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Grave-Robbing Witches, Prostitutes, And Drug Addicts Descend Upon Miami’s Cemeteries

REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

Desecration and grave robbing have surged in Miami’s cemeteries recently thanks to prostitutes, junkies, and the dark magics of Palo Mayombe practitioners seeking human remains.

Vandals desecrated dozens of graves in May alone in three of the oldest cemeteries in Miami, stealing human skulls and other bones from their occupants in most cases either to use in witchcraft rituals or to sell to those seeking the supernatural energies of the dead, according to the Miami Herald. Cemetery caretakers said the sites have been subject not only to witchcraft-affiliated grave robbings and deposits of animal sacrifice, but also sleeping homeless people, addicts using the cemetery as a place to get high, and prostitutes turning quick tricks and shooting cemetery porn. (RELATED: Woman Finds Remains Of 20 Horses Slaughtered For Meat And Black Magic Sacrifice)

“There’s a lot of witchcraft going on, and I’ve been offered $1,000 for a skull,” said Arthur Kennedy, caretaker of the historic black cemetery Lincoln Memorial Park, according to the Miami Herald. “It’s inhumane how they’re attacking the dead and dismantling the graves. Our history is buried in these cemeteries.”

Confronting those looking to steal bones for use in Voodoo or Palo Mayombe has proven dangerous, Kennedy said and that he is also kept constantly busy cleaning the cemetery of the remains of sacrifices and offerings left by those seeking pacts with the dead.

“I got shot once. Guy pulled a gun on me when I told him to get out,” Kennedy told the Herald, showing a scar on his thigh. “I might pick up 18 chickens in one day. I’ve picked up a boar’s head, a dead monkey, dead rabbits, apples, a birthday cake. We got some serious voodoo and hocus pocus out here.”

Equally as disturbing to this place of mortal rest, according to Kennedy, are the other unsavory denizens who use the site for drugs, sex, and an impromptu shelter.

“You’d think Evergreen was a homeless shelter. They’re not zombies, they’re just resting,” Kennedy told the Herald. “It’s saturated with drug addicts getting high in the graveyard. People have sex right on top of the vaults. Prostitutes need a quick trick. Cemetery porn. It’s crazy.”

Ronnie Hurwitz, caretaker of Miami City Cemetery, said he too has had to deal with a surge in witchcraft related vandalism, as well as heroin addicts who break into mausoleums to shoot up.

“A goat’s leg, a pig’s head, little cups of espresso, voodoo dolls,” Hurwitz told the Herald. “Every Sunday the grave of Lt. Gen. N.I. Egoroff of the Russian Imperial Army is covered with sweets — only sweets.”

Hurwitz said of a recent addict incidents: “They broke the doors into a mausoleum and were shooting up and sleeping in there. I found 25 needles on the floor.”

As for the homeless, Hurwitz told the Herald that they too have left their mark, sleeping on site on piles of plastic bags and using it “as a laundromat, hanging wet clothes on headstones to dry.”

The different forms of witchcraft motivating the acts of cemetery vandalism can be identified by the specific kinds of desecration committed. Those who follow Santeria, an animistic religion with roots in West Africa that evolved in the Caribbean, will often leave offerings to appease the Orishas, or different gods or spirits representing different forces of nature. These offerings can consist of everything from innocuous fruits and sweets to the grisly sacrifice of animals, usually those common to farms.

Santeros do not, however, incorporate human remains into their appeals and conjuring. That practice is the mark of Haitian Vodou and the Afro-Cuban religion of Palo Mayombe, sometimes called “Santeria’s evil twin.”

“Santeria has nothing to do with human bones but in Palo Mayombe and vodou they do work with human remains,” said Mercedes Sandoval, professor emeritus at Miami Dade College, according to the Herald.

“Palo Mayombe originated in a different part of Africa, in the Congo, and has its own priesthood and rules. They are looking for spiritual forces in the dead. They believe in making a pact with the dead. They used to buy skulls from places where they sold things for medical students. From the outside it may look like a lack of respect for the family of the dead but they are not doing it to show disrespect,” she added.

Palo Mayombe practitioners sometimes incorporate human remains into cauldrons called ngangas or prendas, which they consecrate unto a particular spirit. The cauldrons are central to Palo Mayombe rituals, including pleas to the spirits for blessings, and also for curses and hexes sometimes intended to kill their target.

“When you destroy cemeteries you destroy the past,” Mallory Fenn, Florida Public Archaeology Network’s public archaeology coordinator, told the Herald. “We want to assist with protection and maintenance and raise awareness so that people will value cemeteries as public museums.”

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