Lincoln–Kennedy coincidences urban legend
The coincidences between U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy are a piece of American folklore of unknown origin. The list of coincidences appeared in the mainstream American press in 1964, a year after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, having appeared prior to that in the G.O.P. Congressional Committee Newsletter. Martin Gardner examined the list in an article in Scientific American, later reprinted in his book, The Magic Numbers of Dr. Matrix. Gardner's version of the list contained 16 items; many subsequent versions have circulated much longer lists. The list is still in circulation today, having endured in the popular imagination for over 50 years. A more recent examination by Snopes.com found that the listed "coincidences are easily explained as the simple product of mere chance." In 1992, the Skeptical Inquirer ran a "Spooky Presidential Coincidences Contest." One winner found a series of sixteen similar coincidences between Kennedy and former Mexican President Álvaro Obregón, while the other came up with similar lists for twenty-one pairs of US Presidents.
An example of the list is presented here for illustration. Some say that much of the list has been debunked, and a few entries are outright falsehoods. Some urban folklorists have postulated that the list provided a way for people to make sense of two tragic events in American history by seeking out patterns. Gardner and others have said that it is relatively easy to find seemingly meaningful patterns relating any two people or events, but that such patterns often do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny.
- Both presidents were elected to the House of Representatives in '46.
- Both were losing candidates for their party's vice-presidential nomination in '56.
- Both presidents were elected to the presidency in '60, after a series of debates with their opponent.
- Lincoln defeated incumbent Vice President John C. Breckenridge for the presidency in 1860; Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard M. Nixon for the presidency in 1960.
- Both their predecessors were the last presidents to be born in their respective centuries.
- Both their predecessors left office in their seventies and retired to Pennsylvania. James Buchanan, whom Lincoln succeeded, retired to Lancaster Township; Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom Kennedy succeeded, retired to Gettysburg. They both then died before the end of the decade.
- Both their Vice Presidents and successors were Southern Democrats named Johnson (Andrew Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson) who were born in '08.
- Both presidents were concerned with the problems of black Americans and made their views strongly known in '63. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, which took effect in 1863. In 1963, Kennedy presented his reports to Congress on Civil Rights, and in June of that year delivered his Civil Rights Address on radio and television in which he proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Both presidents, and their successors, conferred with a nationally known black leader about civil rights. Both Lincoln and Andrew Johnson conferred with Frederick Douglass. Both Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson conferred with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..
- Both presidents were known for their wit and eloquence, and both frequently quoted Shakespeare and the Bible in their speeches.
- Both presidents had been captains of ships in their private lives: Lincoln on a river boat, and Kennedy on PT-109.
- Each president suffered from a genetic disease. Lincoln had Marfan's syndrome. Kennedy had Addison's disease.
- Both presidents were shot in the head on a Friday seated beside their wives. Both Fridays preceded a major holiday observed within the week.
- Both presidents were accompanied by another couple.
- The male companion of the other couple was wounded by the assassin.
- Both presidents fathered four children, and had a son die during his presidency.
- Both presidents had only one child survive into the next century. That child served another president by political appointment.
- Both presidents' wives died in their sixties after an untimely decline in health, during the administration of a president who had seen their husbands in Washington, D.C. the same year as the assassination.
- Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre; Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in a Lincoln automobile, made by Ford.
- Both presidents' last names have 7 letters.
- Both assassins' full names have 15 letters.
- Each assassin committed his crime in the building where he was employed.
- Both presidents were purportedly smiling immediately before the assassination began.
- After shooting Lincoln, Booth ran from a theatre to a warehouse; after shooting Kennedy, Oswald ran from a warehouse to a theatre.
- Both assassins died in the same month as their victim in a state adjacent to the state of their birth.
- Both assassins were Southern white males born in the late '30s, who were in their mid-20s.
- Both assassins were sympathetic to a government that opposed the United States, and both had once resided within that government's borders.
- Both assassins were killed before being tried, by men who were reared in the North, changed their name as adults, and were bachelors.
- Both assassins suffered injuries during escape.
- Both assassins fled using modes of transportation they did not own. Booth rented a horse, Oswald rode a bus.
- Both had body guards named William, William H. Crook told Lincoln not to go to the assassination point, William Greer drove JFK to the assassination point.
- Both body guards named William died within 48 hours of being aged 75 years, 5 months.
- Presidential security was heavily criticized, after each assassination, for being too lax.
- Lincoln sat in box number 7 at Ford's Theater; Kennedy sat in car number 7 in the motorcade.
- The doctors who primarily attended to each president were both named Charles. Dr. Charles Leale treated Lincoln. Dr. Charles Crenshaw treated Kennedy.
- Each president died in a place with the initials "P.H." Lincoln died at the Petersen House and Kennedy died at Parkland Hospital.
Most of the items above are true, such as the year in which Lincoln and Kennedy were each elected President, but this is not so unusual given that Presidential elections are held only every four years. A few of the items are simply untrue; there is no record to show that Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy; Lincoln's secretaries were John Hay and John G. Nicolay. However, Lincoln's bodyguard, William H. Crook did advise Lincoln not to go that night to Ford's Theatre.
- A Compendium of Curious Coincidences, TIME, August 21, 1964 Archived January 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Newsweek, August 10, 1964
- The Magic Numbers of Dr. Matrix By Martin Gardner. 1985. Prometheus Books. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 84-43183, ISBN 0-87975-281-5 (cloth), 0-87975-282-3 (paper) (This was previously titled The Numerology of Dr. Matrix. It contains all of The Incredible Dr. Matrix plus four more chapters.)
- Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Linkin' Kennedy" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.
- Martin, Bruce (September–October 1998). "Coincidences: Remarkable or Random?". Skeptical Inquirer. 22 (5).
- "William Crook". PBS. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
- Lloyd Lewis (1994). The Assassination of Lincoln: History and Myth. University of Nebraska Press. p. 297. ISBN 9780803279490.