August 22, 2007

Woo Wars

Police: Witch put dead animal at doorways of psychics' shops
2 charged in raccoon mutilation

By Bruno Matarazzo Jr.

SALEM, Mass. —

A self-styled high priestess of Salem witches was one of two people that police arrested Tuesday for beheading and mutilating a dead raccoon and leaving it at the doorways of two downtown businesses.

Sharon R. Graham, 46, and Fredrick L. Purtz, 22, both of Salem, will be arraigned Wednesday in Salem District Court on charges including littering and malicious destruction of property for the May 27 incidents that spooked city residents and worried local witches, who feared the mutilations would sully their image...
I just have to chime in here... this is sullying the images of people who pitch woo like aura photography and crystal gazing. There's something of a sad commentary here.
Martinez said she suspects that the remains of the raccoon were left on her doorstep, and the doorstep of Angelica of the Angels on Central Avenue, because Martinez sought changes in the city’s psychic-licensing ordinance.

Martinez said she and other downtown psychics asked for the changes to limit the number of soothsayers who come to the city during the Halloween season. The interloping clairvoyants, she said, take business away from her shop and others that operate year-round.

“It has been a big problem, and I discussed it with a city councilor and (the city) began to make changes in the ordinance, and this (harassment) is probably a result,” Martinez said.

But the ordinance approved by the City Council doesn’t limit the number of psychics...

According to police, a day before the mutilated remains were found downtown, Graham and a man, though not Purtz, found a dead raccoon on Fort Avenue.

They took the dead animal back to Graham’s apartment, cut the raccoon open and beheaded it, according to the police report.

A day later, Graham and Purtz placed the remains into two bags and left the halves of the nocturnal critter on the businesses’ doorsteps, police said.

Graham and Purtz each face charges of littering and malicious destruction of property. Graham faces an additional charge of witness intimidation for threatening Watson not to report the incident to police, according to the police report...

In an old advertisement for the Web site, Graham touted her clairvoyance and ability to “dig up skeletons in the closet.”

Graham, who called herself a high priestess of the Salem Witches, charged a rate of $3.99 per minute for her services.
You know, I'm not sure how much I can add to this. It reminds me of my own embarrassingly foolish days involevd with the "occult community" and the many "magical wars" that went on therein.

As much as anything, though, one has to wonder where people get it into their heads to do these kinds of things. Obviously, no note was left with the mutilated animal to explain why the thing was being left. That opens up the possibility that the "witches" did this not as a threat but as a curse/spell/hex/etc. I don't know that for certain, but this is the kind of thing that goes on in such "magical wars," and I see no reason to rule out the possibility. A reasonable person would then ask, "Why would anyone think that leaving bags of mutilated raccoon on somebody's doorstep could have an effect upon them other than the obvious ones?"

That's a really good question, but the hypothetical querent is rational. We certainly can't assume that's the case with those who perpetrated the act, themselves "high priestesses" and "witches" and adherents to magical thinking which, by definition, is not rational. Nor can we assume rationality of the psychics who were targeted, particularly if they believe in the superstition that they peddle.

This is where woo leads when it gets nasty, in essence. It could be worse; the woo used in this case is far less harmful than, say, a shotgun blast... but rationality flying out the window could lead there as well. In this case, however, it didn't. It was expressed in a form as ineffectual as the products of magical thought in general. In this case, that's a good thing.

On the other hand, imagine walking into your doctor's office and telling him about your sharp chest pains and being told to swing a dead cat over your head in a graveyard at midnight. Why not? If one can buy into crystal gazing and aura photography and homeopathy and raccoon viscera in paper bags, one should certainly be comfortable with such a treatment. There's every bit as much evidence for the effectiveness of dead cat swinging in treating heart disease as there is for all of those other things.

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