Post by Graveyardbride on May 13, 2016 20:33:54 GMT -5
FDR’s Lifelong Fear of Friday the 13th
In one of the most memorable moments of his political career, Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Later, as more and more Americans learned their fearless leader possessed a morbid fear of the number 13 and refused to travel on Friday the 13th, they considered his words somewhat ironic.
The Great Depression and later, World War II, took their toll, but many citizens were still heartened by Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” in which he reassured and comforted his fellow Americans. But despite the words he employed to bolster the spirits of his countrymen, he, himself, continued to be riddled by fears of what many considered a superstitious nature. In No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote: “Outside Roosevelt’s door, which he refused to lock at night as previous presidents had done, Secret Service men patrolled the corridor, alerting the guardroom to the slightest hint of movement. The refusal to lock his door was related to the president’s dread of fire, which surpassed his fear of assassination or anything else. The fear seems to have been rooted in his childhood, when, as a small boy, he had seen his young aunt, Laura, race down the stairs, screaming, her body and clothes aflame from an accident with an alcohol lamp.” She also describes how the president, who was struck down by polio in his 30s, would practice escaping fires by “dropping from his bed or chair and then crawling to the door.”
He was physically disabled, so perhaps his fear of fire was understandable, but his fear of the number 13 wasn’t – at least not to most. Roosevelt biographer John Gunther wrote: “He hated Friday the thirteenth, he would never start an important trip on a Friday if he could help it, and he disliked sitting down with thirteen at dinner.” In fact, Roosevelt’s terror of the number 13 was so acute that Missy LeHand, his secretary, was always on standby to join Roosevelt and his guests at the White House table in case the number present turned out to be 13.
To this day, there are rumors around Warm Springs, Georgia, the location of the Little White House where Roosevelt died in 1945, that he was aware the 13th of April was on a Friday because he had lived his life convinced the combination of Friday and the number 13 meant disaster. The day before, the ailing leader was posing at his desk in the company of Lucy Mercer Rutherford – his long ago mistress – as an artist painted his portrait. His complexion was ruddy for a change and the artist began painting quickly to capture the man who suddenly appeared so full of life. She didn’t realize the reason for his rosy appearance was because a blood vessel had burst in his brain. Then his hand began twitching and he reached toward his head. When asked if he had dropped his cigarette, he faintly replied, “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head,” and fell into a coma from which he never revived. The president was pronounced dead April 12, 1945.
The following day, a big, black hearse arrived at the Little White House and Roosevelt’s body was brought out and transported to the depot, where it was carried onto the train and placed in a copper-lined mahogany coffin. His final journey began on Friday the 13th. Could his lifelong fear have been a premonition?
Sources: Warren Perry, National Portrait Gallery; The Little White House; and The Atlantic.
See also: “First Ladies and the Occult in the White House”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/7166/first-ladies-occult-white-house
“Presidential Superstitions and Phobias”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/4280/presidential-superstitions-phobias