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Halloween Countdown, Day 5

On this day in spooky history, the seeds of a curse -- or at least its legend -- were planted.

The story begins with tragedy. On this day in 1813, exactly two centuries ago, the great pan-tribal leader Tecumseh fell at the Battle of the Thames. His ally, a British major-general, abandoned him to their foes and was later court-martialed for the disgrace.*

The leader of the U.S. forces who slew Tecumseh was William Henry Harrison, a future president of the United States. Harrison died of pneumonia only a month after taking office. Zachary Taylor, who also fought against Tecumseh in the War of 1812, was likewise elected to the presidency -- and he also died in office.

The legend grew and evolved, ultimately suggesting that on the day Tecumseh perished, his brother Tenskwatawa (a religious leader known as The Prophet) had cursed both William Henry Harrison and future White House occupants who were elected during years with the same ending number as Harrison's election.

Death of Tecumseh


For the next 120 years, presidents elected during years ending in a zero (which happens every 20 years) died while serving in office.

Election of 1840: William Henry Harrison - died in office of pneumonia
Election of 1860: Abraham Lincoln - assassinated in office
Election of 1880: James Garfield - assassinated in office
Election of 1900: William McKinley - assassinated in office
Election of 1920: Warren G. Harding - died in office of heart attack or stroke
Election of 1940: Franklin Roosevelt - died in office of cerebral hemorrhage
Election of 1960: John F. Kennedy - assassinated in office

Death of William Henry Harrison


The election of 1980 "challenged" the curse; Ronald Reagan was seriously wounded by an assassination attempt while in office, but he survived.

The election of 2000 "broke" the curse; George W. Bush remained uninjured after an attempted assassination, when he was targeted while in office with a dud live grenade.

It's an eerie bit of history, isn't it?

Read more about the legend of Tecumseh's curse here.


* I find Tecumseh to be an important and fascinating figure, so much so that I wrote a biography of him for students.
On a related note, I'll be giving a talk about Tecumseh and his legacy (free and open to the public) at 10am on November 15 as part of the Native American History Month celebrations at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
gilda_elise
Oct. 5th, 2013 11:20 am (UTC)
Wow, that is eerie. You wouldn't believe the really nasty thought that went through my mind, though. ;-)

I know so little about the eastern Native Americans. I think I'll have to pick up your book. :-)
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 5th, 2013 04:47 pm (UTC)
::snort:: Just... yeah. ::snort::

Aw, thank you! Tecumseh's story is a truly inspiring and tragic one. He's been called the Native King Arthur for good reason.
aishabintjamil
Oct. 5th, 2013 11:41 am (UTC)
Fascinating. Could be great fodder for a near future paranormal story.
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 5th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you think so!

Oooh, you're right about it making good fodder for a story! *looks at you imploringly* The tale goes that Nancy Reagan took the curse seriously, and after the election sought out advice from astrologists and other "consultants" on how to appease the curse and protect her husband. I have no idea if this is true, but certainly she made no secret about speaking to astrologists and believing in certain supernatural or paranormal phenomena.
aishabintjamil
Oct. 5th, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
Hmmm.... Might even work as a sequel to a book I'm working on now. One of the main characters is of Native American heritage. Of course I haven't sold the first one yet, but it's good to have ideas in the pipeline.
Caffeinated Joe
Oct. 5th, 2013 04:37 pm (UTC)
Quite
Quite eeries, not that I buy into it. But, with the last two, doesn't that make it over now, regardless?
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 5th, 2013 04:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Quite
I'm glad you found this to be properly eerie. Part of the delight of legends -- and, for that matter, Halloween itself, I think -- is that you don't have to believe in order to be fascinated.

Perish the thought! For historians, nothing is ever "over." *wink*
litlover12
Oct. 5th, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Quite
It is fascinating, and freaky!
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 5th, 2013 06:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Quite
I'm so glad you think so! Thanks!

Your icon is soooo appropriate. I love it. ;)
litlover12
Oct. 5th, 2013 08:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Quite
Hee, thanks! :-) It's one of my favorites.
st_crispins
Oct. 5th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. I'd heard of the 'curse' but did not know the full story behind the origin.
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 8th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
My pleasure!
peadarog
Oct. 5th, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC)
Now, that's pretty cool :)
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 8th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! :)
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 8th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC)
These are so gorgeous. Thanks again for the link!
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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