Date Unknown – Author Unknown
The President of the United States of America is generally considered the most powerful man in the western world. Most sitting Presidents, as frustrated at they might be with the limitations of their office, would agree with this assessment of their relative authority. This delusion is only maintained at great cost to the men and women of the United States Secret Service. You could say this is a story about that cost. You could also say it’s a story about the nature of power, or about the things that go bump in the night. But more than anything else, it’s a story about two dozen bing cherries, three blood oranges, thirty five red grapes, five red-delicious apples, four slices of red grapefruit, and one black wicker basket. And one unfortunate young man who looked a little bit too closely at the shapes moving in the darkness.
I was not present for the entirety of the events of this story. I took my allotted turns at the task, but I was not in attendance that fateful night. The material for this account is drawn both from my own experiences with the baskets, and from written materials left behind by others involved. It is my hope that this tale will prove enlightening, but failing that, perhaps it will at least serve as an entertaining caution. I will not burden the reader with any additional preface, now begins my tale.
Nobody is quite sure when the baskets began appearing in The Lincoln Bedroom. The first entry in the ledger kept by the service is dated September 8th, 1962. There wasn’t a ledger at first of course, though the original report on the incident was pulled from official records in the late sixties. The report noted that on the morning of September 8th, a maid found a basket of fresh fruit, tastefully arranged, had been left on the bed of The Lincoln Bedroom. The maid brought the basket to the attention of the Chief Usher because the room was currently empty. Robert Kennedy had stayed in the bedroom during the preceding week, but he had left Friday night. The room was empty Saturday and Sunday, so the maid didn’t know who the basket was for. The Chief Usher made exact note of the basket and it’s contents, and after being unable to discern who the basket was intended for, distributed the fruit amongst the staff of the White House. The basket contained two dozen bing cherries, three blood oranges, thirty five red grapes, five red-delicious apples, four slice of red grapefruit. If any of the staff became ill after consuming the fruit, no report of it was ever made. This was the first confirmed incident.
There were earlier mentions of baskets of fruit in the Lincoln Bedroom, however none of them are confirmed to be the same basket. The earliest suspected incident occurred in 1940, when one Winston Churchill made note in his journal of receiving a “Most considerate basket of sundry fruits” shortly after arriving in his room. The existence and delivery of this basket are not mentioned any any White House records.
After the first incident in 1962, baskets exactly matching the one delivered on the 8th appeared several times. Initially, they all appeared in the Lincoln Bedroom, roughly one basket every three months. The Chief Usher at this time, James B. West, did not bring the baskets to the attention of the Secret Service until mid 1963, when the 3rd identical basket was found. Both the service and the Chief Usher were initially of the opinion that the baskets were a prank left by a staffer. Though the baskets were not considered threatening, security procedures for the receipt and accounting of foodstuffs were still tightened. It was assumed that there would be no further baskets. And there weren’t, until five months later.
On November 22nd 1963, a fourth basket was discovered shortly after dusk. This basket was the first to be delivered to a location other than the Lincoln Bedroom. It was found at the foot of the bed in the President’s Bedroom on the 2nd floor. It contained two dozen bing cherries, three blood oranges, thirty five red grapes, five red-delicious apples, four slices of red grapefruit, and a note. A single piece of parchment, folded in two, with a scant five words written on it in red ink.
We’re sorry for your loss.