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.