Everybody loves good spooky ghost stories and crazy coincidences, right?  A good mystery gives us something to talk about besides work, or the kids, or what we need to fix on the house.  It gives us a break for the mundanity of our daily grind; it allows us to escape from the nine-to-five.  It’s why when I want to relax, I’ll probably grab Poe or King instead of Keegan (forgive me, history gods).

In that vein, here is one of those wild tales of crazy coincidence.

I reckon about everyone has seen this, or some version of it, floating around on the web by now.  It’s been around for YEARS.

And it makes me absolutely friggin’ NUTS.  Not just as a historian but also as a teacher.

“WHY DIDN’T WE LEARN THIS IN SCHOOL???”

“BECAUSE IT’S NONSENSE.”

Allow me to extrapolate below.

Actual Coincidences

First, let’s take a look at the actual coincidences that have been blown way out of proportion.

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Alright, this is true.  But given that elections happen every four years, it’s inevitable that someone along the way, numerically even numbers for (whatever) are going to line up.

There’s far more non-coincidences in their significant years: birth (1809 and 1917), death (April 1865 v November 1963), Lincoln was 56 when he died and Kennedy 46.

Kennedy spent his time between ’45 and ’60 enjoying an unbroken string of political successes while Lincoln was elected once, served just two years, and lost every other bid he made until 1860.  What about the fact that Lincoln was the first Republican, whilst JFK was a Democrat?  Lincoln was a lawyer, Kennedy a war hero.  Lincoln was killed in his second term, and Kennedy in his first.  Aside from numbers, there really aren’t too many similarities between their early political careers.

Both names contain seven letters

Big whoop.  You want seven?  Add up my birthday – January 4th, 1982.  1+4+2=7.  I was born in room no. 7 at 7am after 7 hours of labor and I weighed just 7 pounds (all true).  7 is the perfect number, the number for GOD.  It’s all an astronomical signpost meaning I’m ordained to do something great for the Lord.

Pity I’m agnostic.

My significant other has seven letters in their name (no, you don’t get their name per their request). We must fated to be together.

Give me a name and a number, and I can make it work. So can you.

Both were shot in the head.

REALLY?  If you were going to KILL someone, WHERE ELSE WOULD YOU SHOOT THEM?

Now, granted, the idiots that assassinated McKinley (1901)  and Garfield (1881) weren’t as clever as Booth or Oswald, and shot them in stupid random places (twenty years apart – coincidence?).  Garfield was shot in the back and died nearly three months later of an infection from the bullet, whereas McKinley was gut shot and took a whole week to die.  Shall we make a big coincidence of how stupid assassins still managed to kill their marks through ineptitude and poor aim?

How about the other two times which some pissed-off Southerner tried to blow Lincoln away?  Why do those get ignored?  Or the original assassination attempt upon JKF in 1960?

Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.

True, and tragic.

But what about Coolidge, Jefferson, and Adams?

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

Also true.  But what about Eldbridge Gerry (1744) and Garrett Hobart (1844)?  What about John C. Calhoun (1782) and Martin van Buren (1782)?  LBJ (1908) and Nelson Rockefeller (1908)?  William Wheeler (1819) or Thomas Hendricks (also 1819)?  Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919, surely we should toss that in there for good measure.

If I really wanted to be ornery, I’d toss in the VP death dates.  Of course, nothing will ever impress me as much as Jefferson and Adams both dying on July 4th, 1826, fifty years TO THE DAY that they signed the Declaration of Independence.  Ya’ll want real, astounding coincidence?  THERE YOU GO.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

Eh.  Oswald was assassinated by Jack Ruby (probably on orders from the Dallas mob). He was in custody and cuffed and the whole nine yards.  Booth, on the other hand, died in a barn fire/shoot-out because he refused to surrender to the officers who had been pursuing him.  I may be alone on this, but I don’t consider getting killed while resisting arrest “assassination.”

Both were assassinated by Southerners

Really stretching it, here. First off, you have a fifty-fifty chance of being shot by a Southerner as opposed to a Northerner.  The guy who shot Garfield was from Illinois and McKinley’s assassin was from Michigan.   So… the two presidents we want to obsess over were shot by Southerners… and the two no one gives a damn about were shot by Yankees.  WOW.  Booth was from Maryland, which remained in the Union, thereby making him in the eyes of many a true Southerner not actually one of us, whereas Oswald lived a lot of places – New Orleans, Dallas, New York, and even Russia, not including the traveling he did in the Marine Corps.  Of the two, only Booth was motivated by sectional concerns – unless Oswald’s possible allegiance to the Soviet Union counts.

Both were succeeded by Southerners.

Ok, granted… but both presidents were from Northern(ish) states and needed Southerners to bring in votes.  Anyhow, I’m not entirely sure either of the VPs would have readily identified themselves as Southern.  Andrew Johnson disagreed with the secession of his state and spent his presidency doing a strange combination of punishing/protecting the South.  LBJ, meanwhile, was a Texan.  And Texas is it’s own entity entirely.

Both successors were named Johnson.

Ok let’s let just look at that name – “Johnson” literally son-of-John.  John, a stupidly common name.  Let’s see how many I have to teach between 1492 and 1877:

John Smith, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Rolfe, John White, John Deere, John Locke, JOHN WILKES BOOTH… that’s what I can think of after three tall glasses of Kentucky bourbon.

John is a stupidly common name in this country.  To illustrate this point, take a look at this graph.

For those of you not clicking on the link, in 1885 90,ooo boys in a million were named John.  Show me a male child from back then and tell me his name is John and forgive me if I’m not surprised.  Along the same lines, the surname “Johnson” literally means “son of John.”  According to this chart, it is the second most common surname in the US.  They’re EVERYWHERE.  I’ll bet you know a Johnson.  I know several, all unrelated.  I even have some in my family.  It’s not a particularly amazing coincidence.  It’s like being amazed that *YOU* own a Ford and *I* own a Ford. It’s not amazing – it’s a question of numbers and frequency.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.

C’mon, that’s a 1-in-7 chance.  McKinley was also assassinated on a Friday, but he gets no love.  Garfield, however, was shot on a Saturday.  So we can draw the conclusion that successful assassins prefer to strike on the weekends?

Speaking of, lets take a look at………………………………………………….

Failed Assassinations and Coincidences

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Mulder: Be honest, Scully. Doesn’t that propane tank bear more than just a slight resemblance to a fat little white Nazi stormtrooper?

Scully: Mulder, the human mind naturally seeks meaningful patterns and configurations in things that don’t inherently have any. Given the suggestion of a particular image, you can’t help but see that shape somewhere. If that tank weren’t there you’d see it in a, in a rock or in a tree…

Mulder: Would you answer my question?

Scully: [grudgingly] Yes, it looks like a fat little white Nazi storm trooper, but that only proves my point!

What about the numerous failed assassination attempts on US presidents?  Let’s take a look at those.  I’m only pointing out the very obvious ones in my laziness and frustration (I’m not getting a grade or a paycheck for this rant), but I’m sure anyone could find more “amazing coincidences” just in the numbers, let alone the facts.  I’ll bet someone who is sufficiently determined could even figure out how some or all of these blokes fit into the Fibonacci sequence.  Bottom line: if ye seek, ye shall find.

  • Andrew Jackson: 1835
  • Abraham Lincoln: 1861, 1864
  • William Howard Taft: 1909
  • Theodore Roosevelt: 1912
  • Herbert Hoover: 1928
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt: 1933, 1943 (Ten years apart?  COINCIDENCE)
  • Harry S. Truman: 1947. 1950
  • John F. Kennedy: 1960 (Ten years after someone tried to get Truman?)
  • Richard Nixon: 1972, 1974 (LOOK SOMEONE TRIED AND FAILED TO ASSASSINATE NIXON AND LINCOLN 100 YEARS APART)
  • Gerald Ford: 1975, 1975 (Yes, people tried and failed to kill this man two times in the same month, both times in California and both times by women.  See, THAT’S interesting.)
  • Jimmy Carter: 1979
  • Ronald Reagan: 1981
  • George H.W. Bush: 1993
  • Bill Clinton: 1994, 1994, 1994, 1996.  Of all attempts on this list, Bill has the dubious distinction of having the MOST.  Why is he then remembered as being so bloody popular?  Incidentally, one of these fools shot at him TWENTY NINE times and missed.  Surely there is some esoteric magical reason for that (actually Bill was inside and all this jackass managed to do was shoot a couple of tourists).  Or how about the psycho who prognosticated 9-11 by attempting to kill him with a Cessna flown into the White House lawn?
  • George W. Bush: 2001, 2005
  • Barack Obama: 2009, 2011, 2013
  • Donald Trump (ALREADY?  Dang, ya’ll.  Well, early birds and worms and all…)

Contrivances

Following now are bits of this silly legend that just aren’t true.

Both names are comprised of fifteen letters

John Fitzgerald Kennedy =21

Abraham Lincoln = 14

Look, I failed math SEVERAL times…. why I majored in history.  But even I can figure out this is just made-up.

Lincoln’s secretary, Kennedy, warned him not to go to Ford’s Theatre.
Kennedy’s secretary, Lincoln, warned him not to go to Dallas.

Ok, once again we’re just makin’ shit up.  Kennedy did have a secretary named Evelyn Lincoln, but if you can find the factual evidence that he warned him to stay out of Dallas, please email me because no one else seems to have that and you could possibly make my career.

Lincoln did not have a secretary named Kennedy.  His secretaries were named John G. Nicolay and John Hay.

John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in 1939.

REALLY?  John Wilkes Booth: Born May 10th, 1838.  Whoever wrote 1839 is GROUNDED.

Both assassins were known by their three names.

Pushing it.  Oswald went by Lee, not “Lee Harvey” and Booth was most often billed as “J. Wilkes Booth:”

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Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a warehouse.
Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.

No.  This is twisting facts to suit your thesis.  Oswald was, in fact, in a textbook warehouse and shot Kennedy on a street.

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He was later caught in this movie theater (which is actually still open, serves nice cocktails, and shows cool underground flicks):

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Booth, meanwhile, shot Kennedy in a live theater and was later cornered in a BARN.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.

OMG don’t get me started on Lincoln and this one.  The idea that Lincoln was a proponent of civil rights and equality is one of the biggest lies ever sold to American society.  But don’t take my word for it; check out some of these quotes from an 1858 campaign speech:

I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making VOTERS or jurors of negroes, NOR OF QUALIFYING THEM HOLD OFFICE, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any of her man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race…

Ohhhhhhhhhh there is more, and it is horrific.  But moving on – does this sound like a man particularly concerned with Civil Rights?  If you’re still not convinced, let’s take a peek at the famous Emanicipation Proclamation:

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…

So.  Tell me.  He issues this on September 22nd, 1862, declaring that AS OF January 1st, 1863, all slaves held within rebellious states would be free.  If he issues it in September, but it doesn’t take effect until January… what does that do?

It gives the South several months warning of what will happen in January if they’re still giving Mr. Lincoln grief.  Hey!  It’s September!  If ya’ll are still acting up in January, YOU LOSE YOUR SLAVES!

The implication being that whichever slave states lay down their arms BEFORE January 1863 CAN KEEP THEIR SLAVES.  Indeed, when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in January 1863, the slaves in the neutral border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and parts of Tennessee, West Virginia, and New Orleans were not affected.  This totaled approximately half-a-million enslaved individuals NOT freed by Lincoln’s lauded order.  Why? Because these state were either not actively rebelling or had already been subdued.

In short, the Emancipation Proclamation was not a great act for Civil Rights by a man who gave a damn – – – it was an attempt to win a war, a carrot designed to bring the South quietly back to the arms of the Union.  To hammer this particular point home, let me again use “Honest Abe’s” own words:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.  What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because it helps save the Union…

At this point I could go hunt down the finer points of Kennedy’s Civil Rights actions to see how they line up with the myth in this video, but I feel my point has already been proven by debunking Lincoln, and as this post has already gone on longer than I intended it to we shall move on.

A month before Lincoln was assassinated he was in Monroe, Maryland.
A month before Kennedy was assassinated he was in Marilyn Monroe.

Alright, aside from the fact that this last tidbit is tacky and unbecoming of anything trying to pass itself off as fact, how about the actual fact that Monroe died long before Kennedy was assassinated?  Monroe died August 5th, 1962.  Kennedy was assassinated November 11th, 1963.

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Every time someone re-posts this Kennedy-Lincoln nonsense, a historian somewhere suffers an aneurysm and dies.

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