These Are the American Presidents Who Were Actually Weird People (and How Donald Trump Compares)
No matter how much power and responsibility they have, American presidents are only human. So it comes as no surprise that they also have their faults and their quirks. Some presidents had very unpresidential personalities. Others broke George Washington’s etiquette rules. Still, others were terrible people. But some were just weird — perhaps including current president Donald Trump.
Want all the details on the weirdest American presidents who have governed the United States? Read on to get all the details. And find out how Donald Trump compares on page 15.
15. Herbert Hoover invented a sport
- 31st president of the United States
- In office: 1929 to 1933
Donald Trump is just the latest in a series of American presidents who were told to shape up by their doctors. One other such president? Herbert Hoover. HowStuffWorks reports that the White House physician told Hoover to lose weight. But instead of taking up a real sport, Hoover and the physician created a new game, called Hooverball. It combined elements of tennis and volleyball and used a medicine ball. Six days a week, Hoover played the game with anywhere between four and 18 other people early in the morning.
Next: This president became obsessed with a game of a different kind.
14. Warren G. Harding grew obsessed with poker
- 29th president of the United States
- In office: 1921 to 1923
Even American presidents can take their hobbies a little bit too far — which sometimes lands them on the list of the weirdest commanders in chief. Chegg reports that Warren G. Harding became obsessed with poker. He once bet an entire set of priceless White House china during a game — and lost the china. Nonetheless, Time still places Harding on the list of the most forgettable presidents. “He preferred poker, socializing and, it was said, womanizing to working,” the publication notes.
Next: This president believed in a weird medical cure.
13. Martin Van Buren had a bizarre solution for stomach pain
- 8th president of the United States
- In office: 1837 to 1841
As HowStuffWorks reports, Martin Van Buren believed in a pretty strange remedy for stomach pain. He thought that he could get his chronic stomachaches to go away by medicating them with a mixture of soot, charcoal, and water. (He’d probably have jumped right on board with the detox diets and homeopathic remedies.) The cure sounds pretty weird. But we’ll forgive him considering that medicine has come a long way since his lifetime.
Next: This president feared a feature found in many rooms of the White House.
12. Benjamin Harrison was afraid of the White House light switches
- 23rd president of the United States
- In office: 1889 to 1893
Another of the many American presidents whose quirks were a product of his time? Benjamin Harrison. As Gizmodo reports, Benjamin Harrison became the first president to install electric lighting at the White House. But he never touched the light switches himself “for fear of being electrocuted.” As Gizmodo notes, “This was a reasonable fear, given how crude household electric wiring could be at the time.” Harrison had his domestic staff operate the light switches for him.
Next: This president had a unique way of starting his morning.
11. John Quincy Adams went skinny-dipping every morning
- 6th president of the United States
- In office: 1825 to 1829
One of the weirdest American presidents has to be John Quincy Adams. His morning routine involved skinny-dipping in the Potomac. As HowStuffWorks explains, Adams didn’t keep his habit a secret — which “supposedly led to an incident astonishing by today’s standards.” Journalist Anne Royall reportedly landed an interview with the president by hiding his clothes after he got in the water. She refused to give them back until he answered her questions.
Next: This president changed his outfits multiple times a day.
10. Chester A. Arthur loved clothing a little too much
- 21st president of the United States
- In office: 1881 to 1885
While a few first ladies were particularly stylish, few American presidents enjoy the same reputation. The Plain Dealer reports that Arthur owned about 80 pairs of pants. He reportedly changed them — and the rest of his outfit — several times per day. As Mental Floss notes, Arthur even wore a tuxedo to dinner. And while Arthur refused to hire a bodyguard to protect him during his presidency, “he did hire a valet who attended to his clothes and personal belongings.”
Next: This president feared public speaking.
9. Thomas Jefferson had extreme stage fright
- 3rd president of the United States
- In office: 1801 to 1809
Some American presidents make better orators than others. And Thomas Jefferson doesn’t go down in history as one of the most gifted in public speaking. As The Atlantic reports, Jefferson saw his law career disrupted by his fear of public speaking. A biographer wrote that when Jefferson tried to speak loudly, his voice would “sink in his throat.” He gave only two public speeches during his tenure as president. (Both were his inaugural addresses.) And psychiatrists a Duke University posthumously diagnosed Jefferson with social phobia.
Next: This president had a strange breakfast routine.
8. Calvin Coolidge liked having his head rubbed with petroleum jelly
- 30th president of the United States
- In office: 1923 to 1929
HowStuffWorks reports that Calvin Coolidge also ranks among the American presidents who had some weird ideas about health. (Donald Trump would make that list, too.) As the publication explains, Coolidge liked having petroleum jelly rubbed on his head each morning. In fact, he made it part of his routine as he enjoyed his breakfast in bed. He thought that the practice would have positive effects on his health (if not on his hair).
Next: This president had some untraditional assistance in overseeing his schedule.
7. Ronald Reagan let an astrologer decide his schedule
- 40th president of the United States
- In office: 1981 to 1989
Many Americans check their horoscopes. But did you know that plenty of American presidents believed in astrology, too? Ronald Reagan is the best example. Both Reagan and his wife, Nancy, believed in astrology. And after the president survived an assassination attempt in 1981, he allowed an expert to plan his entire schedule according to astrology charts. Even the times that Air Force One would take off and land had to be taken into account.
Next: This president seems to believe in aliens.
6. Jimmy Carter says he spotted a UFO
- 39th president of the United States
- In office: 1977 to 1981
Some American presidents believed in astrology. But others believed in aliens and UFOs. You can probably count Jimmy Carter as a member of the latter camp. As Politico reports, Carter asserted that he had witnessed an unidentified flying object in 1969. Carter said that the object was self-luminous and about as bright as a full moon. He also said that about 10 people saw it and that it remained visible for around 10 minutes. The object looked so unusual that Carter — and his friends — reported the sighting to the International UFO Bureau.
Next: This president had a foul mouth — and taught someone else to have one, too.
5. Andrew Jackson taught his parrot to swear
- 7th president of the United States
- In office: 1829 to 1837
Andrew Jackson numbers among the most foul-mouthed American presidents in history. Relating one of the most memorable anecdotes about presidential profanity, The Washington Post explains that Jackson bought an African gray parrot, named Poll, for his wife. When the first lady died, the parrot began spending a lot of time with the president. And Poll “apparently soaked up some of the president’s choice phrases,” according to the Post. When Jackson died, and mourners gathered for his funeral, the parrot “got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people.” The bird “let loose perfect guests of ‘cuss words.” Eventually, someone had to take her out of the house.
Next: This president hated the squirrels that disturbed this part of the White House grounds.
4. Dwight Eisenhower ordered his staff to shoot the squirrels on the putting green
- 34th president of the United States
- In office: 1953 to 1961
Dwight Eisenhower makes the list of the American presidents with the worst tempers (just like Donald Trump). Eisenhower developed several ways to try to control his anger. One involved installing a putting green at the White House so that he could use golf to de-stress. But even golf didn’t work as a distraction for very long. When squirrels began digging up the putting green, Eisenhower got so angry that he ordered staffers to shoot the animals. Fortunately for the squirrels, his staff didn’t oblige.
Next: This president held a unique job before he got elected.
3. Grover Cleveland worked as an executioner
- 22nd president of the United States
- In office: 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897
No matter how unsavory a president’s past is, he probably can’t beat Grover Cleveland. As Mental Floss reports, Cleveland served as an executioner when was the Erie County Sheriff. He executed two criminals during that time: Patrick Morrissey, convicted of killing his mother with a bread knife; and John Gaffney, sentenced to die for fatally shooting a man while playing cards at a saloon. Cleveland hung both of the men himself. Later, when he ran for presidents, his opponents called him the “Buffalo Hangman.”
Next: This president still has a reputation for his narcissism.
2. Lyndon B. Johnson was a narcissist and an exhibitionist
- 36th president of the United States
- In office: 1963 to 1969
Lyndon B. Johnson numbers among the most narcissistic American presidents in history. (So does Donald Trump, for the record.) In addition to showing signs of bipolar disorder, Johnson “was a man possessed by inner demons,” according to one biographer. He had a sense of emptiness and “insatiable appetites: for work, women, food, drink, conversation, and material possessions.” Additionally, Johnson had some famously exhibitionist tendencies, another mark of a narcissist. He showed them off by “urinating in a sink, inviting people into his bathroom, showing off his abdominal scar, [and] exposing his private parts.”
Next: Here’s how Donald Trump compares.
1. Donald Trump never laughs
- 45th president of the United States
Donald Trump has plenty of odd habits — definitely enough to land him on the list of the weirdest American presidents. But one of the strangest? That he reportedly never laughs. CNN reports that according to former FBI director James Comey, “I’ve never seen him laugh. Not in public, not in private.” Even though Trump criticizes the “fake media” for its lack of a sense of humor, he doesn’t laugh very often himself. Business Insider found only a few clips of the president laughing. Trump’s own lack of a sense of humor may or may not matter much. But it’s still one of the weirder pieces of information to emerge about Donald Trump.
Read more: Here’s Why Presidents Are Also Celebrities
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