The White House went ghost on Obama's last night

Birds flying over the White House in Washington, US.
Birds flying over the White House in Washington, US.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - The lights didn't quite go out at the White House on Thursday night, but the compound at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue took on a ghostly quality as most of President Brack Obama's staff moved out.

Desks were emptied. Iconic photographs of Mr Obama came off the walls. Handwritten notes were left for the Obama aides' successors.

And a Marine guard left his post outside the West Wing at around 6 pm, signaling that the president had left the Oval Office for the final evening.

Just before he did, fireworks celebrating a concert for President-elect Donald Trump exploded in the sky, just visible above the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House.

The sparsely populated corridors of the White House made for an unusual sensation, as reporters roamed the offices of Mr Obama's communications team without supervision.

Secret Service agents allowed reporters to take some photos of the hallways, where empty frames hung on the walls.

"There's nothing in them," one said with a shrug.

A computer monitor left on in the office of press secretary Josh Earnest blared cable news coverage of Trump's festivities in Washington.

Mr Earnest, who had knocked on doors in Iowa with candidate Obama in 2008, had signed off earlier in the day after 2 1/2 years as the President's top spokesman. He delivered more than 350 White House briefings to reporters.

A skeleton staff was scheduled to be on hand on Friday morning as Mr Obama welcomed Mr Trump for the traditional tea service before leaving for the inauguration and his swearing-in at noon.

But most had already left the place behind.