There is much more to “voodoo” than the Hollywood version depicting dolls and pins. For many in the islands of Haiti and the West Indies, voodoo is very real. It is a ritualistic religion involving spirits, and its practitioners can use contact with those spirits, or Loa, to heal or to curse!
A family probably as far removed from Haiti as you can get – in upscale Westport, Massachusetts — came to horrifically experience the latter, as three of them succumbed to what is known as “Voodoo Death.”
It all started with the purchase of a “cursed item,” and according to John Brightman of New England Paranormal Research, the bizarre tale is 100% true.
Brightman was called in to come to the aid of a Westport woman who he refers to as “Amanda” to protect her and her family from further trauma, with paranormal activity that had been ongoing in her home. She and grew up in the home along with her mother, sister, and brother. All three had recently passed away, and the home had been plagued with strange phenomena such as objects moving on their own, and doors that would open and slam shut ever since. One time Amanda claims she saw “a mist” come up from the basement doorway, and her young granddaughter said she saw her dead, great uncle Roger near the staircase. (“Roger’s name and the others in the story have also been changed.”
Prior to her passing, the home had belonged to Amanda’s mother, Esther, who had lived into her 90s despite failing health. Also living with her in the home had been Amanda’s brother Roger, who was in his 60s but was also quite ill himself. He had shouldered the burden of caring for Esther, even though the youngest sister, Vivian, was also living there but refused to help with Esther’s care.
A Sister’s Betrayal!
Roger was out of the house one day, and Vivian saw her chance. She told her mother about how her brother wasn’t going to get any better, and that he may try to put her in a nursing home to rot and die. Vivian swore to Esther that if she signed the house and everything else over to just her, she would see that Roger couldn’t remove her from her beloved home, and she could die there with dignity. She signed everything over to Vivian and gave the “wicked sister” power of attorney.
As you might imagine, Roger was furious when he found out what Vivian had done. After all, he was the one sacrificing his time and apparently his own health to care for his mother. And on top of that, Vivian lied; once Esther signed everything over to her, she did exactly what Roger would NOT do, and it was SHE who put her mother in a nursing home. She then told Roger he had to get out of what was “now her house.” Esther died shortly thereafter, with no cause of death ever determined, according to the medical records.
Two months later, Vivian suffered a ruptured spleen and died unexpectedly. Roger gave into his own health problems just a few months after that. In less than eight months since Vivian tricked her mother Esther into signing the house over to her, all three who had been living there were dead!
Amanda – who had not been living there for some time now, inherited the house and everything in it. All she wanted to do was sell it and be rid of the reminder of all the family drama that she had to watch from the sidelines.
A Bizarre Discovery
It was while she was cleaning out the house that she discovered “the altar.”
As Brightman described it, there was a small desk in Roger’s room with three or four candles placed across its surface. In the center was a strange box. Before he took ill, Roger was a successful commercial fisherman, and Amanda thought it might have been something he came across in his travels for work.
The box is about eight inches long and four inches wide and almost looked like a jewelry box. Inside was a stuffed toy that appeared to resemble a fish, even though it was old and faded. Tacked to it were three photographs, two of which were of people she instantly recognized: her sister, Vivian, and her mother, Esther. Little stick pins had been inserted into the doll in various positions, making it resemble a voodoo doll. There was also a photo of a man she did not recognize.
Also in the box were extra pins, some dried herbs that she thought might have been sage, and mysterious oils and ointments with no labels. It looked like many of the items were quite old, and perhaps this was something Roger had been practicing for many years.
Although Amanda had no way of knowing, Roger’s work as a commercial fisherman brought him in contact with people of various cultures around the world. Sailing out of New Bedford, he worked alongside many seamen from Portugal and Brazil.
In Brazilian culture, there is a form of black magic known as Macumba. Is it possible that Roger learned this version of Brazilian voodoo from one of his fellow fishermen? Macumba rituals are often used to seek revenge on family members who have done harm, and the rituals often involve utilizing a photograph of the person you want to inflict the dark magic upon; for that reason, many superstitious Brazilians will not allow a photograph of themselves to be given to someone they don’t know.
Once he knew of the discovery of “the alter,” to Brightman, it came as no surprise that Amanda’s house was plagued with paranormal activity.
A Call for Paranormal Help
But before Brightman was called in to help, Amanda hired a medium to come in and possibly help any restless spirits move on from the house, and to help remove any bad vibes brought about by her brother practicing voodoo in the house. The medium explained that the pins that were stuck into the fish doll were arranged in a way that would inflict pain on the intended target. Without knowing about Vivian or how she died, she pointed out that one of the pins appeared to be placed in what would represent the spleen.
A shiver went down Amanda’s spine.
The medium also told Amanda that if they took the box with the doll from the altar and buried it in the yard, then the hauntings would stop.
She followed the medium’s advice, but it didn’t work; in fact, things seemed to have gotten worse after she buried the cursed objects, which is why she later brought in John Brightman and his paranormal group. They came in and investigated for over nine hours but captured no signs of paranormal activity themselves. They even dug up the box and the doll in the hopes that bringing it back into the house would lead to activity, but nothing happened. John believes it’s because the haunting was only meant for the family.
The mystery also remained as to who the man was in the third photograph stuck to the stuffed fish doll. Speculation is that it could have been a partner in the fishing business that wronged Roger in some way. That might even explain why the doll was in the shape of a fish.
John took the box to add to his personal collection of “cursed objects.” When the box was removed from the property, as Amanda described it, “a sense of peace that had been missing from the home for many decades once again filled its rooms,” all paranormal activity stopped, and the curse seemed to have been lifted.
Eventually, Brightman turned the box and all of its contents over to legendary paranormal researcher and star of the TV series, “Haunted Collector” John Zaffis, where it remains to this day — the curse apparently lifted.