William McKinley Gave Away His Good Luck Charm (And Died)

“Luck can only get you so far.” —Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In A Nutshell

Former US President William McKinley is one of the only presidents to have been assassinated, but there’s a very peculiar twist to his assassination. For years, McKinley had worn a lucky red carnation on his lapel, but one day he decided to gift it to a little girl at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Moments later, he was shot, apparently proving that, at least in his case, good luck charms are very real.

The Whole Bushel

William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States and the last President to have served in the Civil War. In September 1901, McKinley was visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and wearing a red carnation on his lapel.

This is important to keep in mind, because for years he had been wearing a similar red carnation as a good luck charm. In fact, ever since he won his first political election, he was rarely seen without the red carnation. While touring the fairgrounds, he was greeting thousands of admirers when he found himself face to face with a little girl.

In what would turn out to be either an incredible, horrible coincidence, or an eerie piece of evidence toward lucky charms having very real power, he decided on a whim to gift this little girl his lucky red carnation. As she walked away beaming, literally moments later, the president was shot by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz. He died eight days later from the bullet wound.

The crowd immediately turned on Czolgosz and began to pummel the assassin, but amazingly McKinley, lying mortally wounded, shouted for his people to pull the crowd off of the man, urging them not to hurt him. (We can only assume it’s because McKinley knew he’d caused his own demise by giving away his lucky red flower.)

Obviously, the idea of a lucky charm actually bringing luck is completely ridiculous. Clearly, McKinley would still have been shot since Czolgosz was already waiting in the line with his gun stashed beneath a bandage, and would have doubtless carried out his plan whether or not McKinley gave away the flower. Still, the incredible coincidence (of the one and only time McKinley gave away his lucky carnation) is tremendously ironic and utterly creepy.

Show Me The Proof

The Evening Independent: Luck ran out with a carnation when McKinley gave it away