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Published: Friday, 12/13/2002

These cats find good times on 13th

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The 13 members of the Black Cat Club in Spencerville, west of Lima - including, from left, Robert Redick, Jim Koenig, and Bill Foster - have been getting together every Friday the 13th to thumb their noses at superstition. The 13 members of the Black Cat Club in Spencerville, west of Lima - including, from left, Robert Redick, Jim Koenig, and Bill Foster - have been getting together every Friday the 13th to thumb their noses at superstition.
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SPENCERVILLE, Ohio - They think nothing of walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks.

And Friday the 13th? They love Friday the 13th.

Since their very first meeting on Oct. 13, 1939, 13 members of the Black Cat Club in this Allen County town west of Lima have been getting together every Friday the 13th to defy superstition and, of course, socialize a bit.

Robert Redick, secretary/treasurer, said the club began as a social outlet before the time of television, computers, and quick travel.

“There were 13 of them in the original group. They were all pillars of the community,” he explained. “What they did was every Friday the 13th, they met at the local restaurant and they decided there would be no dues, no projects. They'd just sit and gab for the evening.”

Little has changed, he confessed.

“Well, every once in a while we get together and break a mirror,” he said.

Bill Foster, who became a member in 1972 when a bachelor in the group died, recalled one meeting where members set up a ladder, put the original members' names below 13 mirrors, and proceeded to break each one.

Asked whether members must reject all superstitions, Mr. Foster, 84, replied: “We had one guy who refused to walk under a ladder. After a while, he lost interest. We let him go.”

Mr. Redick, who's also 84, put it like this: “Every time I drive down the road and a black cat goes across, I don't turn around and go the other direction. I keep on driving down the road.”

The original club never intended to remain in existence as long as it has. Tonight will be its 106th meeting.

“They were just going to let the club phase out of existence,” Mr. Redick said. “When a member died, they turned that plate at the table upside down. When there were no more upright plates, the club would be gone. I think it got to the point where there were too many upside down plates.”

Members eventually decided a son, nephew, or other close relative could take a deceased member's place. When no family member is available, Mr. Redick said, “They just ask somebody who has been living in the community for a length of time. That's how I got in.”

Mr. Foster said members used to do research on the origins of superstitions or bring in news articles they came across for discussion. It seems they have little new ground to cover these days, though.

“We have most of this stuff in the box,” Mr. Redick quipped about a box he hauls to each meeting containing everything from meeting minutes to old photos. “I always take the box.”

For tonight's meeting, the club is hooking up with a copycat Black Cat Club from Wapakoneta.

Former Spencerville resident Ron Miller, a lawyer in Wapakoneta, said he decided to start a similar club in 1984 because it sounded like fun. It too has 13 members who meet on Friday the 13th.

“Ours is a little different, though,” he said, explaining that the group goes on golf outings, attends sporting events, and went to Maumee Bay State Park Sept. 13. “We do have a business meeting, though it's largely monkey business. With new members we may do a ladder thing and break a little glass and challenge the spirits, but it's not a regular part of every meeting for us.”

He said he has long wanted to invite the black cats from Spencerville to meet with his group.

“I've wanted to do that for a long time, but I've also felt uncomfortable about it because I stole their idea,” he said.

The Wapakoneta group is not the only copycat club.

Mr. Miller said his group occasionally meets at the Black Cat restaurant in Fostoria, and that prompted a group of 13 women there to form their own Friday the 13th Club about 10 years ago.

Lawyer and former Fostoria Mayor Barbara Marley said the group meets every Friday the 13th for dinner, but it skips the superstition stuff.

“It's probably terrible to say, but we have no socially redeeming purpose,” she said. “We're just a group of 13 women that likes to get together.”

Mr. Miller said a former Wapakoneta man who moved to England started a club there. “He saw the fun we were having and liked what we were doing, so now there is a Black Cat Club in England,” Mr. Miller said.



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