A President's Day Mystery: Correlation or Coincidence?

Is there more to parallels in history than just mere coincidence?.

“Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.” - Mark Twain


With campaign season in full swing, and the celebration of both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, I thought a decidedly fitting topic for this column would be something pulled from the rather large file of presidential strangeness, but what to choose?  Politics may not be an area you’d expect to find the paranormal lurking (aside from those who think our leaders are really lizard aliens), but in fact the U.S. Presidency is filled with a myriad of bizarre accounts. Instead of it being too difficult to find a topic, the actual difficulty is in choosing a single one to focus on. From UFO sightings, to White House ghosts, to Oval Office astrologers, there are plenty of interesting stories to examine, but the eerie similarities between our 16th President Abraham Lincoln and our 35th President John F. Kennedy are enough to make anyone stop and wonder whether there is more to parallels in history than just mere coincidence.    

Before we can discuss the supposed similarities between these great men in our history we must first consider the definitions of two important terms: “coincidence” and “correlation.” Consulting the dictionary we find that a coincidence is stated as “a striking occurrence of two or more events in time which are more likely mere chance,” whereas a correlation normally denotes “several events which share exact factors which seem unlikely to occur together by simple happenstance.” When it comes to links between people or dates in history, some would argue that you could take any two and come up with a long list of things which seem like correlations but are actually easily dismissed as coincidence, but if that’s the case, why can’t it be done more easily? Perhaps the links between President Lincoln and President Kennedy present one of the most interesting challenges to the argument between coincidence and actual correlation.

This is a situation where – as I always encourage people to do anyway – you’ll have to ask yourself “what do you believe?” The reason is that while there are definitions of these two terms, there is no distinguishing line between how many occurrences it takes for something to move from coincidence to correlation. Do you consider three links to be unusual? Four? Five? It’s really up to you to decide. Of course, by pure statistics there will always be some connections easily found between two people or events in history, and sometimes they’re not so unusual. For example, to find that you share your birthday with someone else isn’t strange considering there is only 365 possible days to be born, and billions of people on our planet, so you share your birthday with billions of others. But a more unusual connection would be if you met someone in a random place who was born on the same day, same time, and same year as you? Three matches like that would seem stranger than just chance, but does it really mean there’s a strange correlation there?

There have been numerous connections drawn between President Lincoln and President Kennedy, some of which were far reaching, others which were far easier to see. Here’s a short-list of some odd similarities to ponder over:


By The Numbers:

  • Lincoln & Kennedy both have 7 letters in their last names…
  • Andrew Johnson who succeeded Lincoln has 13 letters in his name, as did Lyndon Johnson who succeeded Kennedy...
  • John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald also both share 15 letters in their names...


By The Years:

  • Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846, was the runner-up for the Vice President nomination in 1856, and was elected President in 1860. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946, was the runner-up for the Vice President nomination in 1956, and was elected President in 1960.
  • Both men were assassinated on a Friday…
  • Both men were succeeded by a “Johnson” who were also born 100 years apart - Andrew Johnson was born in 1808 and Lyndon Johnson was born in 1908…


By The History:

  • Both men were deeply involved in Civil Rights issues during their time in office…
  • Both men lost a child while living in the White House…
  • Both men were succeeded, and assassinated, by men who were considered Southerners…


Now, to be fair, like so many other things that have gained so much attention over time, there have been some things added to this list over the years that have simply been proven to be tenuous at best and sometimes simply outright bogus. Here’s a few of those:

  • Lincoln was shot in a theater, and his assassin was hunted down hiding in a warehouse. Kennedy was shot from a warehouse, and his assassin was hunted down hiding in a theater... (This isn’t true, as Booth was found hiding in barn, not a warehouse.)
  • Lincoln was shot in “Ford’s Theater” and Kennedy was shot in a “Ford” car… (OK, this is true, but it’s making a pretty big stretch.)
  • Lincoln had a secretary whose last name was “Kennedy,” and Kennedy had a secretary whose last name was “Lincoln.” (There is nothing to substantiate this.)
  • Lincoln’s secretary begged him not to go to the theater and Kennedy’s secretary begged him not to go to Dallas… (Also nothing to substantiate this).


So there you have it. Are these points enough to convince you that there’s more than just coincidence linking these two people together, or do you think that drawing these parallels is looking too deeply for a connection that doesn’t really mean anything? No one can tell you what to believe, it’s up to you to decide!


Want To Learn More? Come over to the Smoking Gun Research Agency, 284 Racebrook Road, on Wednesday from 7pm – 9pm for a special President’s Day Coffee Talk discussion examining this presidential mystery in even greater depth!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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