Do you ever feel like a cloud of bad luck follows you wherever you go? Well, it’s probably your imagination, but for these three people, it would have been hard to reason away the events they were caught up in. You’d think Abraham Lincoln’s son, an Irish born stewardess for a luxury cruise line and a World War II-era Japanese engineer couldn’t possibly have much in common, but upon further inspection of these historical disasters, they share shockingly bad—or good—luck, depending on how you look at it.
All three were party to multiple historical disasters in their own corners of the world that were so rare and significant, they are still talked about today. The fact that these people saw what they did, on multiple occasions, should probably be chalked up to wild coincidence, but I know that if these events happened to me, I’d have a hard time believing it was purely by chance.
Violet Jessop survived the horrible fates of the Titanic and two of her sister ships, the Britannic and Olympic. Some say she is one of the luckiest people of all time, some say she was some kind of witch, and others say the White Star Line, for which she worked, made shoddy ships at the beginning of the 20th century.
Violet Jessop was a stewardess for the White Star Line, which was famous during that era for luxury cruises. Her first assignment was on the RMS Olympic, which had a collision with a British warship in 1910, causing it to take on water and narrowly avoid sinking. That, however, wasn’t enough to get Jessop to seek a landlocked career. Two years later in 1912, Jessop accepted an assignment aboard the RMS Titanic.
The “unsinkable” Titanic sank, of course, and Jessop made it out alive due to the women-and-children first rule. After those two events, Jessop, for some unfathomable reason, accepted another job aboard the third and final sister ship, the HMHS Britannic. The Britannic hit a mine planted by German submarines during World War I and sank in 1916. Violet Jessop, of course, survived. She went on to work as a stewardess on large ocean liners for the rest of her career until retiring at the age of 63. Luckily, none of the other ships she worked on sank.
In the span of only 36 years, Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln, was in some way present at three presidential assassinations. To put things another way, the only presidential assassination he wasn’t around for was John F. Kennedy’s. On the night John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln in 1865, the president invited his son to go to the theater with him. Robert declined, saying he needed rest, and the person who went in his place got both stabbed and witnessed the president being shot. He was at home when the actual shooting happened, but he was present at the hospital when his father’s heart stopped beating.
Robert Lincoln would go on to serve as secretary of war in James A. Garfield’s cabinet after running a successful legal practice. On July 2,1881, Lincoln met President Garfield at a train station in Washington D.C. to share information with him regarding a trip that most of the cabinet was to take soon. Lincoln made it to within 40 feet of the president when his killer walked out of a crowd behind him and shot him twice in the back. Garfield would die 80 days later of his wounds.
Finally, in 1901, when President William McKinley was in office, Lincoln was invited to meet with the president at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. It is unclear whether he actually witnessed McKinley’s shooting, but while he was on the premises, McKinley was shot and would later die of an infection related to his wounds. All the death Lincoln witnessed in his life took a toll on him; he also had many close family members die in addition to the three presidents whose assassinations he was connected to. Lincoln had a bit of a superstitious streak, and it was noted that he considered himself to be a harbinger of bad luck. After McKinley’s death, he swore to never meet another president.
During World War II, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was an engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the relatively untouched city of Hiroshima. At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, he saw a lone American bomber drop the first atomic bomb ever used on a live target. Being only two miles from ground zero, Yamaguchi was nearly blinded by the flash of light the bomb produced. After seeing the explosion, he ducked for cover in a nearby ditch and was lifted off the ground by the shockwave and thrown through the air moments later. Badly burned and with two ruptured eardrums, he picked himself up and made it to a bomb shelter.
After spending the night there, he decided to make his way to the train station, which was still somehow operational. There, he boarded an overnight train to his hometown of Nagasaki. He arrived, was treated for his wounds, and the next day reported to work. He was literally in the middle of describing the bombing to his superior at Mitsubishi when the second and final atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki.
Again, the office where he was located was within two miles of the blast. Although the bomb dropped over Nagasaki was more powerful than the original, Nagasaki’s hilly terrain insulated much of the town, meaning that less of the city was destroyed and Yamaguchi sustained fewer injuries than he did in Hiroshima. Like many Japanese, Yamaguchi was ill for a long time with radiation sickness. Despite getting two doses of radiation, Yamaguchi went on to make a full recovery, have two daughters, and he eventually died at the age of 93.