In February 1941, LIFE magazine published what may have been the strangest story ever to grace its pages. It was written in a straightforward manner, without a hint of jest and not meant to poke fun.
The name of the article? “LIFE Goes to a Hex Party.” Seems fairly innocuous, until you get to the sub-headline: “Amateur sorcerers in Washington try black magic against Hitler.”
Inspired by then-recent publication WITCHCRAFT: ITS POWER IN THE WORLD TODAY, written by occultist (and occasional cannibal) William Seabrook, a group of “respectable residents of Washington, D.C.” (in other words, not a bunch of cultists) gathered in a cabin in the Maryland woods. According to the magazine, many in the group worked for the government. Those named in the article include Stanley Prince, an engineer and inventor; Florence Birdseye, of the Birdseye frozen food family; and Charles Tupper, who worked in a Naval factory. Seabrook jumped at the chance to join these amateur occultists when invited.
The group arrived at the cabin, loaded down with a dressmaker’s dummy, a Nazi uniform, axes, nails, tom-toms borrowed from the Department of the Interior, and “plenty of Jamaican rum.” Several hexers wore rented ceremonial robes. The group drank for an hour before “getting down to business,” performing a ceremony prepared by Seabrook.
The group “named” the Hitler effigy by chanting “You are Hitler; Hitler is you. The woes that come to you, let them come to him. The death that comes to you, let it come to him.” The group took turns driving nails into the effigy, while chanting “We are driving nails and needles into Adolf Hitler’s heart!” The “chief hexer” then began the main incantation:
Hitler! You are the enemy of man and of the world; therefore we curse you. We curse you by every tear and drop of blood you have caused to flow. We curse you with the curses of all who have cursed you… Istan, send 99 cats to claw his heart out and 99 dogs to eat it when he’s dead. It will be soon! Soon! SOON!
The “party” ended with the decapitation of the Hitler effigy, which was then buried in the woods.
According to the article, voodoo incantations only succeed when the intended victim knows that they have taken place. I would hate to have been the one who was tasked in telling Hitler about this ceremony. In addition, hexing ceremonies must be repeated many times.
The LIFE article also offers some tips to those who want to hold a “Hex Hitler” party at home.
Clearly, the hex didn’t work. America didn’t even join World War Two until December 1941, after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and Hitler survived until April 1945, when he killed himself. Strangely enough, Seabrook killed himself in September of 1945.