, and had you said that to us, we would have said ‘No way,’ because we are not necessarily believers,” Jenna Bush Hager said during a SiriusXM town hall hosted by Julie Mason.
“That’s not really our genre,” Barbara Bush said.
But they recounted a time when they were staying at the White House during their father, George W. Bush’s, term. Jenna was on a summer internship at a charter school, and Barbara was visiting town.
One night, Jenna said, as she was falling asleep, her phone rang and “I kind of woke up, turned it off, and I was falling back asleep and I heard opera, and a woman’s opera voice coming from the fireplace.”
“I got chills. I felt something, so I ran into Barbara’s room — she’s right across the hall — jumped into bed with her, woke her up,” she said.
“I said, ‘Just come back to sleep, you are a nut.’ I didn’t believe her,” Barbara said.
Two nights later, when they were both sleeping in Barbara’s room, they heard 1920s jazz music coming from the fireplace that “scares the hell out of us,” Barbara said.
“The hair on the back of our neck was standing up,” she said. “So we decided not to get in bed with our parents because we are about 24 years old. We convinced ourselves that the cat must have jumped right on top of the piano.”
But the music was really good jazz, “so the cat would have had to have taken it up.”
The Bushes just published “Sisters First: Stories From Our Wonderful and Wild Life,” and they were feted at a book party last week at the Jefferson Hotel.
At a Q&A with Tammy Haddad, Barbara, who has had a reputation of being the more private of the two sisters, said that their “parents were definitely surprised that I said yes to doing [the book]. I am kind of surprised that I said yes too.” The sisters live four blocks away from each other in New York, and Barbara says she usually wakes up to text messages from Jenna, often the start of sharing thoughts throughout the day.
Among those on hand were Bob Woodward, Connie Milstein, Greta Van Susteren and John Coale, Howard Fineman, Bret Baier, and Kasie Hunt.
Haddad’s final question was the obvious one: At a hurricane relief concert that brought together all the living former ex-presidents, what joke was it that their father was telling to Barack Obama as Bill Clinton spoke?
“The sad fact is we do know, but we can’t tell you,” Jenna Bush said.