Anti-Superstition Society Party

from – Jan. 6, 1941, issue

Breaking mirrors. Spilling salt. Walking under ladders. Lighting a third cigarette with one match. The list of arcane superstitions influencing the behavior and peace of mind of human beings around the world is, it seems, almost limitless. And for the superstitious, no day holds as much peril as Friday the 13th. The very thought of, say, a black cat crossing one’s path on such a day is enough to send ordinarily sane men and women into conniptions.

Baked cookies bearing the number 13 being served at an Anti-Superstition Party
Photo by William C. Shrout—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images©

But for a group of Chicago-based businessmen and inveterate debunkers in the middle part of the last century, each Friday the 13th was the perfect opportunity to point out how thoroughly preposterous — and, from an economic point of view, how counterproductive — such fears can be. In December 1941, LIFE magazine photographer William C. Shrout attended a dinner of the venerable Anti-Superstition Society of Chicago, and came away with incontrovertible proof that just because grown men don’t believe in fairy tales doesn’t mean they’re opposed to having a good time.

As LIFE explained to its readers in its Jan. 6, 1941, issue, in which some of the photos in this gallery first appeared:

At 6:13 p.m. on Friday, the 13th of December, 169 audacious and irreverent gentlemen sat down to dine at 13 tables in Room 13 of the Merchants & Manufacturers Club of Chicago. Each table seated 13. Upon each rested an open umbrella, a bottle of bourbon and 13 copies of a poem called The Harlot. The speaker’s table was strewn with horseshoes, old keys, old shoes, mirrors and cardboard black cats. Before it reposed an open coffin with 13 candles. The occasion was the 13th Anniversary Jinx-Jabbing Jamboree and Dinner of the Anti-Superstition Society of Chicago … [which] meets regularly on Friday the 13th. (There have been 13 Friday the 13th’s in the last eight years.) Behind the ribaldry of its recurrent dinners lies the very sound thesis that superstition annually costs this country an inexcusable sum of time and money. People postpone trips because of mirrors and cats. Businessmen defer decisions because of calendrical coincidences.

To combat these persistent bogies, the Society has assembled much counter-evidence. According to mathematical laws of probability, one of 13 guests of different ages at any dinner party may very well die within a year. But the ratio of probability will soar even higher if 14 guests attend. One corpse out of 18 is a 50-to-50 bet.

A black cat sits on a man's shoulder at an Anti-Superstition Party

“Panther, a three-year-old black cat, is delivered to General Lorenzen, Keeper of Black Cats, by its mistress, Mrs. Olive Morrison. The Society advertised in the paper for a ‘large, docile black cat’ to preside at meeting, got 159 offers.” — Photo by William C. Shrout—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone. Go spill some salt on a black cat beneath a ladder, or something.


Purple People Eater Punch

Purple People Eater Punch/Taste of
Photo by Taste of Home

This Taste of Home Test Kitchen punch recipe was inspired by the hit novelty hit song “Purple People Eater,” as recorded by Sheb Wooley.

Singer and acter Sheb Wooley appearing  in July 1958 issue of LIFE magazine.

Singer and acter Sheb Wooley appearing in July 1958 issue of LIFE magazine. Shown here with a Purple People Eater.

Yield: 5 quarts/approximately 26 Servings


  • 2 quarts red grape juice, chilled
  • 4 drops neon purple food coloring
  • 2 liters club soda, chilled
  • 2 quarts vanilla ice cream, softened




Pour grape juice into a 6-quart punch bowl; add food coloring.  Slowly pour in club soda.  Gently spoon ice cream into the punch and whisk to swirl.  Serve immediately.


Originally published as Purple People Eater Punch in Taste of Home Halloween Food & Fun 2008, p47




Black Cat Appreciation Day – Blackie, the Muse

Carl Mydans Gjon Mili and his cat Blackie, 1944

Carl Mydans Gjon Mili and his cat Blackie, 1944 ©

Blackie was the muse and pet to Life magazine photographer Gjon Mili.

Gjon Mili (November 28, 1904 – February 14, 1984) was an Albanian-American photographer best known for his work published in LIFE which he photographed artists such as Pablo Picasso… and Blackie.

The famous photographer and anyone who met Blackie found it easy to appreciate this black kitty.

Blackie regarding a portrait of himself made by artist Saul Steinberg during a session at Mili's studio, 1947.

Blackie regarding a portrait of himself made by artist Saul Steinberg during a session at Mili’s studio, 1947. Photo by Gjon Mili