#3. John Hinckley Jr. (1955-)
You know that friend who's just really, really into some actress? That weird guy who spends hours in Blockbuster, gently caressing a copy of Speed 2: Cruise Control just to feel closer to Sandra Bullock? Well here's a tip: don't let that guy buy a gun.
That brings us to John Hinckley, Jr., a failed songwriter who must have had a lot of down time because, according to trusted historian Dr. Wik E. Pedia, Hinkley saw the movie Taxi Driver at least fifteen times. The family friendly story of vigilante justice apparently captivated him because of Jodi Foster's role as a 12 year-old prostitute.
When Hinckley learned that Foster was enrolled at Yale in 1980 he moved to Connecticut and enrolled in a writing class there. After numerous attempts to charm her by talking about how he fell in love with her portrayal of a child prostitute, he decided he would have to try something else.
"Yikes. You look so much less 12-years-old in person."
Proving that he totally understands women, Hinkley decided that the best way to impress Foster was by murdering the leader of the free world. It was between that and flowers.
Hinckley first sought to assassinate Jimmy Carter, but got arrested on a firearms charge before he had the chance. Obviously a man of persistence, he waited until March of 1981 and decided to try Ronald Reagan.
Reagan, having just given a speech at the Washington Hilton Hotel in D.C., was returning to his limo when he was greeted by a crowd of public admirers and news cameras (that captured the event in its entirety). At the time he had a whopping 73% approval rating, so it probably came as a shock to him when some dude drew a pistol and fired six rounds in his direction.
What Went Wrong:
In the three seconds it took Hinckley to fire six shots he hit four people, Reagan included. It wasn't a direct hit, however; the bullet ricocheted off the open limo door and grazed the President's side. At the end of the ordeal Hinckley had a kill-to-hit ratio of 1 to 5, but only if you count breaking a window as a kill. No, Hinckley hadn't practiced with the weapon before the event.
What's more embarrassing, however, is that the rounds he used were "Devastators," which were supposed to explode on impact. Of the six bullets not one of them detonated, despite each one striking something. So Hinckley was probably eligible for some kind of refund.
Everyone injured by the attack survived and Hinckley was committed to a mental institution. Jodie Foster became a lesbian, though far be it from us to suggest that she did so mainly in an attempt to avoid the gender that thought six explosive bullets would be a good way to win her heart.
#2. John F. Schrank (1876-1943)
John Schrank had a dream that almost changed the world. And by that we don't mean a "Martin Luther King" dream, we mean a literal "at school without your pants" dream.
He seemed normal as a youth. Then, his entire family died. And his girlfriend. He then spent his early adulthood wandering the east coast, where he found religion and began to study the Bible intensely. Indeed, it seemed that Schrank overcame all his misfortune and established himself as a peaceful and functioning member of society.
Then, one night, Schrank saw the ghost William McKinley in a dream. McKinley told Shrank to avenge his death and pointed to a picture of Roosevelt.
Shrank accepted this, ignoring the fact that McKinley was actually killed by Leon Czolgosz. Quick to appease the demands of his phantom overlord, Schrank stalked Roosevelt's campaign for three weeks before making his move.
On October 14th, 1912 Roosevet was to make a speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before 9,000 people. Unfortunately, one of those people was Schrank. Before the speech could be delivered he fired once, hitting Roosevelt right in the chest.
What Went Wrong:
Compared to everyone else on this list, Schrank was a goddamn marksman. Had he aimed a few inches to the left the bullet would have torn through Roosevelt and maybe even killed him (we emphasize "maybe"--we are talking about Teddy Roosevelt, after all).
Instead the bullet struck his breast pocket where it had to punch through Roosevelt's one-hundred page speech and his glasses case, before lodging itself in the wall of his lung.
Among the ensuing chaos Roosevelt had two options: go to a hospital and have the wound patched up, or deliver the speech while bleeding all over the place. After opening with the line "I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot," he gave his ninety-minute speech before conceding that maybe he should have the bullet wound checked out, you know, just in case. And of course Schrank was arrested and found to be insane, no doubt after telling the police his little ghost story.
Fate wasn't done kicking Schrank in the ass, however. When Roosevelt did see a doctor he remembered from McKinley's assassination that having the bullet removed could potentially be fatal and thus declined. So he was ultimately saved by the death of the man whose ghost possibly wanted him dead.
#1. Giuseppe Zangara (1900-1933)
After serving his native Italy in World War One, Giuseppe Zangara moved with his uncle to Paterson, New Jersey in pursuit of the American dream. He never had much of an education and spent most of his time doing physical labor to pay the bills, coming to the gradual realization that the American dream kind of blows. To make matters worse, he was diagnosed with appendicitis and, to a much more hilarious degree, chronic flatulence.
The illnesses led to his inability to work which, in turn, lead to severe depression and odd delusions, including the belief that Herbert Hoover was using supernatural powers to cause the illnesses.
To remedy his poor health and combat black magic, Zangara planned to kill Hoover. Hoover was out of office before Zangara could act, so the would-be assassin went after Franklin Delano Roosevelt instead, figuring that FDR must have picked up the witchcraft baton after Hoover left.
In 1933 Zangara was living in Miami, Florida. It just so happened that FDR was giving a speech in his community from the back of an open car, accompanied by Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. Armed with a pistol Zangara joined the small crowd.
What Went Wrong:
Zangara was only five feet tall and decided to stand at the back of the crowd, so he didn't exactly have a clear shot. Instead of simply repositioning himself elsewhere, he set up a wobbly folding chair and stood on it with his gun.
Of course, a short Italian guy with chronic flatulence (which we assume made him sound like he had a two-stroke engine running in his pants 24 hours a day) was bound to draw some attention. But before the crowd could subdue him, he got off six shots, hitting five people and killing one.
None of them were FDR (Mayor Cermak was the fatality). Not only did he utterly fail, but Zangara was arrested and executed via the electric chair.
By the way, here's a picture of Mr. Roosevelt.
Notice how he's in a wheel chair? It's understandable that one bullet missed, but six? This guy couldn't exactly leap out of the way of gunfire. You could say it was the crowd or the angry mob that threw off Zangara's aim. Only Roosevelt knew that his survival was actually due to the potent witchcraft he'd learned from Herbert Hoover.
For some examples of US Presidents who were much more successful at murder than these guys, check out 6 Great U.S. Presidents and Their Crimes Against Humanity. Or read up on 5 Presidential Elections Even Dumber Than This One (Somehow).