Voodoo candles used in sex ceremony sparked deadly Brooklyn blaze, sources say
By JONATHAN LEMIRE, JOE JACKSON and Rocco Parascandola
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS|
Feb 26, 2011 at 1:58 PM
A Voodoo sex romp triggered the Brooklyn blaze that killed one person and left dozens homeless when a ceremony meant to bring good luck went horribly wrong, sources said yesterday.
A man identified by friends and neighbors as Nelson (Pepe) Pierre took $300 from a woman to perform a mystic ceremony that promised to change her life.
The woman came to Pierre's fourth-floor apartment in Flatbush on Feb. 19 and wound up in a bedroom. Pierre, known as a hougan - or a voodoo priest - surrounded the bed with candles and carefully lit each one.
The details of the actual ceremony weren't immediately clear, but sources said the good-luck ritual led to sex.
As Pierre and the unidentified woman steamed up the top of the bed, flames from some of the candles ignited the sheets. Recently shed clothes strewn about the floor also went up in flames, sources said.
Compounding the Flatbush fire, the voodoo priest didn't immediately call 911. Instead, he used water from the bathroom sink to try to put out the fire.
A man sources said was Pierre's roommate was ironing his pants when the fire started.
He opened a window and a door leading to the building's hallway. Then he went back to ironing, the sources said. That created wind gusts that "shot the flames back inside, creating a blowtorch effect," fire officials said.
It turned a manageable fire into an inferno.
"There was a lot of smoke and it was dark," a resident of the E. 29th St. building said yesterday. "A woman was standing there in the apartment holding a cell phone. Then I saw Pepe - he had no shirt on, but was wearing pants."
The wind-swept blaze engulfed the fourth, fifth and sixth floors, sending dozens of residents racing from the building - some with only the clothes on their backs.
Mary Feagin, a 64-year-old retired teacher, died in the five-alarm blaze. The medical examiner hasn't determined her cause of death.
Twenty firefighters and 11 residents were injured and 47 families were left homeless.
Fire marshals and the Brooklyn district attorney's office are investigating. Fire officials said the blaze was accidental. No one has been charged.
"Nobody sees a crime right now," a law enforcement source said. "It was an accident. Maybe they weren't careful, but they did try to put it out."
Pierre was injured in the blaze and released from Kings County Hospital on Monday. He couldn't be reached yesterday, but his roommate told the Daily News that he was "fine." Residents described Pierre as a likeable guy and a military veteran.
"People have told me he's 'hougan' - a voodoo priest," said one friend. "They always told me that. He'd do invocations for people, ceremonies for people if you had a problem. It's very common in Haitian culture. If you have a problem or think someone's doing you problems you go see him."
Another resident, Patrick Louis, 38, is staying in a Gowanus hotel with his four children, two of whom survived last year's earthquake in Haiti.
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He likes Pierre and would not criticize him.
"If you get the money and you get the love I should be a voodoo priest," said Louis, who lived in the apartment below Pierre's.
The firefighters union said staffing cuts contributed to the spread of the fire, but Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, without referring to the couple having sex, blamed other errors.
"This fire had so many of those elements - candles left on the floor near combustible material, one of the occupants trying to douse the flames before calling 911, and an open door, which allowed fire to spread into the hallway," Cassano said. "Hopefully others will learn from this tragedy."
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Candles ringed around a bed in a voodoo ceremony in New York City ignited linens and clothes, causing a fatal apartment fire, fire marshals said Friday.
The blaze began around 6:40 p.m. Sunday when a woman visited a fourth-floor apartment in Brooklyn and paid a man $300 to perform a ceremony to bring her good luck. A city official says the man was known in the neighborhood as a priest and the two were having sex when the fire started.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Candles on the floor around a bed where the ceremony took place ignited bed linens and clothes on the floor, fire officials said. Instead of calling 911, the man began retrieving water from a bathroom sink in a futile effort to put it out, but the flames only grew.
According to Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, the occupant then opened the door to the hallway, which "allowed fire to spread into the hallway."
"Hopefully others will learn from this tragedy," he said in a statement.
Nearly 50 families were left homeless, and a retired guidance counselor, Mary Feagin, died in the blaze, which took some seven hours to get under control.
Her body was found in the debris on the top floor of the Flatbush building on East 29th Street.
Earlier this week, fire officials said that a dispatching error had delayed getting help to the blaze.
Dispatchers had directed an engine company to the fire on East 29th Street, but it was already at another emergency, helping a police officer who had accidentally shot himself in the leg.
FDNY spokesman Jim Long said the delay lasted "over a minute,'' until dispatchers discovered the error and sent another engine to the apartment fire.
Officials said high winds also intensified the blaze.
Fire engulfed the fourth, fifth and sixth floors, causing part of the roof and fourth floor to collapse.
The fire department said the investigation is ongoing; it was not immediately clear whether there would be charges.
If you're sitting there wondering, "Wait, spell candles exist?" the answer is yes, they're real, and they've been around for quite some time. And if you're a person who's interested in witchcraft, they're actually a good option for beginners. According to Tamed Wild, a magic and lifestyle brand, spell candles and ritual candles have been "used throughout time to focus and direct intent while honoring and evoking the divine."
Basically, candle magic is an ancient tradition with a long history. Using spell candles is more involved than just lighting them and letting them burn—you're supposed to cleanse and charge them first, according to Wiccan Spells and Black Witch Coven. (See both sites for more info on that process.) And, if you're serious about trying one out, there are other important things to keep in mind, too. Before you use a magic candle or start performing any spells or rituals, you should read up on witchcraft and the particular candles you choose, including their uses and the intentions behind them.
If the thought of these candles piques your interest, here are the shops to check out to pick one up (and learn more about them).
Crow Haven Corner Spell Candles
$9.99 - $17.99, Crow Haven Corner
At Salem, Massachusetts-based shop Crow Haven Corner, you'll find a selection of both large and small pillar spell candles, all of which have been "handmade with magic using traditional formulas of herbs and oils, under the direction of Lorelei." (Lorelei is a clairvoyant and witch.) Spell candles options here include Banishing, Healing, Buh Bye, Good Mojo, Justice, Sex Magic, Success, Love, Money, and Protection.
Tamed Wild Spell Candles
$24, Tamed Wild
At Tamed Wild, you can choose from ten different spell and ritual candles, from options like Ancestors and The Lovers, to The Feminine, The Masculine, Abundance, and Purification. According to the site, the candles have been "dressed and enchanted with herbs, oils & crystals chosen for their metaphysical & magickal properties." Tamed Wild suggests lighting your chosen candles during spells, rituals, prayers, and meditation.
Madame Phoenix Crystal Spell Candles
In Madame Phoenix's Etsy shop's a plethora of magic candles to choose from, like these crystal-based spell candles. Each one is handmade with special essential oils, herbs, and resins, infused with crystal energy, and topped with a stone (which the site claims gets charged when you light the candle). Rose Quartz, for example, promotes self-love and self-acceptance, but there are other options, like Black Tourmaline (which dispels negative energy), Sodalite, Amethyst, and more.
Madame Phoenix Zodiac Candles
The crystal candles aren't the only cool finds in Madame Phoenix's shop—there are also spell candles based on all of the astrological signs. They can serve one of two key purposes: either to bring out the positive qualities of your zodiac sign in yourself during that sign's season, or to represent you or another person in a spell or ritual. Head to the shop to find your sign.
Brittney MorganMarket Editor, House BeautifulBrittney Morgan is a noted land mermaid and a Virgo with a penchant for crafts, red lipstick, and buying way too many throw pillows.
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Candle magic is a primary activity in New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo. The intermingling of Catholic, Spiritualist, and African traditions in New Orleans resulted in an evolving form of candle magic that incorporated the saints, psalms, devotionals and vigils, alongside making gris gris, doing séances, voodoo rituals and laying tricks. The New Orleans style of candle magic eventually spread to other areas of the south
Here is a breakdown of the basic colour symbolism used in New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo rituals
Red represents love, passion, romance, affection, energy, lust, fertility, attention, libido, victory, and sexuality. Red candles are used in love spells and charms, fertility spells, sex magic, and seduction
Purple typically concerned with power, psychic ability, commanding, compelling, controlling, mastery, ambition, prophetic dreams or bending others to one’s will. Spells to do with power, invocation, and controlling will include the colour purple. Purple may also be used for peace, protection, and abundance purposes
Green is associated with money, wealth and prosperity spells, gambling luck, general good luck, fertility, bountiful gardens and business success. When you want to influence anything to do with money and prosperity use the colour green
Black can be used to remove evil or send harm. For example, black is used to repel negativity, for protection, or to banish negative people from your life. Another way of using the color black is in inflicting harm or destruction on another. Binding spells, hexes and jinxes, curses, enemy tricks, coercive magic and summoning dark spirits will often be associated with the color black. Black can also be used in grieving rituals
Yellow is associated with mental agility and clarity, communication, fast action, success, happiness, money (gold), court cases, and excelling at school or academically
Blue for health, peace, harmony and abundance. Blue is associated with Marie Laveaux and St. Joseph in New Orleans and also with séances and love spells on occasion when harmony and peace in a love relationship are desired
Voodoo Candles Ignited Deadly Fire, Officials Say
A fatal five-alarm fire that roared through a building in Flatbush, Brooklyn, last Saturday was ignited by candles arrayed around a bed for a voodoo ceremony, Fire Department officials said Friday.
City fire marshals have ruled that the blaze, at 346 East 29th Street, was started by accident, said a spokesman for the department. Though the investigation is continuing, it is unlikely that anyone will face criminal charges in connection with the fire, said the spokesman, James Long.
But forensic evidence and interviews with witnesses have shed light on how a combination of lengthy delays in calling 911 and dangerous circumstances allowed the flames to gain strength, spread upward from a fourth-floor apartment and ultimately kill a 64-year-old woman living two floors up, on the building’s top floor, officials said.
The woman, Mary Feagin, was a retired guidance counselor.
After the candles ignited some bedding and clothing strewn around Apartment 4-A, where the voodoo ceremony was taking place, the man performing the ceremony made a futile attempt to douse the flames with water from a bathroom sink rather than dial 911, which easily wasted more than three minutes, Mr. Long said.
Then, in response to billowing smoke, a man in an adjacent room flung open a window and propped a door open with a chair; instead of dissipating the condition, that action allowed wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour to shoot “the flames back inside, creating a blowtorch effect” and pushing the fire into a common hallway, according to a Fire Department news release.
“Now, other doors on that fourth floor are also left open and the fire travels in those apartments,” Mr. Long said. “That helps the fire grow.”
Finally, firefighters from Engine Company 248 were delayed by more than a minute in getting to the fire because they were at another emergency, attending to a police officer in the adjacent 67th Precinct station house, who had accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Fire marshals pieced together the facts of the voodoo ceremony, and its role in starting the fire, by examining charred remains and by interviewing the voodoo priest and the woman who hired him for $300 to chase away evil spirits and bring her good luck.
In the woman’s account to marshals, she and the man she hired had undressed and gotten into bed, with the candles arrayed around them, as part of the ceremony, the official said. Later, when the marshals pressed the man, he confirmed what the woman had said, the official said.
Crystals, candles and voodoo dolls: This Giants fan is doing everything she can to help them beat the Dodgers
As the Giants play in one of the most monumental postseason series in franchise history — their first ever against the cross-state rival Dodgers — Dahmen-Eckery, a diehard, fun-loving Giants fan, is trying everything she can to give her favorite team a leg up ahead of their elimination game Thursday night.
“This is unprecedented,” Dahmen-Eckery said. “I felt I had to amp it up a notch.”
But her husband, Kevin Eckery, is a Dodgers fan, making for a playfully competitive dynamic between the two that has reached a peak this postseason.
“Let’s see how well it works,” Eckery said skeptically about the crystal grid.
Outside their Carmichael home is a doormat featuring both the Giants and Dodgers logos — “A house divided,” it reads. Sitting next to it is a pumpkin with #BEATLA scrawled on it.
“He amiably tolerates me during postseason baseball because I am way more passionate and fired up about it than he is,” Dahmen-Eckery said of her husband. “He takes it all in stride and just laughs.”
The baseball rosary lying among the crystals and candles was a good-luck charm during the Giants’ postseason runs in 2012 and 2014, when they won the World Series. This year, Dahmen-Eckery said, “It’s all about the good energy of the crystals.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dahmen-Eckery started looking into crystal energy and the unique properties that many people believe they can have. It quickly became a hobby of hers, and now it could help propel the Giants to the National League Championship Series, she said.
“I’m all about using that positive energy for the goodness of all Giants fans,” Dahmen-Eckery said with a laugh. “It’s all just part of the fun that I like to create.”
On Thursday, Dahmen-Eckery will make her way to Oracle Park to watch Game 5 in person. Kevin will stay behind and watch the game on TV. But when they sit down to watch games together at home, just being in the same room as her can be as entertaining as the game itself, he said.
“I’m the laid back one,” Eckery said. “She’s yelling, she’s cursing. Last night she couldn’t sit down; she was walking up and down, pacing.”
Sometimes, just to mess with her, Eckery will post a video of Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series on her Facebook timeline, he said.
Their passion for their respective teams and the Giants-Dodgers rivalry were parts of their careers well before they got married. When they worked as communication specialists for past California governors in Sacramento, a communal love of baseball often helped bridge partisan divides among colleagues, they said.
“Nothing cures a Democrat-Republican rivalry more than a Giants-Dodgers rivalry,” Eckery said. “It didn't really matter what party you were working for. If the Giants won or the Dodgers won, you would appreciate what was going on.”
Win or lose Thursday night, Dahmen-Eckery said the Giants’ 2021 season has surpassed any expectations. Whether the crystals and voodoo dolls manifested any of that remains unclear, but the sense of hope they have provided along the way helped make the Giants’ run all the more special.
“At the end of the day, it’s all in good fun,” Dahmen-Eckery said. “All of us love baseball and you just can't ask for a better script than this rivalry right now.”
Andy Picon is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @andpicon
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