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Tecumseh's curse

From Academic Kids

The term Tecumseh's curse or Zero Year Curse is sometimes used to describe a chain of events that began with the death of United States President William Henry Harrison from pneumonia. Commonly attributed to Indian chief Tecumseh (and sometimes to his brother Tenskwatawa, aka The Prophet, who was defeated in the Battle of Tippecanoe by Harrison), the "curse" is said to have proclaimed the death of all presidents elected every 20 years. Some versions of the story indicate that Tecumseh's mother pronounced the curse when Tecumseh died. However, there is no solid evidence, and no clear source for the stories attributing the coincidence to an Indian curse.

Victims of the "curse"

Indeed, all American presidents elected in a year divisible by 20 between 1840 and 1960 died in office:

Zachary Taylor, the only other President to die in office, was elected in 1848 and died in 1850 of cholera.

It is worth noting that Franklin Roosevelt was in his fourth term of office when he died, and Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley were in their second.

The exception

The exception to this "curse" was the presidency of Ronald Reagan. He was elected in 1980 and survived an assassination attempt during his presidential term and therefore did not die in office. Some believe the curse may have been broken by Reagan surviving the attempted assassination by a narrow margin. Others note that if Reagan had not been close to a hospital he may very well have died. However in 1994 Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which caused his mind to slowly deteriorate. Some believe that as Reagan did not die from the assassination attempt, the 'curse made him suffer', while others point out that if Reagan had been treated with the medicine available in William Henry Harrison's time, he probably would have died from his wounds. Reagan died in 2004, a quarter-century after being elected president.

Regardless, the "curse" is taken seriously by some Christian groups, who recently have called for prayer to avert catastrophe from Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush in the election years 1980 and 2000; similar groups had been doing this since 1920. The group Intercessors for America believes they have broken the curse through "warfare prayer" in 1980. Due to Bush's re-election in the 2004 election, it is possible that the curse will pick back up where it left off with Reagan if Bush dies before the end of his second term.

The coincidental twenty-year pattern was noted in a Ripley's Believe It or Not book published in 1934.

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