Cult Blamed for Cemetery Vandalism, Theft of Body
Aug. 28, 2010
Aug. 28, 2010
Acts of vandalism and the theft of a nine-year-old girl's body have residents of Lancaster, Pa., concerned that a cult could be practicing black magic in the area.
"The whole community is shocked," Linda Stienstra, a volunteer with the Lancaster County Historical Society, told AOL News.
"They seem to be targeting old historical cemeteries," Stienstra said. "We've just been hearing about this stuff all summer. I think some of it has to do with local kids, but other things seem to be tied into some kind of ritual."
In the past few months, unknown vandals have struck at Woodward Hill Cemetery, Riverview Cemetery and Lancaster Cemetery. All of the cemeteries are within close proximity of each other.
At Woodward Cemetery, an unknown individual or individuals recently smashed several gravestones, cut the wires to a motion detector light, broke into an empty mausoleum and attempted to break into a chapel building near President James Buchanan's grave.
In Lancaster Cemetery, someone recently smashed an empty sarcophagus and left severed chicken heads lying near the gravesite of Major General John Fulton Reynolds, a Union Army commander who died during the American Civil War.
And, most shockingly, at Riverview Cemetery, on or about Friday, August 13th, Police say an unknown thief or thieves stole the body of nine-year-old Paula Ream from the cemetery plot she was buried in nearly 48 years ago.
"We think a cult is responsible," Paula's sister, Fay Hamm, told AOL News. "You hate to point a finger at any group, but almost every day there is a big article in the news here about weird things."
Jeff Miller, the cemetery superintendent who discovered the grave robbery, told WPMT-TV he has been making several unusual finds inside the cemetery.
"I found chicken heads over there, a pig head, a goat head the other day," Miller said. "And there are candles dug in the ground in a circle shape back in the woods near here."
The candles Miller refers to were found about six months ago in the woods near the Conestoga River.
"Some contractors were paving a walkway trail when they discovered some empty chicken crates and a circle of candles near the cemetery," Stienstra said.
Officials with the Lancaster Bureau of Police say they are not yet ready to link any of the crimes together or to say whether any of them are related to the occult. They also won't comment on any details of the grave robbery.
"I don't want to release that [information] because the person who did it would know those details," Sgt. Kevin Fry said.
Not everyone, however, is hesitant to tie the occult to at least some of the incidents.
"Some of them could have been committed by juvenile [delinquents], but as far as the grave robbery and the animal sacrifices, I think it is very easy to connect the dots," Katie Boyd, a demonologist and occult sciences expert, said in a telephone interview with AOL News.
"It doesn't sound like one or two individuals, it sounds like a whole group -- a network of them," Boyd said.
According to Boyd, the sacrifice of animals is not unique to a specific culture or religion and is practiced by several different groups.
"If there were more symbolism found, it would make it easier to understand what they are attempting to accomplish, but when they're sacrificing an animal, it's usually to gain something in return," Boyd explained. "They might also be summoning an entity, using the light force of the animal to give the entity the energy to come to creation."
Ritualistic grave robberies involving children are not unique to Pennsylvania, the Intelligencer Journal reported last week, citing incidents in Connecticut and Florida.
In the Connecticut case, the remains of a two-year-old toddler were stolen from a Stamford cemetery in 2009. The child had been buried two years prior to the theft. His remains were later found in the Passaic River in Clifton, N.J. Authorities found chicken heads nearby. The case remains unsolved.
The incident in Florida occurred in 2006, when someone stole the remains of a six-year-old boy who had died in 1972, from a Tampa crypt. Prior to the theft, a caretaker reported finding decapitated chickens and a pig's head in the cemetery. To date, no one has been arrested, and the toddler's remains have not been found.
The theft of adult human remains is more common than the theft of children's remains and occurs more frequently than we would like to believe, says Johnny Purvis, an occult consultant and professor from the University of Central Arkansas.
"I have worked many grave robberies, and I can tell you this happens a lot, all over the country," Purvis said. "Typically, in the cases I've seen, they are after the skull. They will make a chalice out of it and use it in ceremonies. It's horrible."
One of the most recent grave robberies involving an adult occurred in New York on Monday, when someone stole a woman's remains from a mausoleum in a Long Island cemetery. The woman was buried in the tomb 12 years ago, police said. No suspects have been named, and the case remains unsolved.
The taking of children, however, is considered more significant. Practitioners of certain religions consider young girls the "embodiment of innocence and maidenly virtue," says Boyd.
"In many traditions, living children are believed to have more energetic power," Boyd said. "They will use little girls when they are trying to manifest a will or summon an entity. Within some of the older, more dark occult traditions, corpses are used."
There are several websites on the Internet where human fetal skulls can be purchased for about $1,000, depending on the condition of the skull. However, most practitioners do not consider those skulls viable specimens, Boyd said.
"When they dig up the remains themselves, they are more significant. Within all of the belief systems, anything you can do yourself puts your energy into it and makes it more aligned with you. Most of the times these bodies are not chosen at random and have been researched."
Purvis says that if the theft of Paula's remains is connected to the occult, than astrology and numerology were probably factors that were considered when selecting her.
"Paula was born in 1962 and she was nine years old," Purvis said. "Nine is a multiple of three, something they might consider important. It could be her date of birth, death, what numbers add up to in her name. You have to look for a lot of things. This is why a lot of occultists consider what they do more of a science."
In addition to all of the strange findings at local cemeteries, Miller recounted to WPMT-TV an off run-in he had with an individual on the day he discovered Paula had been stolen from her grave.
"It was raining that day, and I got here and ran into a guy. ... He jumped and threw something, maybe a jar of blood, at me and it hit me on my shoulder," Miller said.
If the item thrown at Miller was blood, Boyd says it could have special meaning.
"Throwing blood at someone is typically a warning," Boyd said. "Most likely, they were saying 'stay away from here.' They probably see the cemetery as a sacred space, where they call upon their gods and ancestors."
Whether a single individual or organization is responsible for all of the unusual happenings at the Lancaster cemeteries remains to be seen. In the meantime, Hamm says she hopes the person responsible for taking her sister will be caught soon.
"I hope they trip themselves up and get caught," Hamm said. "I hope and pray for that everyday. Everybody has lost a loved one, and you don't want them to end up like that. To take Paula's body is unbelievable."