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Lincoln's Secret Killer Facts

REENACTMENT: Immediately following the assassination Laura Keene cradles Lincoln's head in her lap while Doctor Leale examines Lincoln.

REENACTMENT: Immediately following the assassination Laura Keene cradles Lincoln's head in her lap while Doctor Leale examines Lincoln. (View larger version)

Photograph by NGT

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  • John Wilkes Booth, an actor who in his time was regarded as handsome as an Adonis, had played Richard III to great acclaim in a Ford's Theater production a few years before the assassination.

  • The derringer Booth used to kill Lincoln was dropped in the President's box and found later that night by a theater-goer who was looking for a lost rooming house key.

  • Lincoln had always been cavalier about personal safety and often opposed security escorts despite the many death threats and foiled assassination attempts. One attempt in August of 1864 came so close it knocked his top hat off his head leaving only a bullet hole.

  • Robert Lincoln had his mother tried for insanity in 1875 because he was concerned that her habit of compulsive shopping would make her a financial burden. She was committed to a mental hospital in Illinois.

  • Lincoln's mother Nancy Lincoln died of "milk sickness" in her 30's, but Dr. John Sotos speculates that she may have also had MEN2B. She lived before the advent of photography but she was remembered as tall and thin. Her final illness was described as "a galloping consumption" which could have described late stage cancer.

  • In death, Lincoln became a hero to all - more then 2/3rds of the country's population turned out to see his funeral train.

  • Abraham Lincoln was first buried in Springfield, Illinois in May of 1865. His remains would be moved another seventeen times before finally being reburied under four thousand pounds of cement in 1901 by his eldest son, Robert Lincoln. Before his final internment there was one last viewing to confirm his grave had not previously been robbed.

  • Lincoln's murder was part of a plot conspired to decapitate the government. While Booth shot the president, Lewis Powell wounded but did not kill Secretary of State William Seward, and a third conspirator, who was charged with murdering the Vice President, Andrew Johnson lost his nerve and got drunk instead.

  • After the execution of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, the crowds moved in and cut pieces of the ropes to save as souvenirs. Souvenir hunters also chopped off pieces of Mary Surratt's boarding house front porch until police stopped them.

  • Laura Keene, the star of Our American Cousin, was the first woman to manage a theater in the United States. She was known for her ability to take charge and is credited with establishing New York City as the leading theatrical center in the United States.

  • During the autopsy Lincoln's brain was washed and weighed. Though somewhat lightened by the trauma, it didn't appear to weigh more than average for a man of his size.

  • Booth saved Lincoln! Edwin Booth saved Robert Lincoln from a possible train tragedy, that is. A few years before Abraham Lincoln's assassination by Edwin's bother these two strangers happened to be at the same crowded train station. Robert was pressed against the train and when it started to move lost his footing and fell into an open space between the platform and the oncoming train. With haste, Edwin grabbed young Lincoln's coat collar and pulled him to safety.

  • Robert Lincoln was present at both of the assassination of President Garfield and President McKinley.

  • After Willie's death, Mary Lincoln held séances in the White House hoping to be able to communicate with her lost son.

  • All four people seated in the President's box on the night of the assassination meet a tragic fate: two were murdered (Lincoln and Clara Harris Rathbone) and two ended up in insane asylums (Mary Todd Lincoln and Henry Rathbone).

  • Mary Todd Lincoln was too upset to attend Lincoln's funeral in the White House East Room. She had also missed the funeral of her son Willie.

  • The Association of Lincoln Presenters has more than 150 members who portray Abraham Lincoln (some come with a Mary). Their motto is "Would I Might Rouse The Lincoln in You All."

  • Dr. John Sotos is author of Zebra Cards: An Aid to Obscure Diagnosis, as well as a medical consultant to the television series House, M.D.

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