Yonkers Police Probe Bizarre Cemetery Ritual

Will David, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon and Nicole Neroulias, Journal News (White Plains, New York), March 15, 2007

An animal heart riddled with pins, a hollowed gourd and a mysterious photo of a smiling man in a suit were all part of a macabre discovery at an old city burial ground.

A half-dozen gravestones also were toppled and adorned with more than 15 candles, some containing strips of paper with names and dates scribbled on them.

Yonkers police are now probing the eerie Tuesday night incident at St. John’s Cemetery on Saw Mill River Road, trying to determine if it was all a “sick prank” or some kind of black magic ritual.

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The animal heart—police said possibly a deer’s—had a name and the date Feb. 23, 1945 on it.

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Based on the objects found at the cemetery, Yonkers native John J. Coughlin, editor of the NYC Pagan Resource Guide, said the perpetrators might have been trying to place a curse by combining aspects of voodoo, Santeria and other occult religions.

“It’s definitely not an official ritual,” Coughlin said, speculating that the gourd “represented the person, and the heart was torn out of the pumpkin as a way of killing the person.”

The unidentified photo probably represented the victim and the names placed in the candles could either be ot intended victims or spirits called upon to perform the curse, he said.

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The scene at St. John’s, Yonkers’ first public burial ground, dating to the 1780s, included other bizarre items—some of them puzzling for investigators.

There was even a rubber rooster wrapped in a bandanna, an unusual inclusion, said George Ware, a high priest of voodoo and president of the Philadelphia-based National African Religion Congress.

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There also were several statues, including one of a woman with seven people sitting around her, and of a bearded man with a head at the base of the statue.

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Yonkers police are searching for witnesses who might have seen something, Hartnett said. They are searching the area for any security cameras that might have taken photos of the incident.

Yesterday, they returned to the graveyard to collect any remaining evidence.

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