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