Last week, I was scouting the Church of the Intercession in Washington Heights…
…and after, I took a quick swing through Old Trinity Cemetery to see if I could find anything…weird.
As I’ve written about before, a lot of locals in the area practice Santeria, a religion combining elements of Roman Catholicism, African beliefs, and Native American tradition.
Walking around Old Trinity Cemetery, you can often find evidence of Santeria in the form of sacrifice: everything from eggs and jars buried in the earth, to liquor bottles and dollar bills left on graves, to entire dead chickens and cows rotting on crypts, all left in exchange for good favors from the great beyond.
On my trip through this time though, I didn’t find anything – maybe the cemetery caretakers had done a recent sweep? Disappointed, I took a final walk onto the Edgar vault (pictured above and below), one of my favorites for its four small roof windows that let in sunlight.
Strangely, there was a pile of brush covering it that felt somehow unnatural, like it had been purposefully arranged there.
And that’s when I noticed something…
…Was that a rope tied to the cement frame?
I did my best to take a picture inside the vault. The rope appeared to go all the way to the ground, where it was tied to what looked like a gold…something? It was hard to tell.
So leave it alone and go on my way curse-free, or yank it up and risk the ire of local spirits? Quite the conundrum. While I don’t believe in this sort of thing, standing alone in a decaying cemetery on an overcast afternoon debating whether or not to interfere with ritual sacrifice certainly fires the imagination.
Ultimately, in true bad horror movie fashion, I started pulling up the rope. Whatever was at the end of it kept wobbling around, as if it were filled with liquid (perhaps a liquor bottle?). And the rope kept coming. Just as I was about 6 feet in, I noticed a thumb tack stuck carefully through the rope – I’d love to know the significance of this.
And then, just when the rope seemed to be endlessly long, a gold-foil wrapped something came through – perhaps a bottle, perhaps an animal part…
But more importantly, what the hell was on it??
Seriously, what is this?? It appeared to be a red and black lizard looking quite annoyed at having been disrupted from its graveyard slumber. I checked a list of New York’s most common lizards, and none seem to resemble it.
I carefully lowered the gold object back into the crypt, then headed to my car for some soul-cleansing Purell. Nice to see that the strange and esoteric traditions of Santeria continue at Old Trinity Church…but can anyone identify that lizard? Or should I just assume I had a chance encounter with Satan’s Familiar?
Update! Thanks to readers, looks like that evil hell spawn might actually just be a common New York salamander. Check the comments for more info!
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