Fascinating Air Force One Facts That Reveal What It’s Really Like On Board

Let’s be honest here – Air Force One is arguably the most famous aircraft on the planet. But at the same time, there’s probably a lot that you don’t know about the U.S. president’s iconic jet. So keeping that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 40 enthralling facts that you likely never suspected.

40. The staff sleep anywhere

Have you ever been to a house party that ends with you crashing on a sofa or chair? Well, according to news network CNN, it’s pretty similar on Air Force One. The website reported that Donald Trump’s workers don’t have assigned places to rest, so they grab whatever’s available. From the floor to the jet’s leather seats, anything will do.

39. The plane has two entrances

There have been plenty of iconic shots of U.S. presidents as they stand in Air Force One’s doorway. But were you aware that that’s not the only entrance on the aircraft? An article by news channel CBS News revealed that there’s another access close to the back that the press can use. It probably isn’t as glamorous!

38. Nuclear precautions

Given Air Force One’s importance, the plane has to be ready for anything. And we mean anything. You see, if a nuclear bomb were to ever go off while the jet was in flight, it has precautions in place to shield electrical devices. Normally, blasts of that type give off an EMP – otherwise known as an electromagnetic pulse.

37. The original plane

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It’s hard to imagine a time when Air Force One wasn’t touring the skies with a president on board. Yet according to the website of American broadcaster ABC the first trip abroad didn’t occur until 1943. Yes, Franklin D. Roosevelt marked the inaugural flight on an aircraft named Dixie Clipper when he went to Casablanca. That’s one to remember for quiz night!

36. TVs and telephones aplenty

On a normal flight, passengers usually can’t make phone calls until they touch down. Unsurprisingly, that’s not the case on Air Force One. According to CBS News, the jet boasts over 80 telephones across its interior. You won’t struggle to find a TV either. In 2018 Donald Trump told the media, “Air Force One has about 20 televisions.”

35. The plane never parks up

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While speaking to ABC.net, a specialist on all things flying-related named Trevor Jensen made an interesting point about Air Force One. He revealed, “When it comes, it stays where it lands. You’ll never see it parked at the terminal. It’s totally self-contained.” Why’s that? Well, the pilots have to be ready to leave at the drop of a hat.

34. One president avoided the bedroom

We can only imagine how cool it must be for the U.S. president to have so many facilities available to him on Air Force One. But one leader wasn’t that interested in creature comforts. As reported by CNN, Donald Trump would stay up for lengthy periods during flights and avoided going to bed. Due to that, his wife Melania was often left alone in their quarters.

33. The large floor space

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Yes, Air Force One is a truly massive jet – but just how big is it once you get on board? According to the White House’s official website, the plane’s interior measures in at roughly 4,000 square feet. That’s a lot of space! Plus, it’s got three floors as well.

32. It’s very fast

It goes without saying that airplanes travel at incredible speeds. Mind you, Air Force One takes things to a whole other level. CBS News reported that the president’s plane can reach 630mph in the air. At sea level, the speed of sound is 761.1mph, so that should give you an idea of just how fast it is.

31. The food is great

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Let’s face it – in-flight meals generally leave a lot to be desired on commercial jets, especially in the cheaper seats. But the president and his guests have no such worries on Air Force One. A kitchen will assemble the food, before it gets frozen in a bag. From there, the dishes are fixed up during the flights via ovens and burners. We’re more than a little jealous!

30. The plane is highly protected

In terms of airborne vulnerability, you won’t find a better-defended plane in the world than Air Force One. While – for obvious reasons – details are shrouded in secrecy, it’s believed that the president’s jet has systems on board that enable it to electronically counter any incoming attacks from projectiles. Alongside that, the aircraft can block scanners if an adversary tries to locate it. Pretty cool, right?

29. The president’s private suite

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In a perfect world, we’d all like to have a private room on board an airplane. We can dream! For the president, though, it’s very much a reality on Air Force One. As per CBS News, this suite includes a bed, a washroom and collapsible sofas. So everything you could possibly need for a long-haul journey.

28. There’s a VIP guest section

Should the president ask you to join him on Air Force One, you could find yourself in the guest seating area. This space is located near the top of the aircraft. But if you’re not a VIP, you can’t venture in there. As it turns out, other travelers aren’t permitted to stroll ahead of their chairs: it’s a security risk.

27. Retired planes aren’t trashed

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Have you ever wondered what happens to the Air Force One jets when they’re pulled out of active duty? Well ponder no more! As per CBS News, the SAM 27000 plane was taken apart prior to arriving at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. That aircraft served several leaders up until George W. Bush. Now, guests can take a look at the interior themselves in California.

26. A president was sworn in there

Throughout Air Force One’s checkered history, you’d be hard-pressed to name a more shocking moment than this. Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, his replacement stepped up immediately in November 1963. So Lyndon B. Johnson became America’s next leader after completing the ceremony on board. It was unorthodox to say the least.

25. The first Air Force One

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During Dwight Eisenhower’s spell as president, he traveled on board a Lockheed Constellation aircraft. Its callsign was “Air Force 8610.” But that soon changed in 1953, as Eisenhower’s airplane became the first officially-designated Air Force One. The switch occurred following a safety scare: there was much consternation in 1953 when a commercial jet with a near-identical callsign to the president’s plane coincidentally happened to enter the same area of airspace mid-flight.

24. The planes haven’t always been big

Today, Air Force One is a real beast of a plane. It’s absolutely massive! Then again, not every president had it so good. Take Harry Truman for instance: he traveled on a much smaller aircraft called The Independence. According to CBS News, it could only carry 34 people at a time.

23. The Kennedy influence

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John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie were incredibly influential figures during the former’s time in power. And that stretched to Air Force One too. As per ABC.net, the First Lady hired Raymond Loewy to devise the look of their plane’s cabins. You see, the Boeing VC-137C was a brand-new jet in 1962. Plus SAM 26000 – which was the plane’s callsign whenever the president wasn’t on board – was the first aircraft to be constructed for “presidential use” alone.

22. Marine One

No, that’s not a nickname for Air Force One. In fact, it’s the callsign for a helicopter that flies the president around when he doesn’t need the jet. And these choppers are just as tough! According to The Delite website, Marine One boasts an armored exterior and safeguards against projectiles.

21. It has an Oval Office

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The Oval Office is one of the most iconic rooms in the White House. But did you know that there’s an equivalent space on Air Force One? Yes, this room allows the president to conduct his work as he would do normally on the ground. And it’s pretty big, so he can be joined by various guests.

20. There are two planes

We know you’re thinking, “There’s only one Air Force One, right?” Well, that’s not the case. CBS News reported that there are actually two aircraft which currently bear the callsign when in presidential use. So the president could either be traveling in the SAM 28000 jet or the SAM 29000. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, though, as they’re exactly the same.

19. Candy and coffee

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Who doesn’t love some candy every now and again? Ronald Reagan certainly did! The Delite noted that he was greeted by a helping of jelly beans whenever he traveled on Air Force One. On top of that, the plane’s staff are well aware of the president’s coffee preferences as well. His guests also receive the same treatment.

18. A special group look after the plane

Back in 1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed through the creation of the “Presidential Pilot Office.” Now better known as the Presidential Airlift Group, this team is responsible for looking after Air Force One when it’s not in use. So it’s safe to say that the plane is in good hands!

17. It carried cases of beer for one president

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When Gerald Ford was president, he liked to drink glasses of Coors beer. But there was just one issue – you couldn’t buy the beverage in Washington, D.C., at the time. On that note, the staff aboard Air Force One stepped up in a big way. As per The Delite, they’d pack in boxes of the stuff whenever the plane went to western America.

16. The press don’t fly for free

We can only imagine how exciting it must be for a journalist to fly on Air Force One. They sit at the rear of the plane for the duration of their flight. Here’s something to remember though – it’s not a freebie! You see, the media companies have to pay a fee when their workers join a particular trip.

15. The medical facilities

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Should a medical emergency ever arise on Air Force One, you’re actually in the perfect place. Why’s that? Well, not only does the plane house a surgical table, but it’s also equipped with medication and a defibrillator. Meanwhile, ABC.net reported that packs of the president’s blood group are on board too.

14. The motorcade flies ahead

On the road, the U.S. president usually travels in a well-armored motorcade, regardless of the country. But how do those cars follow him around the world? It’s simple actually – they’re flown to the location before Air Force One arrives. The vehicles are stored in a cargo aircraft for the journey.

13. Operations are costly

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You might not be surprised to hear that the costs of keeping Air Force One in the air are high. At the same time, though, the actual figures could leave your jaw on the floor. For instance, when Donald Trump traveled to Arizona for an event in August 2017, Newsweek magazine reported that the bill came to $1.5 million.

12. New planes are waiting in the wings

The current Air Force One jets entered their third decade of service in 2020. That’s a tremendous run! Yet their time in the air is coming to an end. The Delite reported that two new airplanes are set to be constructed over the next few years, with 2024 marking the likely date of completion.

11. The trip to Berlin

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During John F. Kennedy’s presidency, there were many memorable moments. But it could be argued that his finest hour came in June 1963. We’re of course referring to his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech when he traveled to West Germany. That was probably one of Air Force One’s most significant trips.

10. The fuel tanks are massive

To enable Air Force One to get around at high speed, the plane is equipped with massive engines, which use a lot of juice. In spite of this, according to the Britannica website, the aircraft can travel close to 8,000 miles without the need to top up its fuel. In comparison, even many more compact and therefore fuel-efficient aircraft will only be able to fly roughly 1,500 miles before their engines run low.

9. Air Force Two

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The president’s not the only one to fly in style! Yes, the vice-president has their own airplane as well – handily referred to as Air Force Two. While this jet features broadly some of the same facilities as the current Air Force One planes, it’s not an identical type. The aircraft is actually an armed forces vehicle called the C-32A, a military version of a Boeing 757.

8. Plenty of guests can fly

Given the size of Air Force One, you’re probably curious as to how many people can travel on it. Well, it’s a decent number. As per Britannica, 70 guests are permitted to sit on the plane, from members of the press to government officials. Alongside that, 26 staff usually manage the on-board jobs.

7. Navy One

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In May 2003 George W. Bush made a little bit of history when it came to presidential flights. At that time, he hopped into the inaugural Navy One, which as the name suggests was the first aircraft operated by the U.S. Navy to be used as a presidential transport. The aircraft was actually a Lockheed S-3B Viking, a plane usually used to help combat enemy submarines. Very different from Air Force One! Bush utilized this airplane for two months as he welcomed naval forces back from Iraq. It was eventually retired that July.

6. The “Doomsday” plane

When Air Force One is in full flight, another jet isn’t too far behind it. Rather ominously, it’s known as the “Doomsday” plane. The vehicle’s proper name is the E-B4 Advanced Airborne Command Post. Originally devised at the height of the Cold War, the aircraft is designed to be as resistant as possible to the airborne effects of nuclear detonations. So it’s essentially a flying bunker.

5. The versatile conference room

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The conference room on Air Force One is a very handy space for the president and his aides. As the name suggests, discussions are conducted there while the plane is in flight. But that’s not all. As per CBS News, it can be utilized as a makeshift canteen too when it’s time for dinner.

4. It’s a flying command center

While talking to ABC.net, aviation expert Jensen outlined why Air Force One is essentially a “command center” of the skies. He explained, “The president is the Commander in Chief. So he needs to have the best resources available to him. That’s what provided through this aircraft. They’re able to do everything from running a nuclear war [to] running a PR exercise.”

3. The Kennedy assassination

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There’s no doubt that John F. Kennedy’s assassination is one of the darkest moments in America’s history. But Air Force One provided the fallen president with one last journey after his untimely death on November 22, 1963. Yes, Kennedy’s body was placed on board as the plane returned to Washington.

2. The standard flight plan

Down the years, most presidents have followed a specific schedule when traveling on Air Force One. They usually flew to their destinations over an evening, touching down at the start of a new day. Donald Trump had other ideas, though. As per CNN, he opted to get to his locations by nightfall.

1. It can be refueled in the air

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While Air Force One has numerous stand-out features, it could be argued that this is the best of them. If the plane’s ever running low on fuel, it doesn’t have to land. Instead, an additional aircraft will position itself just in front of the plane, and a few feet higher. Using a specialized pump, it can feed the gas into an opening on the jet’s tip. How inventive!

Now that we’re up to scratch with what it’s like on board Air Force One, it’s only natural that we should learn what goes on inside the White House. It is where the presidents spend most of their time, after all. For this reason, it’s perhaps no surprise that the walls have witnessed some rather bizarre goings-on. Yes, from tales involving ghostly apparitions to some decidedly brazen presidential nudity, here are the most fascinating and shocking incidences that have occurred in America’s most famous mansion.

20. Andrew Jackson hosted a wild inauguration party

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Numerous commentators have made comparisons between the seventh and 45th presidents of the United States. In fact, in a speech made shortly after he had won the 2016 election, even Donald Trump himself called back to Andrew Jackson’s eight-year tenure in the White House. At that time, reports emerged that the president-elect was intending to base his inaugural reception on that of Jackson’s. Yet, in the end, Trump’s soiree wasn’t quite as much of a complete debacle as his predecessor’s.

On the night of Jackson’s first inauguration in March 1829, the president hosted an open reception at the White House. However, thousands of people ultimately turned up – including some frontiersmen – and mayhem is said to have subsequently ensued. The hordes were reported to have shattered the punch bowl, threw liquor buckets everywhere and treated the furniture with sheer disdain. And before long, the drunken mob forced the president to flee from the scene.

19. A resentful army private landed a helicopter on the lawn – twice

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While the White House isn’t completely immune to security breaches, the events of February 17, 1974, definitely stand out. On that day, you see, 20-year-old disaffected army private Robert Preston hijacked a military helicopter from Maryland and flew it to Washington, D.C. And while Preston had flunked helicopter school, he nevertheless used his private pilot’s license to take the chopper to the presidential residency.

Then, while at the White House, Preston lowered the aircraft down to the lawn before a pair of Maryland State police copters chased him away. After having lost one of his pursuers with his unpredictable maneuvers, however, the pilot subsequently returned to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and attempted to land again. This time around, the Secret Service opened fire, wounding Preston. The private was ultimately arrested and then handed a 12-month prison term.

18. Mary Todd Lincoln held séances in the White House

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In the mid-19th century, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln tragically lost their 11-year-old son to what’s thought to have been typhus. At around the same time, though, spiritualism was taking hold in the U.S., leading Mary to turn to mediums in her grief. And the distraught mother apparently found what she was looking for, according to her husband’s biographer Carl Sandburg.

Indeed, Sandburg wrote that Mary believed her dearly departed son appeared to her every night, standing in her bedroom with “the same sweet, adorable smile he always had.” And the First Lady’s obsession with spiritualism even reportedly led to the Lincolns hosting seance in the White House in April 1863 – an event that a journalist claimed to have witnessed.

17. Willie Nelson smoked marijuana on the roof

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For years, Willie Nelson was somehow simultaneously forthcoming and cautious about his fabled trip to Washington, D.C. Simply put, though, it appears that the country music superstar really did smoke marijuana on top of the White House. Nelson wrote in his 1988 autobiography, for example, that on one occasion he had been on the roof of the mansion “with a beer in one hand and a fat Austin Torpedo in the other.” Yet the precise circumstances of the story remained a mystery for decades.

In fact, it wasn’t until 2015 that Nelson revealed how he had really found himself in that outrageous situation. In an interview with GQ magazine’s Chris Heath, the legendary musician recounted how a friend – a “White House insider” – had offered a private tour that had culminated on the building’s roof. And according to Heath, the buddy in question had been president Jimmy Carter’s son James Earl “Chip” Carter III.

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16. Lincoln’s ghost is thought to haunt the White House

Abraham Lincoln isn’t the only former American president whose ghost has allegedly been sighted in the White House, although he apparently makes the most frequent appearances. And the legend arguably began with a photograph that was taken in the 1870s of Mary Todd Lincoln – a snap that appeared to show her deceased husband’s apparition standing behind her. But although that ghoulish image was ultimately explained to have emerged as the result of an inadvertent double exposure, stories of the former president’s ghost have nevertheless persisted.

For instance, Mary Eben – who was once secretary to Eleanor Roosevelt – allegedly saw the ghost of Lincoln putting his boots on in what is now the Lincoln Bedroom. Many White House occupants have also claimed to have felt that Lincoln was there, even if they didn’t actually witness any apparitions. Among that crowd are Eleanor Roosevelt herself as well as press secretaries Liz Carpenter and James Hegarty.

15. The tallest president met the shortest general

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Charles Stratton – better known by his stage name General Tom Thumb – found fame touring with circus master P.T. Barnum from childhood. And the diminutive chap – who stood at just 2’11” tall – had countless fans, with Queen Victoria among them. Then, when Barnum hired equally small woman Lavinia Warren to join his troupe, Stratton fell in love.

Given Stratton’s popularity, though, it’s perhaps no wonder that his wedding captured global attention. And during the 36-month “honeymoon tour” that followed, he and Warren stopped off at the White House for a reception. There, the newlyweds met with Lincoln, who is said to have treated the entire affair with decorum. The president’s son Robert, by contrast, boycotted the event, as he reportedly found it trivial.

14. Elvis tried to score a narc badge from Richard Nixon

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Even in 2015, the historic photograph of Elvis Presley meeting Richard Nixon at the White House in 1970 was the U.S. National Archives’ most-requested image. But the tale behind how the meeting came to be makes the photo itself even more interesting. You see, the story goes that Presley was after a real Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge.

And while Presley collected police insignias, there was apparently another reason why he wanted the prize from Nixon. “The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” his then-wife Priscilla Presley later wrote in her autobiography Elvis and Me. “With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.” Unbeknown to Elvis, though, the badge that he received was entirely honorary.

13. Nancy Reagan sat on Mr. T’s lap

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A year into Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, the First Lady invited Mr. T to the White House. Famously during the ’80s, the television star appeared in public service announcements warning kids to stay away from drugs, meaning the unlikely duo had a shared crusade. And as it happens, the photo from the resulting visit would certainly draw attention.

For one, Mr. T dropped into the presidential residence on December 12, 1983, in full Santa Claus garb. And while attending reporters declined to sit on his lap, Reagan stepped forward – perhaps in an effort to abandon the uptight reputation that had plagued her for years. In 2018 The Washington Post described the resultant snap as “perhaps the most wild First Lady photo ever taken.”

12. British troops set the White House on fire

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The War of 1812 saw many casualties – including the White House itself. Two years into the conflict, British troops stormed into Washington, D.C. seeking revenge for a U.S. offensive on Ontario, Canada. When the men reached what at the time was called the Presidential Mansion, however, they found that then-President James Madison and his wife, Dolley, were nowhere to be seen.

The president had departed two days earlier for the battlefield, leaving the First Lady behind. Then, when Dolley spotted the advancing army, she, too, abandoned the mansion. Soon after, the British reached the White House, invaded the scullery and consumed leftover food before setting the place alight. A full reconstruction of the mansion wouldn’t be finished until 1817 – by which time James Monroe had been elected.

11. A maid walked in on Ronald Reagan naked

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Ivaniz Silva worked as a maid at the White House for 23 years, and apparently her tenure mostly passed as expected. But she has at least one outrageous story to tell. You see, on one occasion, Silva was attending to president Ronald Reagan’s bedroom. Then, when the housekeeper crossed to the adjoining sitting room, she found the commander-in-chief completely nude and surrounded by papers. Naturally, Silva then made a hasty exit. And this wasn’t the only time that Reagan was caught without clothing by an employee.

Yes, it seems that the 40th president of the United States wasn’t ashamed of being in the buff around staff. In 2015 White House usher Skip Allen recounted to ABC News how he’d once had to deliver a confidential document to Reagan in his private residence. And upon his arrival, he found an unfazed president stepping out of the shower while completely nude.

10. A pot washer bowled into the night with Richard Nixon

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Most of the White House staff apparently found the Nixon family a little more formal than they had been used to. However, pre-Watergate, their relationship with the 37th president was nevertheless said to be amicable. And occasionally Nixon did let his guard down. There was the night when the leader went bowling with a pot washer, for example.

It’s no secret that Nixon was a fan of bowling; he even had a lane set up in the White House. And on one evening following dinner, the president visited the kitchen and struck up conversation with pot washer Frankie Blair. Then, after chat turned to bowling, the pair ended up playing together until 2:00 a.m.

9. Andrew Jackson had an enormous block of cheese

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President Barack Obama’s White House hosted the “Big Block of Cheese Day” – in which citizens could ask politicians questions on social media – three years in a row. The event was inspired by Andrew Jackson, who according to an episode of The West Wing had once held an open reception for the public. And the seventh president had apparently tempted folks in with an enormous wheel of the good stuff.

Yes, Jackson really did have a 1,400-pound wheel of cheese that had been gifted to him by a dairy farmer in 1835. But as it turns out, the open forum wasn’t really held to court public opinion; instead, the desperate president simply wanted to get rid of his huge gift. You see, the edible present – which came in at two feet thick and four feet wide – had lingered in the White House for two years, after which time the smell was apparently unbearable. Fortunately, though, the public made light work of the cheese.

8. Barack Obama held a “beer summit”

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Alcohol flowing at the White House is hardly anything new. However, using booze to reach a diplomatic resolution may well have been a first for the presidential residence. And that’s exactly what Barack Obama did shortly into his first term after the wrongful arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside his home.

When Gates returned to his Massachusetts home on one day in July 2009, he had found the door jammed shut. As he had attempted to prize it open, however, police officer James Crowley arrived on the scene and promptly apprehended the academic. And the incident subsequently gained international attention, with critics claiming that Crowley was guilty of racial profiling. Eventually, though, Obama invited both men to the White House to talk it out in what became known as the “beer summit.”

7. Teddy Roosevelt’s children took their pony in an elevator

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There have of course been plenty of heartwarming White House pet stories over the decades, but perhaps the most charming involves Teddy Roosevelt’s family. After then-Secretary of the Interior Ethan Allen Hitchcock gifted a Shetland pony named Algonquin to the president’s second-youngest child, Archie, horse and boy soon became thick as thieves.

So, when Archie was left bed-bound in 1903 after having contracted measles, he asked his mother if he could visit Algonquin. After First Lady Edith explained that her son wasn’t ready to visit the stables, though, his siblings concocted a plan along with a footman. Together, they walked Algonquin into the White House and brought the pony up to an elated Archie using the elevator.

6. Andrew Johnson cared for the White House’s mice

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Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency in 1865 following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. He didn’t share many ideals with his predecessor, however. Putting him out of step with the vast majority of men to occupy the White House, Johnson had no pets, for instance. Well, at least that was the case until he discovered a family of mice living in his bedroom.

Rather than set traps for the animals, Johnson instead decided to take care of them. He left out baskets of grain and flour from his mills, for one, and ultimately gained the mice’s trust and companionship as a result. The rodents may even have offered some solace to the president during his period of impeachment, which began after his clashes with Congress over post-Civil War policy.

5. John Quincy Adams kept an alligator in the East Room bathtub

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Ponies and mice probably aren’t the kinds of animals that most people keep at home. However, they still pale in comparison to the oddity of John Quincy Adams’ pet alligator. French military officer Marquis de Lafayette had received the fearsome reptile as a gift during his American tour in the 1820s, and he subsequently decided that it would be a good idea to take the creature along to the White House.

But while it’s impossible to know how Adams reacted to the strange present, he can’t have been that perturbed by it. After all, he allowed the ’gator to live for months in the bathtub of the then-incomplete East Room. On occasion, Adams would even use the animal to scare guests of the White House before it eventually found another home elsewhere.

4. Teddy Roosevelt used judo on the Swiss minister

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After having gone through bouts of childhood illness, Teddy Roosevelt placed great importance on his physical health. As a teenager, then, he exercised in a gym that had been built for him by his father. In later life, moreover, Roosevelt was a keen practitioner of judo – even becoming the first ever brown belt in the nation. And that drive to achieve peak physical fitness didn’t wither once he entered the White House.

Yes, Roosevelt frequently tussled in the East Room with Chinese wrestlers and Japanese martial artists. He also placed judo mats in the White House’s basement in order to train with anyone and everyone – including his wife. And once Roosevelt breathed life into a dull lunch by flooring a Swiss minister with a judo move. Fortunately, though, his guests were thrilled.

3. An armed intruder stormed the White House in a karate uniform

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Before 1978, you could count the number of White House intruders on one hand – with only one managing to get beyond the grounds. And on October 4 that year, Ohio resident Anthony Henry apparently decided that he’d also give it a go. Dressed in a karate uniform and accordingly barefoot, Henry thus climbed the Pennsylvania Avenue-facing fence.

Henry then hopped down onto the lawn and raced towards the North Portico while threatening police with a knife. For around 15 minutes, he subsequently assumed a variety of karate stances while loudly denouncing the government. And as the cops intercepted and arrested Henry, Jimmy Carter lunched nearby in the residence – blissfully ignorant of the entire situation.

2. Boris Yeltsin’s escape act almost caused an international furor

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Not every White House security breach over the decades has involved people getting in, however, as one such incident involved a prominent politician actually slipping out. In 1995 Russian leader Boris Yeltsin almost caused embarrassment on the international stage during a visit to Washington, D.C. According to then-president Bill Clinton, Yeltsin was indulging in a late-night tipple while staying in the residence’s guest quarters.

And, somehow, Yeltsin managed to give the Secret Service the slip completely. Ultimately, agents found the premier standing in just his underwear on Pennsylvania Avenue while attempting to flag down a cab. Through slurred speech, Yeltsin told them that he had simply wanted to get pizza. What’s more, a trip to the basement the following night ended in yet another rescue after a guard mistook the Russian for an inebriated trespasser.

1. Andrew Jackson taught his pet parrot to swear

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Several U.S. presidents have kept birds, but only one of these pets is known to have launched into a verbal tirade at its owner’s funeral. Andrew Jackson had purchased an African gray parrot for his wife but had assumed responsibility for the creature after her death. And legend has it that at Jackson’s own funeral, the bird swore so loudly and continuously that it was removed from the building.

According to historian Samuel G. Hiskell, the presiding reverend at Jackson’s funeral remarked that the parrot was “excited by the multitude and… let loose perfect gusts of ‘cuss words.’” The attendees, meanwhile, were “horrified and awed at the bird’s lack of reverence.” Sadly, there’s no account of precisely what the bird said. But given the former president’s formidable life, it’s not hard to imagine the bird having learned a few naughty words.

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