Lincoln–Kennedy coincidences urban legend
Claimed coincidences connecting 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 GOP 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. 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 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.
- Both presidents were elected to the presidency in '60.
- Both presidents were elected to the House of Representatives in '46.
- Both were runners-up for the party's nomination for vice-president in '56.
- Both assassins were born in '39.
- Both successors were Southern Democrats named Johnson born in '08.
- Both presidents were concerned with the problems of American blacks and made their view strongly known in '63. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, which became law in 1863. In 1963, Kennedy presented his reports to Congress on Civil Rights, and the same year was the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
- Both presidents were shot in the head.
- Both presidents were shot on a Friday.
- Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre. Kennedy was shot in a Ford car; a Lincoln limousine.
- Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy who told him not to go to the theatre. Kennedy had a secretary named Evelyn Lincoln (whose husband Harold's nickname was Abe), and she warned him not to go to Dallas.
- Both Oswald and Booth were assassinated before they could be put on trial.
- Lincoln and Kennedy each have 7 letters.
- John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald each have 15 letters.
- There are 6 letters in each Johnson's first name.
- Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and hid in a warehouse, while Oswald shot Kennedy in a warehouse and hid in a theater.
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.
Buddy Starcher wrote a song recounting many of these coincidences and parallels between the two presidents' careers and deaths entitled "History Repeats Itself." It became a U.S. Top 40 hit for him during the spring of 1966, and reached number two on the Country chart. Cab Calloway also scored a minor chart hit with the song that same year.
- A Compendium of Curious Coincidences, TIME, August 21, 1964 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 29, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- 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.)
- Martin, Bruce (September–October 1998). "Coincidences: Remarkable or Random?". Skeptical Inquirer. 22 (5).
- Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Linkin' Kennedy" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.
- "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.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X