According to company legend, Procter & Gamble's corporate logo began as a simple cross or star, crudelt marked on crates of the company's soap to aid stevedores loading them into riverboats. But over the years, the design evolved into one that literally has bedeviled the company.

Since about 1980, Procter & Gamble's moon and stars logo has been at the center of the most unusual controversies in American business: persistent rumors that it is some sort of satanic symbol. The story has popped up all over the country, sometimes spread by church groups that urge consumers to boycott P&G products because of the alleged connection to the devil.

P&G, which prizes itz conservative, squeaky-clean image, says the logo represents nothing more than a stylized rendition of the man in the moon, with 13 stars to honor the original U.S. states -- a patriotic twist dreamed up by company co-founder William Procter in the 1850s.

The company has taken strong actions to rebut the rumors, even filing several suits against persons who were known to have spread them. Two years ago, P&G announced that it was removing the logo from its products -- although it still uses it on corporate stationery and buildings -- and set up a toll-free hotline to answer questions about the design. Since then, the company said, the rumors have abated somewhat.