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Thursday, May 07, 2009

"A lesson in history"

Our other sister just forwarded to us a good fun chain e-mail regarding similarities between the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. It also had some fun dollar-bill folding exercises at the end.

Sure, most of our readers have probably been through this list already, but we exist to educate and enlighten (along with giving hugs) so I will take a trip down the list here on this blog.

The version just sent to us was in Norwegian, but I took a look in my own personal archive of these things and found the English version it appears to be translated from. For the sake of avoiding the translator telephone game, I will just use the English version rather than re-translating the Norwegian version back into English.

It goes a little something like this:

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights

Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.

Both were shot in the head.

Lincoln's secretary, Kennedy, warned him not to go to the theatre.
Kennedy's secretary, Lincoln, warned him not to go to Dallas.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners.

Both successors were named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.

Both names are comprised of fifteen letters

Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a warehouse.
Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.


Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

Let's take a look now shall we, at each one in a bit more detail:

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.
These statements are, in fact, true. Other than that though, their political careers were not very similar. JFK enjoyed success after success in the political life while poor ol' Lincoln had mostly unsuccessful attempts at national office.

Presidential elections are only held every four years. Therefore, neither of them could have been elected in '57, '58, '59, '61, '62 or '63. Given that only every four years it is possible to have an election, the window of opportunity for coincidence is very big.
The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters.
Honestly, this is reaching a bit. Census.gov says that a very big amount of names in America have seven letters. Just browse through that list a bit. If you graphed the number of people with a number of letters in their surnames, I am fairly certain you would see a bell curve centering on someplace between six and eight. Really. Seven letters.
Both were particularly concerned with civil rights
The accuracy of this statement is questionable at best. Lincoln was not a civil rights enthusiast. Sure, a lot of it happened during his reign, but both presidents would probably have maintained the status quo had not external events not under their control changed things up.

Whilst Lincoln was personally opposed to slavery, his primary concern was to keep the Union alive, not about whether or not blacks were slaves or free. Lincoln stated that were it possible to keep the Union together while still allowing slavery in the southern states, he would've done so. The rules, laws and regulations abolishing slavery were not actually enacted until after his death. The Emancipation Proclamation was meant as a war-ender, not something used to permanently end slavery.

Kennedy left most civil matters to his successor Johnson.
Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.
This one too could have been worded better. It appears to me as though the bad wording is intentional on the will of the list-writer to conceal some differences and to instigate "hmm that's curious" thoughts.

Edward Lincoln died of tuberculosis in 1850, well before Lincoln took office. He was four at the time.
Willie Lincoln got typhoid and died at the end of their first year in the white house. He was eleven at the time.

The Kennedys however, rare enough that a presidential couple in America is young enough to be of childbearing age, had two children that survived. The aforementioned dead one died from being born too early. So the circumstances regarding the deaths are very different.
Both presidents were shot on a friday.
Really, one in seven chance. Even before you think about that both were shot at a public event, and more public events are on the weekend than during the week itself.
Both were shot in the head.
Well yes, that is where you aim if you want to kill a person who is sitting, since the rest of his body is shielded by the chair/car he is sitting in. Also it is the best chance of a kill.
Lincoln's secretary, Kennedy, warned him not to go to the theatre.
Kennedy's secretary, Lincoln, warned him not to go to Dallas.
Ah how here is where it gets good: Lincoln did not have a secretary named Kennedy. While JFK did have a secretary named Evelyn Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln did not have a secretary named Kennedy. His secretaries were John G. Nicolay and John Hay.

In addition, presidents always get warned not to go wherever they go. There is a good precedent for this: One third of all U.S. Presidents have been attempted assassinated! This is also based on part fifty-six of my common cognitive mistakes series of articles, forgetting the misses and remembering the hits. Lincoln documented around eighty threats and letters about plots to kidnap and assassinate him, but these are never counted in letters like this. If you make enough predictions, one is bound to come true.
Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Never mind that that is half the country, so a 50% chance of that being correct before anything else.
John Wilkes Booth considered himself a Northerner who understood the south. He was born in Maryland which was a part of the Union during the war.
Oswald however was born in New Orleans I suppose this makes him a southerner. But his motives were not based on regional differences, like Booths were, so it should not matter.
Both were succeeded by Southerners.
Well if you look at the statistics of American presidential tickets, you will see that most of them have one person from the north and one from the south. It is extremely common. It's called balancing the ticket. It happens to this day and will likely always continue to happen in America.
Both successors were named Johnson.
Yeah. It is the second most common name in America.
Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.
This one is also true and is a neat little coincidence, except it isn't really a coincidence. There is nothing special about the number 100. It's just a nice round number. If we looked at more things about these vice presidents I am sure we would find just as many things that involved the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 or 42 as 100. Once we start looking for numbers we will find them, as long as we can choose which numbers we want to look for afterward.

There are numerous differences between the two Johnsons, anyway.
John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in 1939.

Wrong. Booth was born in 1838. May 10, to be exact.
Both assassins were known by their three names.
No. They are -now-, but John Wilkes Booth's life was well-documented before he went on to shoot the president. He was an actor. He was featured in many plays. He was usually named J. Wilkes Booth or John Wilkes, to distinguish himself from his father and brother who also were named J. Booth.
Lee Oswald did not use the name Harvey before he was caught and made famous.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

Well this too depends a bit on the definition of assassinated. Booth was shot by the police when he eluded arrest. Oswald was shot by a private citizen in an act of vigilantism, after he had been caught.

A month before Lincoln was assassinated he was in Monroe, Maryland.
A month before Kennedy was assassinated he was in Marilyn Monroe.

Unless you want to try and label JFK as a necrophiliac... Marilyn Monroe died on August 5, 1962. JFK was shot on November 22, 1963. More than a year's difference.



What does this all mean?
Absolutely nothing. We so desperately need to live in a universe where stuff like this does not "just happen" and our brains try so desperately to make sense of it all. To understand why and how. We try patterns and tendencies. We need that our universe is orderly and understandable. In trying to find patterns we try to find a big "something" that provides a reassuring pat that it all makes sense. That "something" can be The Cosmos or The Illuminati who are well known to leave cryptic hints about their existence everywhere, yet refuse to be discovered. But alas. It doesn't work that way.



Next week we'll fold some dollar-bills and see what we can come up with.

Source: snopes.com, this blog entry borders on downright plagiarism of Snopes, how awesome their article is.

1 comment:

  1. "Both presidents were shot on a friday.

    Really, one in seven chance. Even before you think about that both were shot at a public event, and more public events are on the weekend than during the week itself. "

    Not to mention how much easier it is to find an unconstructed path for a bullet at a public event, where everything is set for many people having a clear view. (Even though security is tight in the nearest areas.)


    "Both assassins were known by their three names."

    I´ve heard somewhere that naming people by their full names is used for effect, sort of like when parents reprimand their children (on TV, at least) by using their full name in a stern voice. It brings a touch of seriousness.

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