It seems like it takes a bit of luck to become the most powerful politician in the world. Certainly, the job of President comes with a side-order of superstition, from the mundane to the bizarre. Even the election process has its own superstitions including the Redskins rule – a prediction on who will win, based on the last home game of the Washington Redskins.
You have to wonder though – if superstitions work, then why isn’t John McCain sitting in the White House right now? Possibly the most superstitious man to ever hit the campaign trail, he carried in his pockets a lucky feather, a lucky compass, a lucky penny, a lucky nickel, a lucky quarter, and a laminated 4-leaf clover. But he won’t pick up any coin that is tails-up, so I’m not sure what happens if any of his lucky coins fall out. Clearly, none of his lucky charms worked, but there are a few superstitious men that did make it all the way to the top – our Top 10 Most Superstitious Presidents.
10. George W.Bush
This former President has a surprising sensitive side and has admitted to crying on the job, but it seems that he is also sensitive to the paranormal. While his father was still President, the young George wandered towards the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House and saw ghosts coming out of the wall. His daughter Jenna backed him up in an interview, where she described hearing ghostly music coming out of a White House fireplace. Winston Churchill also reportedly saw a ghost in the White House, so Dubya is in good company.
9. William Henry Harrison
Not so much a superstitious president as one that left a curse in his wake. Harrison’s harshness as Governor of Indiana angered the Native Americans there and they are said to have put a curse on him and his successors. Every president who is elected in a year divisible by 20 would die while in office. It certainly worked for Harrison, who took office in 1840 and died the following year. Abraham Lincoln was next, being elected in 1860 and assassinated 5 years later. The curse held for every president up to Reagan, who was elected in 1980 and survived an assassination attempt. George W. Bush, elected in 2000 also survived an attempt on his life.
The curse is known as the “Tippecanoe” after one of Harrison’s vicious battles against the Native Americans.
8. Gerald Ford
There are different degrees of presidential superstition and Gerald Ford instigated the homeliest of them all – the tradition that the election would be won by whichever candidate’s wife won the Family Circle baking contest. Betty Ford was the first to win with her double chocolate cookie recipe, thereby also winning her husband the top job. The tradition carried on with Rosalyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hilary Clinton, and Laura Bush all winning, but Michelle Obama lost to Cindy McCain yet didn’t lose the election. There was some suggestion that Cindy’s recipe was not her own, but I think the most likely explanation is that the multitude of lucky charms her husband carried around did have the power to win a contest….but not the one that really mattered.
7. Barack Obama
Meanwhile, John McCain’s rival Obama has a little superstition of his own – playing basketball on polling day. Apparently, there were two occasions during the primaries with Hillary Clinton in 2008 where he didn’t play, and he lost both. It may just be an excuse to get away from the craziness of the campaign trail, but it seems like even this most level-headed of presidents has his superstitious side.
6. William McKinley
William McKinley may now mostly be associated with the high school in “Glee“, but he was another famously superstitious man, with one very specific superstition. His particular quirk was that he always had to have a red carnation in his lapel, for luck. He would sometimes give them away, especially to children, but would always quickly replace it with another one. The carnation obsession originated with his political rival and eventual friend, Levi Lamborn. Lamborn’s great-great-great-great-grandson tells the full story but essentially, Lamborn would bring McKinley a red carnation every time they met and McKinley kept winning. So it became his talisman against the dangers of the world.
Shame then, that on Sept 6 1901 he took off his carnation and gave it to a little girl just as a shooter was preparing to assassinate him. He was shot and died 8 days later. Who knows whether the carnation would have saved him – having been re-elected in 1900, he was subject to the curse of Tippecanoe and maybe the pull was too strong. That’s what happens when one presidential superstition clashes with another.
5. Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter was not the most exciting of presidents but there was one remarkable thing about him – his claim to have seen a UFO while Governor of Georgia. In 1969, he spotted a red and green orb “as bright as the moon” crossing the sky. He has filed a report to the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma but has also said he didn’t believe it was an alien spacecraft. He also said that several other people witnessed it, but others there that night claim to have no knowledge of the UFO. Have their minds been wiped by Men in Black-style agents? If they were. they forgot to wipe the one who later became President. That was an oversight…
4. Harry S. Truman
Here’s another president that believed objects would bring him luck. In Truman’s case, it was horseshoes and he had one hung over the door to the Oval Office. He even had a horseshoe-throwing pitch installed in the garden of the White House, which was later replaced with a putting green by President Eisenhower.
In 1950, the Truman family were living in Blair House while the White House was undergoing some serious structural repair work, and the President was almost assassinated by Puerto Rican nationalists. He was saved by a passer-by yelling “look out” as the President watched the gunfight out of the window. We can only assume that his horseshoe had traveled to Blair House with him and was keeping him safe that night.
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR was a popular and well-loved president, but he suffered acute triskaidekaphobia, which means fear of the number 13. He would never sit down for dinner with 13 people and avoided traveling on a Friday if he could. Traveling on a Friday 13th would be completely unacceptable, and he rescheduled international meetings so that he could travel on a 12th or 14th instead. He needn’t have worried too much about the power of Friday 13th over his life – in the end, he died on Thursday 12th.
Ironically, the other President Roosevelt was part of a club called “The Thirteen Club” where they deliberately embraced the number, and did all manner of other unlucky things, like walking under ladders. Maybe FDR should have faced his fear and joined up too. After all, the only thing to fear is fear itself…
2. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln’s name seems to come up a lot in any discussion of presidents and the supernatural. It was his ghost that appeared to Winston Churchill at the White House, he was the second victim of the Tippecanoe curse and Hollywood would have us believe that he’s also something of a vampire hunter. But it seems that Lincoln was in touch with the spiritual world. His wife held seances in the White House and had visions of the children that they had lost.
Meanwhile, Lincoln himself had dreams that he thought showed him the future, including one where he wandered through the corridors of his home until he found a corpse covered in a shroud. He asked a soldier who it was and the soldier replied “The President! He was killed by an assassin!”He started to fear for his life and was proved right when he was killed shortly afterwards. He also saw a vision of two versions of himself in a mirror, which he interpreted as meaning that he would be elected to a second term, but not survive it. Tragically, again he was right.
1. Ronald Reagan
The president who broke the Tippecanoe curse attributes his survival to the help of Joan Quigley, an astrologer who was employed by the Reagans after the attempt on his life in 1980. She claimed that she could have predicted the assassination attempt had she been studying Reagan’s chart at the time, and for the next 7 years she ran the President’s schedule so that his appointments co-incided with the “good” days on her astrology chart for him. Donald Regan – an ex-Chief of Staff – went public about the White House astrologer in his 1988 book “For the Record” and Quigley was rapidly dismissed. Ronald Reagan later denied all knowledge of her and blamed Nancy for liaising with her by saying:
“I was aghast to think that the wife of the President of the United States was using a public telephone to discuss the movements of the President of the United States with a party who had never been cleared by the Secret Service, or anybody else. It was wrong. And I don’t care what others say of my conduct in reporting this, but I think it had to be out of bounds.”
So, he denies it but effectively, the vast majority of his presidency was controlled by a psychic. Which makes him – unwittingly or not – America’s most superstitious president.