How Leon Czolgosz Became an Anarchist (Perhaps)

There’s a myth about how Leon Czolgosz became an anarchist that goes like this:

Czolgosz came from a Roman Catholic family, but despite their religious beliefs, on their way back from celebrating in Cleveland they stopped in at the modest home of a notorious soothsayer.

When they arrived, there was already a small crowd of people who had come to hear if the old man had any predictions for the coming century. He did. There was a woman leaning down with her ear to the old man’s mouth, listening to what he said and trying to translate the gist of it to the assembly.

“He says that mankind will be decimated by its rulers in the coming century — there will be great wars that kill millions of people.” She leaned down again. “Millions of people will be killed in these wars, but even worse slaughter will come when the governments of the world turn on their own people — they will literally decimate their people.” She leaned down again. “Literally ‘decimate’ — if the angel of death traveled over the world today and visited each person, man woman and child, and killed with its breath every tenth person it visited, it would extinguish fewer lives than the governments of the world will murder off of the field of war in .”

Someone muttered “anarchist” and turned on his heel and left with his family, and that’s when Leon became an anarchist. He shot and killed William McKinley, then president of the United States government, in , and was executed . As it turns out, the prophecy came true, fifteen years ahead of schedule.