|The following is reprinted from Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Presidency
Superstition is an American tradition in which even the presidents have taken part. Sometimes, though, their superstitions have been eerily justified.
Athletes are notorious for their pre-game rituals and good luck charms. It turns out that American presidents are no different, using superstition as one way to chart the course of their administrations.
The supernatural shaded Abraham Lincoln's White House, perhaps more than any other presidents. His wife Mary Todd had visions of their children who had died young. She conducted séances - some of which Abe attended, although he thought the mediums were hucksters – to try to communicate with them.
This skepticism notwithstanding, Abe himself had dreams and visions that he took very seriously. He announced once at a Cabinet meeting when he was waiting for a report from General Sherman that he knew good news was imminent, because he had just had a recurring dream that always was a good omen for him.
Lincoln's most famous dream vision is described by his friend War Lamon in a book of recollections. The dream began with Lincoln hearing the sound of crying far away. He traveled through a number of rooms in the White House searching for the source of the sound, then arrived in the East Room to find a crowd surrounding a shrouded, dead body. The body's face was covered by the shroud, making it unidentifiable. He asked one of the soldiers guarding the body who was dead. The soldier replied, “The President! He was killed by an assassin!” The dream ended there. Sadly, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth soon afterward, and the story of premonition circulated far and wide.
William McKinley made a habit of wearing a red carnation in his lapel for luck. Occasionally, when he wanted to share the luck with others, he would give it away.
For example, if someone asked him for a favor he couldn't grant, he would offer the carnation as a consolation prize. Once when two boys were visiting him in the White House, he gave one boy the carnation from his lapel, then he shrewdly took another out of a vase to put into his lapel for a while before giving that one to the other boy so his blossom would be lucky too.
McKinley's assassination (Credit: Library of Congress)
When visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, in 1901, McKinley only had a short period scheduled for meeting, greeting, and shaking hands. At one point he gave his lucky red carnation to a young girl in the receiving line. Now without his good luck charm, McKinley was approached by a man with a bandage over his right hand. The man was Leon Czolgosz, and the bandage was hiding a gun. Czolgosz fired two shots at McKinley, and McKinley died eight days later.
Roosevelt's Numbers Game
Superstition also figured in the day-to-day life of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He strongly believed that it was bad luck to light three cigarettes with one match. Once a young man tutoring some of the Roosevelt children at their Hyde Park home received a warning from Roosevelt for doing this. When he did it again at lunch, Roosevelt laid into him, in what his lifelong secretary called, “one of the few occasions I know of when the President actually reprimanded someone brusquely in public.”
Roosevelt had an acute case of triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13. He would invite his secretary to come to dinner with him if there were otherwise going to be 13 guests present at the function. If his party was going to travel on the 13th of the month, he would reschedule the departure for 11:50 p.m. on the 12th or 12:10 a.m. on the 14th. He avoided the date even in death, passing away in April 1945, on the afternoon of Thursday the 12th.
The Truth is Out There, Says Carter
UFOs are the kind of thing the government usually gets accused of covering up. Contrary to the stereotype, Jimmy Carter publicized his UFO sighting, which occurred when he was a fledgling politician in Georgia in 1969.
Carter was standing outside with several other members of a Lions Club chapter in Leary, Georgia, before a meeting where he was scheduled to speak. Then, according to Carter's report, the group saw an object in the sky that was as bright as the moon; changed color from blue to red; and moved toward and away from the observers twice. During his presidential campaign Carter promised, after having a personal experience with UFOs, to open any existing government UFO files if he were elected.
Most of those who have researched Carter's sighting have figured that he probably saw the planet Venus, which was particularly bright in the evening on the night in question (the date of which was definitely established by finding the record of his speech in the Lions Club archives). Some of the Lions who were there with him reported that it could have been Venus. Carter never did release any government UFO files, which sounds like the making of a good episode of The X-Files.
The Reagans See Stars
Ronald and Nancy Reagan (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)
In May 1988, former White House chief of staff Donald Regan published his book For the Record, in which he revealed that one of his tasks for President Ronald Reagan was to integrate his schedule with the advisements of an astrologer, whose reports came through First Lady Nancy Reagan.
The astrologer, Joan Quigley, credited her work for President Reagan's surviving until the end of his second term and thwarting the 148-year curse by which the presidents elected in 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, and 1960 had died in office.
Joan Quigley Photo: history.andiego.edu
She also claimed to have almost total control over the timing of important public events. For example, after Congress nixed two of Reagan's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Quigley advised that his third candidate, Anthony Kennedy, be nominated as precisely 11:32:25 a.m. On November 11, 1987. (Kennedy was confirmed 97-0). Coincidence? You be the judge.
Quigley had been introduced to Nancy by talk show host Merv Griffin in 1973, and she stayed in sporadic contact with Mrs. Reagan for a number of years, with a spike during the 1980 presidential election.
Then, after John Hinckley Jr.'s attempted assassination of Reagan, Nancy hired Quigley in May 1981 to be the Reagans' full-time astrologer after Quigley said she could have foreseen the assassination attempt had she been studying Ronald Reagan's chart. Nancy asked Quigley if she would waive her fee, but Quigley refused because, as she said, “People tend not to value advice they don't have to pay for.”