The 20-Year Presidential Curse

James Hyde asked:

If you’re among the folks who laugh off the idea of curses, you’ll likely think twice after reading this.

Since 1840 no President elected in a year ending in zero has lived though office except Ronald Reagan, and he was shot.

The story begins in 1813 when William Henry Harrison defeated Tecumseh, chief of the Shawnee tribe, at the Battle of the Thames. At some point after the battle, Tecumseh placed a curse on all Presidents elected every 20 years starting in 1840. Ironically enough, William Henry Harrison was the first victim.

Harrison was elected in 1840 against his wife’s advice and wishes. His inauguration was held on March 4, 1841, an unusually chilly day. He was the rugged sort who wore no topcoat or hat. By the end of the month, he came down with cold symptoms, which advanced to pneumonia, and he died on April 4, 1841.

The next victim was Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860. He, his bride and guests were at Ford’s theatre watching Our American Cousin, when, during the Third Act, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor, shot the President in the back of the head with a single-shot Derringer. He stabbed, one of the guests, Major Henry Rathbone, in the arm, then jumped to the stage. His stirrup got caught in a flag, and he broke his leg. He was finally caught and shot in a tobacco barn. Lincoln died the day after being shot.

President James A. Garfield, elected in 1880, was the third victim of the curse and the second by assassination. His attacker, Charles J. Guiteau, had met with the President not long after Garfield was sworn in. Guiteau wanted to serve as an ambassador or secure some other job in government, but was unsuccessful in his bid to do so. Enraged, on July 2, 1881, Guiteau shot the President as he stood in the Baltimore and Potomac train depot in Washington. One bullet grazed his arm and a second fractured his spine. He lingered until September 19.

Elected in 1900 was William McKinley, the fourth victim and third to die at the hands of an assassin, Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist who patiently waited in line to meet the President at a reception. He had a gun in his hand covered by a handkerchief. When he reached the President, Czolgosz fired twice, hitting the President in the stomach and sternum (chest bone). McKinley died eight days later.

President Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, served until 1923, and died of mysterious causes. Numerous theories abound, from suicide, to heart attack, to murder, and while no one is certain, the consensus seems to be a heart attack given his high-fat diet, difficulty breathing, chest pain (misdiagnosed as heartburn) and smoking cigars.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1940, was the next victim. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, elected in 1960, was an agent of change, and as such, managed to make some powerful enemies. He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, was shot in the upper chest, under his armpit in 1981 by John Hinckley. He survived, but there were some touch-and-go moments as surgeons worked skillfully to save his life.

George W. Bush was elected in 2000. Only time will tell if Reagan’s survival broke the curse, and we won’t know that for certain until inauguration day in January 2009.

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One Response to “The 20-Year Presidential Curse”

  1. Tina says:

    One thing you will never hear about: not too long before President Reagan was shot, a very large group of Christians was gathered in Charlotte, NC and prayed in unison for the curse to be broken. I am sure that God had believers all over the country praying, as well. I was in that group in Charlotte and experienced it firsthand. It was awesome!

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