The Lincoln Kennedy Coincidences: History’s Mystifying Parallels

It’s the urban legend that tests the bounds of probability. But what exactly are the Lincoln Kennedy links and do they go beyond mere coincidence? Read on to find out.

14 May 2024

They are two of the most iconic figures in the pantheon of US Presidents. Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy each guided the nation through some of the greatest upheavals in its history. Their lives, political careers, and their legacies continue to captivate and intrigue to this day. And their assassinations rocked not just their country, but the entire world. These are just some of many Lincoln Kennedy links. Indeed, some argue that so striking and numerous are these parallels that they breach the bounds of pure chance; that maybe the catalogue of Lincoln Kennedy coincidences are anything but happenstance.

So, what are the parallels between these two iconic leaders? And are there too many to ignore? That’s what we’re here to explore, starting with how speculation on the matter began.

Kennedy and Lincoln Strange Coincidences

1886 engraving of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (Credit: traveler1116 via Getty Images)

In August of 1964, the Republican Congressional Committee Newsletter published a list of what Time magazine called a “compendium of curious coincidences” in the lives and deaths of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had been assassinated less than a year before its publication, yet this was likely not the first instance of conjecture on connections between the two. However, it was significant in inspiring the spread of lore regarding Kennedy and Lincoln strange coincidences. So, what made the list?

Letters & Numbers

Many of the Lincoln Kennedy links revolved around letters and numbers. For instance, the names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters. And they were elected first to congress then to the presidency exactly a century apart: Lincoln in 1846 and 1860, Kennedy in 1946 and 1960.

Work & Life Events

Deeper connections between the two presidents were also noted, both in their work and beyond. In office, both had significant roles in the civil rights movement. And they were succeeded by Southern Vice Presidents named Johnson, namely Andrew Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson, who were born in 1808 and 1908, respectively. As for their personal lives, each of their wives lost a son while serving as First Lady.

Lincoln Kennedy Assassination Links

Probably the most prolific part of the list were links between the assassination of Kennedy and Lincoln. Both Presidents were shot in the head, from behind, on a Friday, succumbing to their injuries in places associated with the initials “PH,” with Petersen House for Lincoln and Parkland Hospital for Kennedy. Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater, and Kennedy was shot while riding in a Lincoln convertible made by Ford Motors. What’s more, both assassinations took place in the presence of their wives.

There were also parallels noted between the assassins, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. Both were referred to by three names, each containing 15 letters. And both were shot to death before they could be brought to trial.

Uncovering Lincoln Kennedy Myths

Former Texas School Book Depository (Credit: MikeyLPT via Getty Images)

While many of the Lincoln Kennedy coincidences were accurate, others were immediately proven incorrect. For example, it was stated that Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy while Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln. However, there was no evidence of a secretary named Kennedy in Lincoln’s White House.

There were also discrepancies regarding dates, such as an assertion that John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald were born exactly 100 years apart in 1839 and 1939. In fact, Booth was born in 1838.

What are the Chances?

President John F. Kennedy (Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images)

Even if the entire list of strange Kennedy and Lincoln coincidences was correct, was it extraordinary? Or within the remit of probability? Those who argue for the latter point to the human tendency to perceive order within chaos. Known as apophenia, this psychological phenomenon often leads to pattern seeking. And this can be done on the basis of arbitrary distinctions, ignoring any facts that do not fit the narrative. For example, while the names Lincoln and Kennedy both have seven letters, each of their full names are different lengths.

In a similar way, by its very nature the U.S. electoral system goes some way to explaining coincidences linked to the electoral cycle. Presidential elections are held every four years in the US, following a set timetable. This regularity means that any two individuals beginning their political careers or achieving milestones in years that are multiples of four are not coincidences but rather a reflection of this established schedule. Consequently, two individuals being elected to office in years that are exactly one hundred years apart aligns naturally with this electoral cycle, making such patterns less extraordinary and more a function of the timing of elections.

As for the Lincoln Kennedy assassination links, whilst it’s true that both Booth and Oswald are famously known by three names, only Booth was so by choice. In Oswald’s case, it was assigned to him by the media. What’s more, it’s true that both were shot before they were tried. But the circumstances were dramatically different, with Booth shot from a distance during capture, while Oswald was in custody when he was shot at point blank range.

Lincoln Kennedy Myths Versus Links

Location of Kennedy's gravesite, Arlington National Cemetery (Credit: Image Source via Getty Images)

While it’s true that there are a number of verifiable overlaps within the Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences theory – such as the presidents being elected 100 years apart and succeeded by men with matching surnames – many of the more sensational claims, such as the names of their secretaries or birth years of the assassins, are either misinterpreted or simply false.

Indeed, many would argue that the Lincoln Kennedy coincidences are simply that – coincidences – the same as the vast numbers of other coincidences which happen to people across the globe on a daily basis.

Like the theories about the assassinations themselves, whether you put it down to pure chance, apophenia, or the guidance of a greater power, ultimately the truth of the Lincoln Kennedy coincidences lies very much in the eye of the beholder.


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