The lucky Billiken. Don't get too excited; the statue is small.
The lucky Billiken. Don't get too excited; the statue is small.

The Billiken

Field review by the editors.

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 just like the Teddy Bear, which had been a hit for Taft's predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt. But the public realized it was more creepy than cute and consigned it to the Pop Culture dumpster.

The Billiken.

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 now the University's mascot, and its statue sits atop a pedestal next 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.

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The Billiken

N. Compton Ave., St. Louis, MO
Park on the east side of N. Compton Ave., just north of Chaifetz Arena. Walk east along the pedestrian walkway, past the arena and the flagpoles. You'll see the Billiken on the left.
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In the region:
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