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The Curse of Tippecanoe


William Henry Harrison, the ninth United States President, died thirty-one days into his term due to pneumonia. About twenty years later, Lincoln also died, this time, by assassination. Then, another twenty years later, James A. Garfield died. A visible pattern was shown here, with a president dying every twenty years. All these deceased presidents would be able to blame Harrison in the afterlife. 

In the early 1800s, William Henry Harrison was a governor of Indian Territory. He negotiated treaties with the Shawnee Indians, whose leader was Tecumseh. However, Tecumseh was so mad about these treaties that he and his brother, Tenskwatawa, organized a Shawnee Indian force to fight back against Harrison. He lost, of course. Later, during the War of 1812, they fought again at the Battle of the Thames, with Harrison defeating Tecumseh and his brother again. Here, it is said that Tenskwatawa, otherwise known as the Prophet, placed a curse on all U.S. presidents elected in a year ending in zero to die in office. 

In 1840, Harrison ran for president as a war hero, and he won 234 of the electoral vote and 53% of the popular vote. However, Harrison caught pneumonia during his inaugural address and died soon afterward. The nation was shaken at the death of a president and national war hero, and mourned the death of the first president who died in office. Twenty years passed without any deaths of presidents in office. But then, Abraham Lincoln was shockingly assassinated in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. The nation was again immersed in grief for the president who freed slaves and won the Civil War. But what the people didn’t notice was that Lincoln was elected in 1860. Another twenty years passed, and James A. Garfield was elected in 1880. He met his end in 1881, after being shot by an assassin. Another twenty years and another death, this time being William McKinley. 

This pattern continued up until Ronald Regan, who was elected in 1980. Due to the trend from the Curse of Tippecanoe, Ronald Reagan should have died in office. However, although there was a failed assassination attempt made on him, the assassin failed and he lived, breaking the curse. From then on, the Curse of Tippecanoe has been broken, with George W. Bush and Joe Biden being elected in 2000 and 2020 respectively and not dying while in office (at least, currently). I believe that with three presidents breaking the curse, the curse is done for good, and no more presidents in office will die in a specific pattern. 


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