Booze? Check. Axes? Check. A dressmaker's dummy? Check. It's party time.
Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Published April 13, 2018
Published 4 months ago
In the winter of 1941, the United States was still almost a year away from entering the Second World War. But as LIFE magazine noted in its February 10, 1941, issue: "On the wet windy evening of January 22, a youthful band of idealists went to a lonely cabin in the Maryland woods" and, armed with a dressmaker's dummy, tom-tom drums, booze, and axes, they started fighting Hitler then and there. Well, "fighting" might be generous: in truth, they got tanked and tried to put a hex on Hitler. Still, patriotism takes many forms, and no one can prove that the "hex party" did not play a role in the downfall of the Reich four years later. (Above: Party-goers get ready to mess with a dummy dressed like Hitler.)
Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesSHADOW PLAYTwo of the more prominent guests at the hexing party were a popular occultist and best-selling writer, William Seabrook (left), and — in LIFE's words — "dark handsome Florence Birdseye of the Birdseye frozen-food family," seen here at right, banging a tom-tom. The drums were borrowed from the U.S. Department of the Interior. "No cultists, [the hexers] were respectable residents of Washington, D.C.," LIFE wrote. The cabin that hosted the hexing belonged to a fellow named Charles Tupper, who worked in a Naval factory.
Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesBEDEVILED"For an hour after their arrival," LIFE noted, "the young sorcerers bedeviled themselves with rum." Above, Stanley Prince, a "young engineer and inventor," applies a mustache to the dummy that will, in due course, serve as the Fuhrer's stand-in for the night's revels.Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesBAD TO THE BONEThe hexing ritual, LIFE told its readers, was "prepared by Mr. Seabrook [and] began with the naming of the image: 'You are Hitler; Hitler is you!' Next the chief hexer intoned: 'The woes that come to you, let it come to him!'" Here, Ms. Birdseye taunts a doll with a chicken bone — "a symbol of famine," according to the article.Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesEYES WIDE SHUTAs she jabs at a doll that, if one peers closely, does look quite a bit like Hitler, party-goer Ruth Davis chants: "Burn Hitler's eyes. Keep them open night and day. Kill his rest!"
Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesSORE THROAT"Priestess Florence Birdseye," LIFE wrote of this picture, "directs a curse at Hitler's reputedly sensitive throat." (According to some reports, Hitler snorted lots of cocaine to soothe an irritated throat — when he wasn't being administered all sorts of other drugs by his physician, Dr. Theodor Morell. We have no way of knowing if this "sensitive throat" business is a coy reference to Hitler's coke use.)Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesNAILED"The hexers called on the pagan deity, Istan," LIFE reported, "to transmit the image's wounds to the flesh of the living Hitler . . . chanting in unison: 'We are driving nails and needles into Adolf Hitler's heart!'" And so they did. They drove those nails like crazy.Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesTERMINATOR"Decapitation terminates the brief life span of Adolf Hitler's dummy." William Seabrook looks on with an inscrutable expression. Seabrook, who hung out with the likes of Aleister Crowley, was a celebrated travel writer who once wrote of dining on human flesh with West African cannibals. "It was like good, fully developed veal," he concluded, "not young, but not yet beef . . . and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted."
Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesKINDLING"Thoroughly maltreated, thoroughly cursed, Hitler's image lies amid ceremonial debris."Thomas D. McAvoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesWORM FOOD"Hitler is buried in deep pine woods to be devoured by worms," LIFE assured its readers. "After burial, hexers were exhausted by compounded impact of drums, ritual, emotion." And, of course, all of that rum. As for William Seabrook — he struggled with alcoholism and was once temporarily committed (at his own request) to a mental hospital. He committed suicide in September 1945.