Curse of Tippecanoe

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Two hundred and six years ago, Territorial Governor of Indiana William Henry Harrison smashed the forces of the Indian Confederacy being formed by Tecumseh.  His victory would propel him into the White House three decades later.  His thirty-one day tenure, before dying of pneumonia, is the shortest presidential term on record.


An odd coincidence in American history is the death of every President in office beginning with William Henry Harrison and ending with John F. Kennedy elected in a year ending in zero.  A myth was developed ascribing this to a curse put on William Henry Harrison by the brother of the great Indian leader Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, better known as the Prophet:

“‘Harrison will not win this year to be the Great Chief. But he may win next year. If he does…He will not finish his term. He will die in his office.’ ‘No president has ever died in office,’ declared a visitor. ‘But Harrison will die I tell you. And when he dies you will remember my brother Tecumseh’s death. You think that I have lost my powers. I who caused the sun to darken and Red Men to give up firewater. But I tell you Harrison will die. And after him, every Great Chief chosen every 20 years thereafter will die. And when each one dies, let everyone remember the death of our people.'”

It was all hogwash of course, but until Reagan and Bush 43 completed their terms it is surprising the number of people who gave at least some credence to a curse being on the Presidency.


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  1. Yeah but… I have a bit of sympathy with Jonah Goldberg on stuff like this:

    There aren’t many curses left in modern society most people still believe in. We’ve sanitized the culture of such mysticisms. Or we’ve elevated them to quasi-religions deserving full respect under the rules of political correctness (“Oh? You’re a Pagan? Isn’t that wonderful! My hairdresser’s a Druid!”). The BoSox curse is old but it’s not weird. It’s a comfortable bit of lore which adds drama to life. If it disappears the magic and mystery of life will be a teeny bit diminished.

    Obviously I’m glad Bush & Reagan made it through office. Though Reagan did have an assassination attempt made on him (maybe his survival is what broke the curse).

  2. With my rational mind I believe in no superstitions. However, I have enough Irish blood in me to not be entirely convinced by pure rationalism. Reagan was a classic luck of the Irish type of man and if anyone had the good luck to break a curse it was him!

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