Tecumseh's Curse Fully Explained

Tecumseh's Curse, also called the Curse of Tippecanoe, has been blamed for the deaths of seven United States presidents — all of whom were elected in years ending in zero and died while in office. According to legend, the curse was imposed by Shawnee chief and warrior Tecumseh, or possibly his brother, amid a dispute with President William Henry Harrison.

Prior to his presidency, Harrison was the governor of the Indiana Territory. As reported by ThoughtCo., one of his most ambitious goals was to negotiate with Indigenous peoples to obtain more land for the United States government. Although Harrison managed to negotiate a treaty with the Shawnee, in which they agreed to relinquish large tracts of land to the U.S. government, Tecumseh was not satisfied with the deal. Tecumseh thought the deal was unfair and Harrison's tactics in negotiating the treaty were dishonorable.

In retaliation, Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, organized troops to attack Harrison's army. The resulting Battle of Tippecanoe was ultimately won by the American troops, which was considered a major victory for Harrison. As reported by ThoughtCo., the indigenous peoples lost even more land to the U.S. government amid the War of 1812, when Harrison led his troops to victory in the Battle of the Thames.

Indian Country Today reports Tecumseh was killed in the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813. In the aftermath, Tenskwatawa, who was known among the Shawnee as "The Prophet," reportedly cursed the United States government.

Tecumseh's Curse reportedly killed seven presidents

According to legend, Tenskwatawa specifically cursed all future United States presidents who would be elected in years ending in zero. However, as reported by History, some sources suggest the curse was actually imposed by Tecumseh as opposed to his brother.

The origin of the legend is unclear. However, one of the first mentions of the curse was in a 1930s edition of the "Ripley's Believe it or Not" book. History suggests the legend "likely originated with non-Native Americans," and closely resembles other legends about curses originating with indigenous peoples. Although the authenticity of the legends has been called into question, there is no denying an unusual number of U.S. presidents, who were elected in years ending in zero, have died in office.

The first U.S. president who was elected in a year ending in zero, and subsequently died in office, was William Henry Harrison. ThoughtCo. reports Harrison was elected president in 1840 and died of severe pneumonia only one month after his inauguration.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States. Although it happened during his second term, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. James Garfield was elected the 20th president of the United States in 1880. Fewer than four months after his inauguration, Garfield was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt. As reported by ThoughtCo., he died of complications related to the gunshot wound on September 19, 1881.

Ronald Reagan reportedly broke Tecumseh's Curse

William McKinley was originally elected president of the United States in 1896. However, Thought Co. reports he won his second term in 1900. On September 6 of the following year, McKinley was assassinated by Leon F. Czolgosz.

In 1920, Warren G Harding was elected the 29th president of the United States. On August 2, 1923, Harding had a stroke and died at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California. As reported by ThoughtCo., Franklin D. Roosevelt was originally elected president of the United States in 1933. However, he won his third term in 1940. During his fourth term, Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12. 1945. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States. On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.

ThoughtCo. reports Kennedy was the last president who was elected in a year ending in zero and died in office. However, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are often included in Tecumseh's Curse, as they both survived assassination attempts. Reagan, who was elected in 1980, was shot by John Hinckley on March 30, 1981. However, he recovered from his injuries and survived the attack. Bush, who was elected in 2000, survived two failed assassination attempts.

As reported by History of Yesterday, Joe Biden is the most recent president to have been elected in a year ending in zero.

President Biden and Tecumseh's Curse

As Joe Biden is also the oldest president in United States history, it has been suggested that he may also fall victim to Tecumseh's Curse. However, as reported by History of Yesterday, even some of the strongest believers in Tecumseh's Curse think it was broken when Ronald Raegan survived the assassination attempt. And although there were attempts on George W. Bush's life, he was never actually injured and finished his second term in good health.

Others simply believe the timing of the presidential assassinations and deaths were an unfortunate coincidence. That is especially true since several of the presidents were on their second or fourth terms when they died, and were not initially elected in years ending in a zero.

As reported by ThoughtCo., critics have also underlined the fact that assassination attempts or plots are not uncommon, and have been made on every president since Richard Nixon.