The Strange Superstitions of American Presidents, Revealed
A bake sale deciding the next president (page 10) and fear of the number 13 (page 11) — these are superstitions some deem silly and meaningless — but a number of U.S. presidents have believed. Discover the superstition President Donald Trump believes (page 15) and other superstitions among American presidents, ahead.
Played basketball to improve polls
- Fun fact: Obama had a good luck charm, a medal of the Hindu god Hanuman, according to Pitlane magazine.
“We realized that we had played basketball before Iowa and before South Carolina,” former president, Barack Obama, told 60 Minutes in 2008, according to Politico. “We didn’t play basketball before New Hampshire and Nevada. And so now, we’ve made a clear rule that on Election Day, I have to play basketball,” Obama said.
Hint: This president wore this for luck and gave it to strangers for good fortune.
Always wore a red carnation
- Fun fact: McKinley was the last president to take part in the Civil War, according to 10 Facts About.
President William McKinley always wore a red carnation on his lapel, according to Pitlane magazine. He gave away his lucky carnation if he thought someone needed luck and replace his with a new carnation. McKinley gave away his good luck charm at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. During the event, Leon Czolgosz shot McKinley who died on September 14, 1901.
Hint: You’ll never believe how one president planned his schedule.
Consulted an astrologer
- Fun fact: Reagan loved jelly beans and liked to feed the squirrels outside the Oval Office, according to CNN.
Nancy Reagan hired astrologer, Joan Quigley, to plan her husband, Ronald Reagan’s, schedule following an assassination attempt, according to Politico. Quigley took credit for breaking the supposed curse of Tippecanoe (page 8).
Hint: This president hung a good luck charm in the White House.
Horseshoe in the oval office
- Fun fact: President Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced Truman’s horseshoe pit with a putting green, according to What Lies Beyond.
Upon becoming president, Harry Truman put a horseshoe over the door to his office in the White House. He also installed a horseshoe pit on the White House lawn, according to The New York Times. Horseshoes are a symbol of good luck and typically hung over the entrance to a home.
Hint: George W. Bush felt this way about the White House.
Believed in ghosts
- Fun fact: Winston Churchill supposedly saw a ghost in the White House.
As a young boy, George W. Bush supposedly saw ghosts coming out of the walls near the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House, according to Smashing Lists. He described the White House as “creepy” and during his presidency, had a page on the White House’s website devoted to the historic site’s ghosts, according to What Lies Beyond.
Hint: This president reported two unusual sightings.
Saw a UFO
- Fun fact: The rabbit incident left such a mark on Carter, he wrote about it in his memoirs, according to What Lies Beyond.
In 1969, Jimmy Carter saw a red and green “orb,” according to What Lies Beyond. Carter convinced he saw a UFO, filed a report with the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma. Maybe he saw an alien that matched experts’ descriptions? A decade later while serving as president, Carter claimed to see a vicious rabbit on a solo fishing trip but his staff brushed it off.
Hint: One president made an odd request regarding his dead body.
Thought he’d be buried alive
- Fun fact: No one will ever rank higher than Washington in the U.S. military, according to Mental Floss.
On his deathbed in 1799, George Washington expressed his fear of being buried alive, according to What Lies Beyond. He insisted his body be untouched for two days after his death to ensure he wasn’t buried alive. Common during the 18th century, this fear, formally known as taphephobia, came about likely due to the dead being buried very quickly as bodies weren’t embalmed.
Hint: This superstition plagued presidents for decades…and still might.
Curse of Tippecanoe
- Fun fact: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy all were supposedly touched by the curse.
The curse, known by other names such as the 20-year curse, goes like this: According to Thought Co., a dispute between President William Henry Harrison and Shawnee Indian leader, Tecumseh, may have been the reason presidents died who were elected or re-elected in years ending in zero.
Hint: This president predicted his death.
Abraham Lincoln had visions
- Fun fact: Lincoln also had a fear of the dentist.
Abraham Lincoln claimed to have visions of the future, according to What Lies Beyond. He accurately predicted his death — he dreamed he saw his dead body and a soldier told him he had been assassinated — and saw two versions of himself in a mirror. He took this to mean “he would be elected to a second term, but would not survive it.”
Hint: One president believed in this strange and delicious superstition.
A baking contest would decide the next president
- Fun fact: Michelle Obama lost the contest to Cindy McCain but Barack Obama became president.
President Gerald Ford believed “the election would be won by whichever candidate’s wife won the Family Circle baking contest,” according to Smashing Lists. His wife, Betty Ford, won the contest with her double chocolate chip cookie recipe and her husband became president. Rosalyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush all won the contest and their husbands were elected president.
Hint: Two presidents were afraid of anything to do with this.
Afraid of the number 13
- Fun fact: FDR served as president the longest, according to Biography. In 1951, the 22nd Amendment passed, limiting presidents to two terms.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt feared the number thirteen — a disease called, triskaidekaphobia — and avoided traveling on Fridays and the 13th day of the month, according to Pitlane magazine. President Herbert Hoover also had the same affliction and would dine with thirteen people.
Hint: One good luck charm wasn’t enough for this person.
Multiple good luck charms
- Fun fact: His nicknames included “Punk,” “McNasty,” and “the White Tornado,” according to U.S. News & World Report.
Vice President John McCain admitted to being very superstitious. He reportedly had three good luck charms, according to Politico. They were a feather from a tribal leader, a compass, and a 1976 bicentennial quarter.
Hint: This president’s superstition probably made him extremely productive.
Never looked back
- Fun fact: Grant hated wearing his military uniform, according to History.com.
President Ulysses S. Grant had an unusual superstition that probably served him well as president. “Everyone has his superstitions. One of mine has always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing intended was accomplished,” Grant said, according to Pitlane magazine.
Hint: This person always could be found doing the same thing on Election Day.
Always hunted on Election Day
- Fun fact: Cheney’s daughter, Liz, now holds his former seat in Congress, according to CNN.
An avid hunter, former Vice President Dick Cheney, spent every Election Day hunting, according to Politico. Maybe he changed his mind after his infamous hunting accident where he shot a fellow hunting buddy in the butt.
Hint: Trump does this after meals.
Threw salt over shoulder
- Fun fact: Trump’s dad sent him to military school at the age of 13 for misbehaving, according to U.S. News & World Report.
President Donald Trump has been known to throw salt over his left shoulder after a meal, according to The New York Times. And he’s described himself as a “very superstitious person,” according to The Guardian. The superstition itself originates from the belief that the devil lurked behind you, according to Woman’s Day. The salt supposedly distracted the devil from causing harm.
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Read more: Royal Family Secrets Reveal the Bizarre Superstitions the Monarchy Believes