The Mysterious, Repeating Presidential Death Curse

“The one who breaks this memorial will be eternally tormented by anger. Treacherous death will hit him. I foresee perdition.” —Björketorp Runestone

In A Nutshell

The Battle of Tippecanoe was a victory for the United States government against the Shawnee Indians, but according to legend, it was also a curse. Since that battle, any president elected in a year ending with “0” died in office, a phenomenon often attributed to a hex laid on the office by the losing side at Tippecanoe. When Ronald Reagan survived his assassination attempt, it seemed like the curse had been broken. The survival of George W. Bush reinforced that notion.

The Whole Bushel

Tecumseh was a powerful Shawnee Indian chief from the Ohio territory, known for his resistance of US authority. Tecumseh was not a stranger to war and in 1811 found himself leading a force against future president William Henry Harrison at Tippecanoe. Tecumseh lost—and thus was born the Curse of Tippecanoe (also variously referred to as the 20-Year Death Curse, or the Curse of Tecumseh).

According to myth, Tecumseh (or sometimes his brother, a medicine man named Tenskwatawa) laid a curse on the presidency for his loss at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Tecumseh was later killed at the Battle of Thames in 1813, fighting another army led by Harrison.

Appropriately enough, Harrison was the first president to die under the curse. Harrison was elected in 1840, and died of pneumonia a month after his election. Following Harrison’s death, any president elected or re-elected in a year ending with “0” died in office.

Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. He was famously assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre at the start of his second term in 1865. James A. Garfield was elected in 1880. He was shot in July the following year at a railroad station in Washington and died of his wounds in September.

William McKinley was elected for a second term in 1900. He was shot in 1901, while greeting his audience after a speech in Buffalo, New York. Warren G. Harding was elected in 1920. In 1923, he died of unknown causes—possibly a heart attack, stroke, or poison.

And it just keeps going. Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his third term in 1940. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in his fourth term in 1945.

John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960. He was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963 while riding through Dallas.

Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. John Hinckley Jr., desperate to impress Jodie Foster (ironically a lesbian), thought it would be a good idea to assassinate Reagan. Hinckley shot him in 1981. But, unlike the previous seven presidents, Reagan survived, the bullet barely missing his heart. The next president elected in a year ending with a zero—George W. Bush—also survived his presidency, implying that Reagan has broken the curse.

No historical evidence exists for the attribution of any curse to either Tecumseh or Tenskwatawa. Their apparent affinity for the number zero also remains unexplained.

During the period of the curse, one other president died in office: Zachary Taylor was elected in 1848, and died in 1850 of a stomach virus.

Show Me The Proof

The Curse of Tippecanoe (video)
Snopes: The Curse of Tecumseh
History of the Battle of Tippecanoe

  • percynjpn

    I suppose that the curse was somehow influenced by his ending their production of lawn mower engines – it’s a theory, anyway.

  • “John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960. He assassination was O.K.’d by the joint chiefs of staff in the summer of 1963” 🙂 There. Fixed it.

    • Atlas

      The truth is out there.

      • g.g.palin

        Cancer Man.

        • Atlas

          “Treachery is the inevitable result of all affairs. Every man believes he has his own good reason.”

          Oh, how I love X-Files references :).

    • The Ou7law

      Bunch of prick bastards, i would have loved to see America now if he was never taken by his own country

    • Scott

      No way! Our government would never, ever break the law, let alone murder somebody. That’s just outrageous!

      Or at least that’s the myth.

  • oouchan

    Well…things can follow a pattern, even deaths. Nice that these were laid out so cleanly. Would make a nice conspiracy theory if you threw in a government plot….mmmm.

    Interesting.

  • Mathew Kunz

    Bush was elected in ’88 not ’90…

    • tango jaba

      George Herbert Walker Bush was elected in 1988. George Walker Bush, his eldest son, was elected in 2000. That is whom the author is referring to.

  • ethan

    wow, ok so 1) you claim roosevelt had 4 terms, (presidnet have only been allowed 2 since 1890, moron). and 2) you fail to mention alllllll the ones who died that were elected in non-zero ending years.

    • Crystal Ann Backhus

      Actually, the 22nd amendment was adopted on February 27, 1951.

      • ethan

        lol

    • Scott

      He did have 4 terms. That’s a historical fact that every 3rd grader in America knows. What’s your excuse? Furthermore, there have only been 8 presidents to die while in office, 6 of which are mentioned here. Not sure what you mean by “alllllll the ones who died”

      • Starai

        Actually, Zachary Taylor is mentioned in the last sentence.

        • Scott

          So he is. Guess I missed it.

      • ethan

        lollol

  • Starai

    If there was a curse, Tenskwatawa carried it out. Tecumseh was in Canada at the time and didn’t know about Tippecanoe until after he had returned.

  • Greg Nickerson

    Ethan, I’m not trying to be rude, but you truly might be the dumbest person I have ever run into on this site. Seriously, you should never post anything, anywhere again. You are seriously one step above plant life – MAYBE.

  • g.g.palin

    Ah. Reagan what can’t he do?

  • Redboy.apbt

    I love America grab your guns put your flag on your shoulder and shoot down some muslims GOD BLESS AMERICA (i didn’t even bother reading thats all i wanted to say)