Curse of Tippecanoe
The curse, first widely noted in a Ripley's Believe It or Not book published in 1931, began with the death of William Henry Harrison, who died in 1841 after having been elected in 1840. For the next 120 years, presidents elected during years ending in a zero (occurring every 20 years) ultimately died while serving in office, from Harrison to John F. Kennedy (elected 1960, died 1963).
By Ken Kalb
When the United States refused to recognize Tecumseh’s unification principle, he bound together the Native Americans of the Old Northwest, the South, and the Eastern Mississippi Valley as a military force to defend Native American rights to the land. His plan failed with the defeat of his brother, the Shawnee Prophet, at the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Although history reports the battle of Tippecanoe a draw, it nevertheless broke the power of the Shawnee, and became known historically as marking the collapse of the Native American military movement.
Legend transmits that after the historic battle of Tippecanoe, Tecumseh released prisoners with a prophetic message for General William Henry Harrison--a prophecy that has come to be known as--"Tecumseh's Curse."
The presidents killed by a Native American curse
By Nick Parkins
“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. You think that I have lost my powers. I who caused the Sun to darken and Red Men to give up firewater… 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.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, accounts of the curse’s origin conflict. Some say it was born out of the defeat at Tippecanoe; others claim that it was some time later, and that under the shadow of Tecumseh’s death the following year at the Battle of the Thames, it was Tenskwatawa who uttered the fateful words. The confusion doesn’t end there. Some say the curse is simply nonsense and that no records exist that support the existence of such a native Indian jinx. What is not in doubt is that the sinister malediction came to pass.
The Tecumseh book A Sorrow in Our Heart doesn't mention the curse. Author Allan Eckert has hundreds of pages of footnotes documenting how reliable each of his claims is. If he didn't think the curse was worth mentioning, you can bet there's no evidence Tecumseh uttered it.
As for the string of deaths, they're easily explained by mathematics. If you look at the series of American presidents, you literally can find millions of patterns. Maybe every fifth president was left-handed. Or every sixth president had a cat. Or every seventh president liked broccoli. And so forth and so on.
Let's say each of these patterns has only a one in a million chance of coming true. But there are at least a million of them. Therefore, it's almost certain that one of the million-to-one patterns will come true. The 20-year "curse" happened to be the one.
If it hadn't been this pattern, it would've been something else. For instance, every third president had a mailman named Mr. Brown. It's a coincidence, nothing more.
For more on Tecumseh, see 37th Outdoor Tecumseh Play and Freemasons, Washington, and Tecumseh.