Yonkers police are hoping that determining whose graves were vandalized in St. John’s Cemetery Tuesday will lead them to the people responsible for what appears to have been the beginning of a strange occult ritual.
Whoever placed candles, an animal heart, a gourd and a picture of an unidentified man found among vandalized headstones may have been trying to put a curse on someone, a specialist in occult practices said today. Police aren’t ruling out some sort of “sick prank.”
“Right now we are exploring all possibilities in this admittedly strange matter,” said Yonkers police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett during a press conference at police headquarters.
Authorities found six headstones toppled and the various, apparently ritual, items placed around graves after two men and a woman fled the cemetery last night, when someone spotted them.
The heavy gravestones were turned face-down, so police have not yet seen the names of the dead buried there. Hartnett said he hoped once police had the names, some sort of pattern could emerge.
Based on the description of the objects found at the cemetery, John J. Coughlin, editor of the NYC Pagan Resource Guide and a Yonkers native, said the perpetrators may have been trying to place a curse by combining aspects of voodoo, Santeria and occult religions.
“It’s definitely not an official ritual,” he said, speculating that “the pumpkin represented the person, and the heart was torn out of the pumpkin as a way of killing the person.”
The photo probably represented the victim and names placed in the candles could either be other intended victims or spirits called upon to perform the curse, he added.
“This type of magic is called sympathetic magic,” Coughlin explained. “If you kill a representation of a person, you kill the person.”
But experienced occult practitioners wouldn’t have vandalized the gravestones, he added.
Most traditions wouldn’t cause damage, because they don’t want to anger the spirits, he said. “It doesn’t sound like a traditional group.”
The mystery began last night around 6:30 p.m. Stanley Fecaszko, 31, the cemetery caretaker, was walking with his girlfriend and her dog in the graveyard. He noticed a bag on the ground he had not scene before, he told The Journal News/LoHud.com today.
Then he saw six grave markers toppled. There were also about 15 unlit black candles in glass cases – some containing pieces of paper with names and dates written on them – black handkerchiefs, a photograph of an unidentified smiling man wearing a suit, a hollowed out gourd and a piece of meat that appeared to be an animal heart.
The heart had several tiny pins in it with a name and the date Febrero (Spanish for February) 23, 1945.
Fecaszko said he has seen some bizarre happenings in the cemetery, where he lives in a house with his father, but last night was the highlight.
“I assume it was voodoo, I don’t know. I don’t mess around with that,” Fecaszko said.
The heart had tiny little pins in it and a name along with the date, February – written in Spanish.
The hollowed gourd appeared to have been used to transport the heart because the same seasoning – peppers and pepper seeds – that was rubbed over the heart was inside the squash.
About 50 yards away this morning, Fecaszko found a plastic rooster wrapped in a red bandanna and white Calvin Klein underwear that was partially buried. He said it was not there before last night.
Domiga Hernandez, 46, a native of the Dominican Republic, was in the graveyard visiting her mother’s grave. She said she was upset that someone would do this.
“That is not good,” said Hernandez, who was there with a friend and her sister-in-law.
She said in the past she saw dead chickens in the graveyard.
Fecaszko said he too has seen dead chickens left around the graveyard.
Ah, yes. The old Calvin Klein chicken gourd pinned animal heart smiling man black magic curse. I have used this myself many times.