It is not surprising that the Presidency, the highest office in the United States, should have been involved in many prophetic visions and dreams.
February 28, 1844, was to mark an event of great importance during President John Tyler's term of office. Leading social figures, diplomats, Congressmen, and military personnel had been invited by Captain Robert F. Stockton to come aboard the V.5.S. Princeton and witness a demonstration of two massive guns, the "Peacemaker" and the "Oregon."
On February 27th, the evening before the event, two ladies had a dream of impending disaster.
Julia Gardiner, daughter of Colonel David Gardiner, dreamed that she stood on the deck of the Princeton and watched in horror as two white horses galloped towards her across the sky. Mounted on the horses were two skeletons. As they rushed past the ship, one turned his head toward her. The grinning skull had been replaced by the visage of her father.
Julia (who later married President Tyler), begged her father not to attend the demonstration. "The dream was meant as a warning!" she insisted.
Colonel Gardiner scoffed. "I won't give up a President's reception because my foolish daughter had a nightmare," he told her.
Anne Gilmer, wife of the newly appointed Secretary of the Navy, had a similar ominous dream. She was still begging her husband to leave the Princeton, even after they had boarded the ship.
Secretary Gilmer was embarrassed by his wife's behavior. "How would it look if the Secretary of the Navy refused to attend the demonstration of two new naval guns?" he scolded her sharply.
"But everything was so real, so vivid," Anne Gilmer protested. .
"If I am to cancel my obligations every time my wife has a bad dream, I shall set a record for brevity of term as Secretary of the Navy," Thomas Gilmer said brusquely. "Now let's not hear any more about leaving this ship!"
Julia Gardiner was below deck when the explosion occurred. When she rushed up the companionway, she was told that her father and Thomas Gilmer had been crushed by a 2000-pound chunk of the "Peacemaker." The great gun had exploded while being test-fired at sea.
Julia Gardiner screamed, "My dream. It has come true!" Then she fainted.
Anne Gilmer, miraculously, had been unharmed as the massive metal fragment struck her husband.
All the way back on the sad return voyage, she repeated over and over again: "Why would he not listen to me?"
Mary Anne Booth was a practical woman in a family of wild dreamers. A stage mother, wife of the gifted actor Junius Brutus Booth, Mary Ann bore nine children and never once gave the slightest evidence of that strain of melancholy which afflicted other members of the Booth family.
In what she later described as a "ghostly night" in 1838, however, she experienced a most unusual and eerie phenomenon as she dozed beside the cradle of her infant son, John Wilkes.
With a sudden feeling of apprehension, she became attracted to one of his hands. As she watched the infant hand, it suddenly seemed to grow to gigantic size and become the grotesque paw of a monster.
Mary Anne Booth often referred to her "weird" dream, and later her daughter Asia Booth fashioned the incident into poetry. Written when the sensitive girl was a teenager, the poem, "A Mother's Vision," opens with the stanza: "Tiny, innocent baby hand, what force, what power is at your command, for good or evil?"
Both Mary Ann and Asia Booth lived to see what evil power that baby hand was capable of doing.
While a student in the Quaker School at Cockeysville, Maryland, John Wilkes and some of his chums paid a visit to a gypsy camp. Afterwards John Wilkes laughingly told Asia what an old gypsy had prophesied for him.
"Oh, you have a bad hand," the old fortune teller had said. "It is full of trouble and sorrow. You'll die young and you'll make a bad end. Young sir, I have never seen a worse hand. You'd best try to escape by turning missionary or priest."
Asia Booth wrote this strange prophecy, too, down on paper. The two prophecies of a "bad hand" added another element of mystery to the strange, tortured life of the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln himself had many precognitive dreams throughout his life and during his tenure in the White House.
Typical is the famous dream he related to his cabinet just a week before his assassination.
In his dream, he had been walking through the White House grounds and had been astonished to see hundreds of people in mourning.
"What has made all these people so sad?" he inquired of a young guard at the gate.
The. young trooper looked at him incredulously. "Don't you know, sir? The President has been assassinated!"
According to legend, the Seminole tribe placed a Presidential curse on the White House.
In retaliation for atrocities suffered at the hands of Andrew Jackson, the Seminole medicine men decreed that each president elected in a year ending with "0" would either die in office, be assassinated, or injured in some way. The records show that, since 1840, such has been the case with the present exception of George W. Bush, elected in the year 2000. We pray that the curse has run its course and will not claim another victim.
In 1840, John Tyler became the first vice-president to succeed to the position of Chief Executive. William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States, had served only one month when he caught pneumonia and died.
Zachary Taylor, although elected in 1848, died on July 9, 1850.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected to his first term. John Wilkes Booth fulfilled his own fate as well when he pulled the trigger of his derringer on that April night in 1865.
In 1880, James A. Garfield was elected. He had served only a short time when Charles Jules Guiteau, a disgruntled officeseeker, assassinated him.
In 1900, President William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan to win re-election. A year later, he fell victim to Leon Czolgosz's hidden revolver.
Warren Gamaliel Harding took office in 1920 and passed away in 1923.
In 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term. He died in 1945.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected by the narrowest of margins. On November 22, 1963, a rifle bullet snuffed out his life as he rode in an open car in Dallas.
Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980. He was wounded by John Hinckley, Jr.’s bullet on March 30, 1981, just 69 days into his first term. Reagan survived to serve a second.
How long will the curse maintain its shadow over the White House? Has the Seminole malediction remained effective for over 160 years, or is the jinx, as astrologers claim, due to a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn?
Whenever a great presidential calamity occurs, a number of psychic foreshadowings are reported. Researchers usually find that most of these "premonitions" have been manufactured afterwards or are highly colored by data learned after details of the catastrophe have been made public. There usually remain, however, a hard core of precognitive experiences which were either uttered in the presence of others or were published prior to the disastrous event.
In October 1963, Jeane Dixon claimed that she had foreseen President Kennedy's death in office, and her biographer records that the famous "Capital Seer" made several attempts to warn him.
Billy Graham, the well-known evangelist, said that he tried to reach JFK by phone before he left for Dallas. "I had the strongest premonition that he should not go to Texas," the preacher later told newsmen.
Months before the fatal Friday, Mrs. Helen Greenwood of Los Angeles stated that she had a dramatic precognitive dream of the assassination. In the dream, she found herself in Dallas; she heard the throngs cheering and saw the Kennedys waving from their open car. As the smiling President drew nearer, Mrs. Greenwood became aware of a rifle being aimed at him from a window high across the street. Shots rang out, and the President clutched at his throat.
Mrs. Greenwood was treated patronizingly when she tried to inform the FBI. Only one secretary at the Los Angeles office of California Governor Edmund Brown would even listen to her, and no official action was forthcoming.
In a desperate attempt to be heard and heeded, Mrs. Greenwood managed to convince the Rev. Maurice Dawkins of the Independent Church of Christ, who was a delegate from Los Angeles to the White House conference of religious leaders, that she was sincere and that she considered the dream to constitute a warning.
Reverend Dawkin's letter to Mrs. Greenwood was later quoted in the press: "I recall so clearly your warning to me and your urging me to deliver a message to the White House to the President or to his brother ... that the Kennedys must not be permitted to go South.
"On May 18th ... I spoke to Pierre Salinger and delivered your message of warning. At the White House Conference of religious leaders in June, I spoke of it again to the President and his brother in general terms….”
In retrospect, many comments which President Kennedy himself made seem to have been precognitive.
On March 3, 1963, while touring Arlington National Cemetery, President Kennedy remarked: "The view up here is so beautiful. I could stay here forever."
Leaving church just a few months before the assassination, he remarked to reporters and Secret Service men: "I wonder if they'll shoot me in the church?"
Then, seeing the startled reactions, Kennedy tried to make a joke of it. "Well, if they do," he chuckled, "They'll probably get one of you fellows first!"
Pierre Salinger, former press secretary to President Kennedy, made public a statement of JFK’s that seems particularly precognitive.
"Somehow, I wish I didn't have to go to Dallas," the President sighed wearily. "I guess it is because there is so much to be done there."
Did President Kennedy have a premonition that he was about to add another tragic page to the history of prophecy and the presidency?
Anthony Sherman, a close friend of George Washington, related a story of the first President's prophetic vision, which did not find its way into print until the December 1880 issue of the National Tribune. Because of the date of the telling of the tale so long after Washington’s death, the validity of the account has been question. Nevertheless, it belongs in a discussion of the presidency and prediction.
According to Sherman, George Washington had been seated in his study when he perceived a mysterious visitor standing in one corner. "Son of the Republic," a voice bade him, "look and learn."
A rising, curling vapor filled the President's study, and he watched a dark, shadowy angel give three loud blasts on a trumpet. The vapor glowed with surging life as it formed a representation of the globe. The angel dipped water from the ocean onto Europe, Asia, and Africa, and Washington was horrified to see thick black clouds arise from each continent. The odious clouds then merged into one dark mass which began to move toward America. Within the black cloud, Washington could see hordes of armed men. Dimly, he saw the armies land and begin to devastate cities, which only moments before had sprung up.
His ears rang with the roar of cannon and the shouts and cries of millions who had become locked in mortal combat. Above the sounds of strife, the mysterious voice admonished him again to "Look and learn."
Once more the shadowy angel dipped water from the ocean, sprinkled it upon America, and the invading armies were swept away.
Washington told his friend that he again beheld "... the villages, towns, and cities springing up where I had seen them before. While the bright angel, planting the azure standard he had brought into the midst of them, cried in a loud voice: 'While the states remain, and the heavens send down dew upon the earth, so long shall the Union last.' "
The vivid scene faded. Washington was once again aware of the mysterious figure in the shadows of his study. "Son of the Republic," the figure began, "what you have seen is thus interpreted. Three great perils will come upon the Republic. The most fearful for her is the third. But the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live for his God, his land, and his Union."
Then, Washington told Sherman, “With these words, the vision vanished, and I started from my seat and felt that I had seen a vision, wherein had been shown me the birth, progress, and destiny of the United States."
General George B. McClellan slumped wearily over his desk. Before him lay campaign maps, battle reports and a large scale map on which all the known Confederate positions had been marked.
It was September 1862, and the green Yankee troops had been shattered in battle after battle by the sharp-shooting, determined Johnny Rebs. President Lincoln had called on McClellan to take charge of the chaos. He had appointed him to whip the troops into shape and to rally against the Rebel-yelling, bulls-eye shooting boys in gray.
The general yawned and stretched in near-exhaustion. If he did not catch a little sleep, he would not be able to direct a wrestling match, let alone a war. McClellan's eyelids drooped, and soon he had slumped forward on his desk.
His slumber did not last long. A booming voice suddenly filled his campaign tent: "General McClellan, do you sleep at your post? Rouse yourself, or before. you can prevent it, the foe will be in Washington!"
Wondering if some bold messenger had arrived with news of impending Confederate attack, McClellan snapped to groggy attention. His eyes opened wide when he beheld the luminous countenance of George Washington.
As General McClellan later told the story for the Portland, Maine, Evening Courier, March 8, 1862, the commanding spirit of the nation’s first President wasted no time in delivering his message: "Had God not willed it otherwise, 'ere the sun of tomorrow had set, the Confederate flag would have waved above the Capitol and your own grave! Note what you see. Your time to act is short!”
At a gesture from Washington, McClellan seemed to be envisioning a living map of all the Confederate troop positions. He grabbed a quill from his desk and began to jot down all that he could see. Then, as if they were figures performing in a pageant, he saw the Confederate troops advancing toward Washington, D.C.
"The Rebs are on their way to try and take the capital!" McClellan growled. "Why, if they took Washington, they'd break the spirit of the entire Union!"
At once the strange, living tableau changed, and McClellan saw Confederate manuevers of the future. Again, his pen furiously marked positions on campaign maps. "We must act at once!" he told the specter of George Washington.
"The warning has come in time, General McClellan," Washington said softly. "Before I go, I wish to tell you of the days ahead and of other perils which shall befall our nation in the 20th century."
Washington described the Civil War as America's "passing from childhood to open maturity," and that now she must learn "that important lesson of self-control, of self-rule, that in the future will place her in the van of power and civilization."
The spirit of the first President of the United States then told rhe Union general that America would be saved in that century, but the great test was yet to come:
"Her mission will not be finished, for 'ere another century shall have gone by, the oppressors of the whole earth, hating and envying her exaltation, shall join themselves together and raise up their hands against her.
"But if she be found worthy of her calling, they shall be truly discomfited, and then will be ended her third and last struggle for existence."
With those words, the ghostly image of George Washington began to fade, and McClellan once again found himself alone in his tent.
At first he thought the experience had been merely a vivid bit of dreaming on his part, but then he saw the markings and the symbols of Confederate manuevers on his campaign-maps.
The general paused for just a moment. Could he actually act upon advice given to him in a dream? Were the Confederate troops really advancing toward Washington?
With a purposeful blow of his open palm on the desk top, McClellan decided to act. Men had been guided by dreams since the days of the Old Testament prophets. He would give the orders to move out at once.
Because of the knowledge which McClellan had gained in this unusual precognitive experience, the Union troops were able to halt the Confederate invasion of Washington at Antietam and to pursue General Robert E. Lee by "anticipating" several of his subsequent maneuvers.
General McClellan later wrote of his vision in these words: "Our beloved, glorious Washington shall rest .. until perhaps the end of the Prophetic Century approaches that is to bring the Republic to a third and final struggle, when he may once more become a Messenger of Succor and Peace from the Great Ruler, who has all nations in his keeping."
General McClellan never repudiated this account, and it was reprinted in The Individual Christian Scientist, Vol. XI, No. 2.