Anyone can change the course of history. You can start a movement, run for office, or if you're too insane for that kind of thing, buy a cheap gun and try to kill the President.
Now killing the President requires a lot of planning, but when you're crazy, planning involves casting imaginary spells and talking to ghosts. All of which makes it even stranger that some of the craziest assassination plots ever hatched by some of the craziest people came so close to succeeding.
John F. Kennedy
At the dear old age of seventy-three, Richard Pavlick maintained his youthful vigor by constantly ranting about politicians, wealth and Catholics. So naturally when these things converged in the form of John F. Kennedy's presidency, Pavlick felt that something drastic had to be done and that he was just the senile nutbar for the job.
Apparently Pavlich learned everything he knew about committing crimes from The Riddler. After giving away his property and most of his possessions, he decided it would be a good idea to mail postcards around town, with cryptic clues about his intentions.
Pavlick began stalking Kennedy and on December 11th this elderly one man League of Evil launched his plan.
Fun Fact: Guns can be problematic. They require training to use well and even then they can still jam or miss. But do you know what never misses? A 1950 Buick filled with dynamite.
Maybe Pavlick felt that the revolution he'd spark would be so awesome that he didn't need to live and witness it. Maybe he just had a gross misunderstanding of how dynamite works. Whatever the reason, one Sunday as Kennedy left for mass, there was an old man in an exploding car, prepared to kill him in the flashiest way possible.
What Went Wrong:
On the first attempt, Pavlick saw Kennedy had his wife and two children with him, and got cold feet (note that if you're that concerned about bystanders, a car bomb is probably not your best weapon).
This bought time for the good guys to work through the diabolical clues he mailed out. And by that we mean the postmaster glanced at the dates and postmarks and told the Secret Service where he was. By the time he was working on his second attempt on Kennedy's life, the cops were closing in.
When they pulled him over, the cops found seven sticks of dynamite wired in the vehicle. Pavlick originally had much more, but when he became nervous about getting caught he removed most of it, apparently under the impression that it's ok to have just a few explosives in your trunk at any given time.
"What? There's, like, four sticks in there. Come on."
He was held in a mental institution for a few years, then upon release decided to stalk and terrorize the postmaster that had tipped off the Secret Service on the Kennedy thing. Before he could come up with a more efficient way to kill than the old exploding Buick trick, he died in 1975, and was no doubt buried in a dynamite laden coffin.
Growing up, Lynette "Terrible Nickname" Fromme lived a little girl's dream. A local dance troupe she participated in toured the country and parts of Europe. Then this promising young lady grew up, moved to LA, got hooked on drugs and met the charismatic and clearly trustworthy Charles Manson.
She was quickly lured in by his philosophies and joined the Family. Fromme was happy to be accepted, even if it was by a bunch of sociopaths. Then Manson was found guilty of orchestrating the Tate-LaBianca murders and Squeaky was back on her own. She latched onto environmentalist cause, which would seem like a step in the right direction unless you know that "environmentalist" translates to "killing a United States President" in the language of Crazy Hippy on Acid.
Fromme met Gerald "The Game" Ford in Capitol Park on the morning of September 5, 1975. She disguised herself with a red robe, apparently under the impression that bystanders wouldn't notice a flamboyant warlock walking around.
While Ford was taking questions from the crowd, he noticed a hand go up near the front row. Much to his surprise there was .45 Colt pistol in that hand.
"I got a fucking question!"
What Went Wrong:
As soon as the weapon was drawn, a Secret Service agent was on her like Nixon on Cambodia. In a moment that must have occurred in slow motion, the agent tackled Fromme and jammed his finger behind the trigger of the gun before wrestling it out of her hand. Fromme was arrested on scene and quickly found guilty of batshittery in the third degree.
If you're thinking that this was actually a good assassination attempt, prevented only by the Secret Service and their Matrix-like skills, you should know Ford would have been fine either way.
It turns out the morning of her attempt, Fromme was still unsure if she actually wanted to kill Ford or just spook him and make him pee a little. She decided she would settle it later and ejected the bullet from the gun. She must have forgotten by the time she met Ford, because the gun she tried to fire at him still had no bullet in the chamber.
Though Fromme failed, she blazed a path for female Presidential assassins and people wanting to kill Gerald Ford in general. Sara Jane Moore tried killing Ford only seventeen days after Fromme. Then again she also didn't manage to get off a shot, so maybe there's still a bit of a glass ceiling there for female assasins, despite what the film Wanted would have us believe.
Richard Lawrence blazed his own trail as the first person to attempt to kill a U.S. President while being crazier than a bag of agitated cobras injected with some sort of... crazy serum. For cobras.
In his youth Richard lived a quiet life as a painter. Then he quit his job, donned a fancy cape, grew a mustache and told everyone who would listen that he was King Richard the Third of England.
"Hey, guys, I'm King now, okay?"
When folks started to question why a long-deceased British ruler was huffing paint on American soil, Richard gave a simple and logical explanation: the American Government owed him a vast fortune that he couldn't claim the throne without. He hadn't received the fortune because of, you guessed it, President Andrew Jackson. Oh, and he believed that Jackson killed his father in 1832 (truly an impressive feat when you consider Lawrence's father had never been to America and actually died in 1823).
That's right, a man so sinister that he could kill through space and time needed to be stopped, and ol' King Richard had the gumption to do it.
When Jackson attended a funeral in 1835 Lawrence followed, hoping to kill him and presumably tug his mustache and disappear in a cloud of smoke. He approached Jackson from behind, drew a pistol and fired into his back at near point blank range. The gun misfired.
Naturally, being an undead British king warrants carrying two pistols. He quickly drew and fired his second weapon. Same result. By this point others in attendance caught wind of our caped-crusader and wrestled him to the ground. President Jackson served up some justice with his hickory cane before actual legal justice was served. Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his life in a mental institution.
What Went Wrong:
Lawrence's pistols are believed to have misfired due to high humidity and thus he was thwarted by bad weather. Either this means he brought extra-shitty pistols, or wars back then had to be postponed every time it rained.
On top of that, Jackson was an avid duelist so it can be assumed that he had long conquered his fear of guns, bullets and people firing guns loaded with bullets in his general direction. This is not the type of man you try to assassinate on impulse. Not unless you like the feeling of a hickory cane on your ass.