St. Louis, Missouri
Created by a Missouri art teacher in 1908, the Billiken resembles the spawn of Buddha and a Goblin, and was named after then-President William (Bill) Taft. It was made to be mass-marketed -- on dolls, banks, tin toys -- but the public realized it was more creepy than cute and consigned it to the Pop Culture dumpster.
That should have been the end of the Billiken, and it might have been had it not been for John Bender, who at the time was football coach of Saint Louis University, and who supposedly bore a striking resemblance to the squinty-eyed, pot-bellied creature. The University's teams gradually became known as Bender's Billikens, then just the Billikens. The monstrosity is the University's mascot, and its statue sat atop a pedestal on the University mall (currently moved closer to the Chaifetz Arena). Students rub its bronze belly and the soles of its feet for luck -- as do people in Japan, where the Billiken, like fading American rock bands and baseball players, has found a second life of popularity.