If you book a table for thirteen at the Savoy Grill, you will discover that the table is set for another guest, with that place taken by Kaspar, a three-foot high cat sculpted in the 1920s by Basil Ionides. Kaspar was introduced as a result of an unfortunate incident that occurred in 1898, when a South African guest, Woolf Joel, threw a dinner party at the Savoy. Only twelve guests were able to attend, and so there were thirteen at the table. He ignored the superstition that tragedy would befall the first guest to rise from a table of thirteen, and the dinner went on. After Woolf returned to Johannesburg, he was shot and killed.
From then on, the hotel ensured that there would be no more groups of thirteen by providing a staff member to accompany such a party. This went on until Kaspar was created in lieu. When a group of RAF officers playfully abducted Kaspar, it was Winston Churchill himself who ensured the cat's safe return.
The Savoy Grill – along with the Savoy Hotel itself – returns on 10 October 2010 (10.10.10, more numerology) and so soon it will be possible to see the lovely Kaspar, in black alabaster, in his place at the restaurant.