The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘cemetery

settled shape

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

As stated in yesterday’s posting, a certain “sense of pursuit” possessed me after having visited Calvary Cemetery the other day.

A panicked perambulation, flight more than evasion, came upon me and carried your humble narrator bodily across most of western Queens for the rest of the day as attempts were made to return the rolling hillocks of Astoria. The spectral shadow which dogged my steps, whose identity is suspected, appeared shortly after one particularly gruesome moment.

I stepped in a dead rabbit.

The population of “groundling burrowers” at Calvary Cemetery has been discussed before, in this February 2010 Newtown Pentacle posting “Shoosh… Be Very Quiet… I’m hunting rabbits…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The hydrological after effects of the recent snow cover, and its concurrent melt waters, are evidenced across the great cemetery by disturbing subsidence and in some places- wash outs. The ground itself is not altogether stable, given its level of saturation, and caution was exercised in not getting too close to older monuments and headstones for fear of toppling them from an undermined foundation.

A moment of indiscretion resulted in me planting a step right into the carcass of a groundling, however.

(these hydrological events will be discussed in a later posting)


Dead Animals are associated with the spread of human disease and may present a potential hazard for employees, students and visitors.

The greatest hazard related to dead animals is the potential for the indirect spread of human disease by live animal parasites (fleas and ticks). Fleas and ticks are parasites that feed, breed and live on most wild animals. Both fleas and ticks have irritating bites and can transmit disease. Risk of exposure to fleas and ticks increases when handling dead animals, because these parasites are actively seeking a live host and may be very abundant on the animal or in the immediate area. Dead animals should only be handled by appropriate Physical Plant and Housing employees.

Animal Carcass Disposal Procedures. The following procedures must be used when removing and disposing of an animal carcass:

  • At a minimum, workers must wear thick rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants, and closed toed shoes when handling dead animals.
  • Transfer small animal carcasses to doubled plastic bags using shovel or gloved hand.
  • Double bagged carcasses must be placed in an outdoor garbage dumpster.
  • Large animal carcasses, such as a deer, must be transported to a remote wood area on University property and buried three feet below ground. Only University owned pick-up trucks may be used to transport large animal carcasses.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What was odd, given the predators which overfly or cross Calvary in a quadripedal manner- and an abundant soil ecosystem whose foodstuffs are better left undescribed- was that the rabbit itself seemed to have just died on the spot and was left to decay. It “came apart” due to my accidental contact, seemed to be quite dehydrated, and was just laying out in the open.

One would expect to witness a cloud of flies, or other forms of insectivorous life at work, but it was curiously intact. Maybe the Chinese New Year figures into it somehow.

from wikipedia

The Chinese Year of the Rabbit ( 兔 ) is actually the Chinese Year of the Hare, as China has seven native species of hares and no native species of rabbits. The Chinese applied their word for hare to the first rabbits to be taken to China, and the word is now erroneously back-translated into English as rabbit. The hare is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Hare is associated with the earthly branch symbol 卯.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An exquisite irony, of course, is that Calvary Cemetery is the final resting place for many Irish immigrants of the 19th century- including a large number who were members of the legendary street gang “the De’d Ráibéads” or “Dead Rabbits”. When escape from my ghostly pursuer was finally attained, and this tale was breathlessly related back at Newtown Pentacle HQ, my patient listeners thought that I had actually fallen into the grave of some 19th century Lower East Sider like Kit Burns.

from wikipedia

The Dead Rabbits were a gang in New York City in the 1850s, and originally were a part of the Roach Guards. The name has a second meaning rooted in Irish American vernacular of NYC in 1857. The word “Rabbit” is the phonetic corruption of the Irish word ráibéad, meaning “man to be feared”. “Dead” was a slang intensifier meaning “very”. Thus, a “Dead Ráibéad” means a man to be greatly feared. The gang was sometimes also known as the Black Birds.

The gang was led by Priest Valon and achieved great renown for their organization and prowess as thieves and thugs. The fighting uniform of the Roach Guards was a blue stripe on their pantaloons, while the Dead Rabbits adopted a red stripe. In riots their emblem was a dead rabbit impaled on a spike. The Rabbits and the Guards swore undying enmity and constantly fought each other at the Five Points, but in the rows with the water-front and Bowery Boys they made common cause against the enemy, as did other Five Points gangs including the Shirt Tails and Chichesters. The gang was later led by Irishman Aidan Bourke also known as “Black Dog” possibly because a ruthless nature similar to that of the ghost dog in the folklores of the Celtic and British Isles.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This rabbit’s foot seems to have brought little or no luck to it’s original owner, and little sense has ever accompanied that particular superstition as far as I’m concerned. It was while taking this shot that I suddenly became aware of a “feeling of being watched”, a well honed sense impression for those of us who wander the streets with our cameras, one which normally presages the familiar “bleep bleep” of an NYPD radio patrol car or some Private Security guard about to query “what are you doing?”. Looking around, solitude remained untrammeled, but a weird reflection behind me was observed on the corner of the lens to my glasses.

Upon spinning around, expecting to see a groundskeeper or some other visitor to the place, there was nothing and no one.

from wikipedia

A mild form of hallucination is known as a disturbance, and can occur in any of the senses above. These may be things like seeing movement in peripheral vision, or hearing faint noises and/or voices. Auditory hallucinations are very common in paranoid schizophrenia. They may be benevolent (telling the patient good things about themselves) or malicious, cursing the patient etc. Auditory hallucinations of the malicious type are frequently heard like people talking about the patient behind their back. Like auditory hallucinations, the source of their visual counterpart can also be behind the patient’s back. Their visual counterpart is the feeling of being looked-stared at, usually with malicious intent. Frequently, auditory hallucinations and their visual counterpart are experienced by the patient together.

Hypnagogic hallucinations and hypnopompic hallucinations are considered normal phenomena. Hypnagogic hallucinations can occur as one is falling asleep and hypnopompic hallucinations occur when one is waking up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbed at this point by my perception, and by the curious feeling of being watched, I nevertheless continued my “business” at Calvary. Antiquarian pursuits and historical inquiries aside, it was quite a lovely day- and the first hint of spring was in the air.

What better way to spend it than in a lovely garden cemetery?

from wikipedia

The rural cemetery or garden cemetery is a style of burial ground that uses landscaping in a park-like setting.

Landscaping and tree planting at Green-Wood Cemetery in BrooklynAs early as 1711 the architect Sir Christopher Wren had advocated the creation of burial grounds on the outskirts of town, “inclosed with a strong Brick Wall, and having a walk round, and two cross walks, decently planted with Yew-trees”[1]. By the early 19th century, with urban populations expanding, the existing churchyards were growing unhealthily overcrowded with graves stacked upon each other, or emptied and reused for newer burials. As a reaction to this, the first landscaped cemetery was opened in 1804, as the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

The garden cemetery in the USA was a development of this style. Prior to this, urban burial grounds were generally sectarian located on small plots within cities. The new design took the cemetery out of the control of the church, using an attractive park built on a grander scale, using architectural design and careful planting, inspired by the English garden movement.

first, Calvary

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Woe to that New Yorker who achieves our common societal goal, which is being always at the head of a long queue- first in line.

There isn’t much I can tell you about Esther Ennis, an Irish immigrant, other than she was the very first person buried in Calvary Cemetery in 1848. Intonations and rumors of a broken heart followed her to the grave, which seem to allude to a love affair gone wrong and conjure lurid fantasies of the port city of New York in the 1840’s. Unfortunately, no primary sources have emerged that discuss the young (for our modern era) woman.


On August 4, 1848, the new cemetery called Calvary Cemetery received its first interment, one Esther ENNIS. The purchase of this parcel of land and the acquisition over the years of over two hundred additional acres, enabled Calvary Cemetery to support the needs of most Catholics in the Archdiocese, especially in the New York City area.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Quite obviously, this isn’t the original grave marker, its style and typography betray a 20th century vintage, and your humble narrator would wager that it was carved sometime in the 1920-1970 time period based on style and material. A half remembered and impossible to locate report from some forgotten publication once revealed that an Irish organization like the Hibernians (or was it a Catholic Charity of some stripe?) made it their business to place this marker on the presumed gravesite in Section 1 in First Calvary, but it doesn’t seem to have made it online so I may not supply a link to you- lords and ladies.

Regardless, this is one of Calvary Cemetery’s proverbial “needles in a haystack locations“, and is one easily bypassed by casual visitors to the great polyandrion.

from, an article from 1884 about Calvary’s first grave digger, John McCann

“Thirty-six years ago yesterday the first body was interred in Calvary Cemetery,” said John McCann, gatekeeper at the main entrance to the cemetery yesterday afternoon. “Yes, Sir, I remember it well. It was the body of Esther Ennis, a handsome looking Irish girl, who …

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan address demarcated on the stone is 139 Clinton Street, which, presuming that the addresses on Clinton Street conform to the same logic as they did in 1848, should be here.

The following is one of the stitched panorama images which always present themselves awkwardly due to their odd shape. It’s an attempt to display the absolute magnitude of this spot, and the explosive growth of Calvary Cemetery from this exact location.

a ghastly plot

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“Newtown Creek for the Vulgarly Curious” is a fully annotated 68 page, full-color journey from the mouth of Newtown Creek at the East River all the way back to the heart of darkness at English Kills, with photos and text by Mitch Waxman.

Check out the preview of the book at, which is handling printing and order fulfillment, by clicking here.

Every book sold contributes directly to the material support and continuance of this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“Newtown Creek for the Vulgarly Curious” by Mitch Waxman- $25 plus shipping and handling, or download the ebook version for $5.99.

reticence shown

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

I fear that I’ve become quite focused on Calvary Cemetery again. Recent caches of primary sources have been discovered which have all but confirmed certain hypothetical precepts, and illumined certain unimagined parameters to my studies. As yellowed maps and time blasted books have passed before my startled eyes, dawning realizations about the structure which underlies the place torment my curiosity.

Allow me to explain…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek guy, that’s me- part of the history crowd from Queens- harmless.

The history part is what I’m interested in, and everything I’ve read or witnessed around the Newtown Creek indicates that while First Calvary Cemetery was incorporated in 1848- when the first recorded interment took place (more on that in a later post)- an interval of roughly 5-10 years preceded the beginning of an era which saw as many as 20 funerals conducted during a single day. Immigration patterns can explain this, of course, but the primary sources which have been consulted describe something else.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the sewers.

Two interesting leads have presented themselves, the first having led to:

The Rosary Magazine, in a report from 1908, via Google Books, offers this snippet:

On November 11, Archbishop Farley of New York dedicated a new mortuary chapel which was recently erected under the title of St. Callistus in Calvary Cemetery, Long Island. The Mass on the occasion was sung by Mgr. Lavelle and the sermon preached by Mgr. Mooney. The new structure will serve the double purpose of chapel and mausoleum. Below the chapel floor there is a crypt containing one hundred and fourteen vaults, in which hereafter will be buried the priests of the New York Archdiocese. The idea of such a building was first conceived by Archbishop Farley some four years ago. The structure is quite an imposing one, built of granite and Saracenic in its style of architecture. It is ninety-six feet long and sixty-four feet wide. The auditorium will accommodate two hundred and fifty persons. Surmounting the dome is a fine figure of the risen Christ, designed by Miss Melro Beatrice Wilson. When finished the total cost of the building will approximate $200,000. The building was designed by Raymond F. Almirall.

Here’s the cutaway architect drawing, courtesy again- Google Books:

Long time readers will remember that the Chapel has been previously profiled at this- your Newtown Pentacle- in the post “scenes familiar, and loved“.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The catacombs beneath the Calvary Cemetery Chapel are fairly old news to long time readers, but… back to those sewers.

The second interesting nugget that I’ve turned up recently is (other than fascinating references to an excommunicated and controversial 19th century Catholic priest named McGlynn) that there seems to have been a legal issue settled by the State of New York which involved the removal of tens of thousands of tons of Calvary topsoil, and it’s eventual disposition on Catholic owned farms in Jamaica which aroused and infuriated the largely Protestant agricultural community of Newtown. This topsoil was removed “during the building of Calvary Cemetery, with its modern sewerage system”.

The building…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I haven’t screwed the lid down on this one yet, so I’m not sharing links on this, but- the various sources I’m working on have opened up the reality that the hill of Laurels is in fact engineered ground. Discussions of enormous underground culverts and diversion channels for water, titan work forces, and a decade long struggle to turn the marshy waste land around the Newtown Creek into the well drained and immaculately landscaped structure we know today have consumed me- and driven Our Lady of the Pentacle to near madness.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

weird lyric

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

After having fallen into a hole earlier in the day, and suffering from a torn knee and possibly fractured finger, your humble narrator nevertheless opted to end the day with a walk through Calvary Cemetery.

A miscalculation on my part was made by this decision, as the cemetery itself was encased in several feet of rain and ice polished snow. Never one to display good sense or reason, the encircling boundary road (which was quite clear, no doubt due to the expert ministrations of the groundskeeping crew) was avoided and a cross section path through the frozen substrate was embarked upon.

At the end of this difficult perambulation, however, I was rewarded by the company of a bird of prey (which I believe to be a juvenile Red Tail Hawk).

from wikipedia

The Red-tailed Hawk is carnivorous, and an opportunistic feeder. Its diet is mainly small mammals, but it also includes birds and reptiles. Prey varies with regional and seasonal availability, but usually centers on rodents, comprising up to 85% of a hawk’s diet.Additional prey (listed by descending likelihood of predation) include lagomorphs, shrews, bats, snakes, waterfowl, fish, crustaceans and insects. Prey range in size from beetles to White-tailed Jackrabbits, which are double the weight of most Red-tails. In captivity in winter, an average Red-tail will eat about 135 g (4-5 oz) daily.

The Red-tailed Hawk hunts primarily from an elevated perch site, swooping down from a perch to seize prey, catching birds while flying, or pursuing prey on the ground from a low flight.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The bird was a good fifty feet above me, perched on the statuary crowning one of those mighty obelisks which typify the older and grander sections of the vast polyandrion that men call First Calvary. It seemed to be gazing at the shield wall of Manhattan- the Shining City.

The particular locale within the cemetery itself has been observed in past visits to support a population of “groundling burrowers“, any one of which would provide a good meal to the predator during these lean months of winter. Knowing that predators can sense weakness and injury at a distance, I began to carefully back away owing to my profound physical cowardice.

What if it smelled the blood trickling down my leg due to the wound incurred at the knee of my skinvelope, caused when I fell in that hole?


These birds of prey are also known as buzzard hawks and red hawks. By any name, they are keen-eyed and efficient hunters. Red-tails prefer open areas, such as fields or deserts, with high perching places nearby from which they can watch for prey. But these birds are adaptable and also dwell in mountains and tropical rain forests. Hawks have even embraced human habitats. They often perch on telephone poles and take advantage of the open spaces along the roadside to spot and seize mice, ground squirrels, rabbits, reptiles, or other prey.

Breeding season initiates a spectacular sequence of aerial acrobatics. Hawk pairs fly in large circles and gain great height before the male plunges into a deep dive and subsequent steep climb back to circling height. Later, the birds grab hold of one another with their talons and fall spiraling towards earth.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the past, I’ve mentioned that the grounds of First Calvary serve as an oasis to heterogenous forms of both migratory and quite native life forms. The “groundling burrowers” are here (as mentioned), and  birds often use the arboretum as a way station on their long seasonal journeys. There are dogs and cats here, of course, and second hand rumor has suggested that Opossum, Raccoon, and other more esoteric forms of life exist within the stout iron gates.

This is the first time I’ve spotted a raptor here, though.

It was just last month that a photographer named Marcelo Barrera managed to get a shot of a Coyote in Calvary, check out the story here.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually interesting that a Red Tail chose to roost here, in that psychic cauldron of squashed hope and severed ambition known as First Calvary.

Aboriginal tribesmen prized the feathers of these birds for use in ritual, and even today- the plumage of Red Tail Hawks fall under the jurisdiction of the “Eagle Feather Law“. Apparently, for those who believe in something, the presence of such a Hawk in a cemetery would be quite a profound experience.

I’d also point out that “hawk’s gifts” in the quotation below would indicate madness and megalomania if manifested in a primate, and would make great PR copy to describe a politician. As proof of this, the second quote replaces references to “hawk” with the name of the Mayor (just as an example).


The hawk’s gifts include clear sightedness, being observant, long distance memory, messages from the universe, guardianship, recalling past lives, courage, wisdom, illumination, seeing the bigger picture, creativity, truth, experience, wise use of opportunities, overcoming problems, magic, focus.

Hawk is associated with the number 14, with the tarot card Temperance. The Temperance card represents the teaching of higher expressions of psychic ability and vision.

The Hawk represents a messenger in the Native American culture. It often shows up in our life when we need to pay attention to the subtle messages found around us, and from those we come into contact with. As with all messages received, it is important to recognise the messages underlying truth. We will be taught to be observant and also pay attention to what we may overlook. This could mean a talent we aren’t using, a gift or unexpected help for which we haven’t shown our gratitude for, or a message from the Universe. As there are so many hawk varieties, the messages vary and can affect all levels of our psyche.

Hawks are the protectors and visionaries of the Air. They hold the key to higher levels of consciousness. This power animal enables us to awakens vision and inspires a creative life purpose. Having Hawk as power animal means your life will be filled with responsibility, because Hawk people seek the overall view. You will most probably be aware of omens and spirit messages.

modified version

Michael Bloomberg’s gifts include clear sightedness, being observant, long distance memory, messages from the universe, guardianship, recalling past lives, courage, wisdom, illumination, seeing the bigger picture, creativity, truth, experience, wise use of opportunities, overcoming problems, magic, focus.

Michael Bloomberg is associated with the number 14, with the tarot card Temperance. The Temperance card represents the teaching of higher expressions of psychic ability and vision.

Michael Bloomberg represents a messenger in the Native American culture…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Being scientifically minded, of course, your humble narrator rejects such fantastic interpretations of the birds presence here. A cigar, after all, is just a cigar. I would point out that a visit to “The City Birder” will reveal several spottings of similar animals all around the megalopolis, and you’ll find a few “things to do” in their recent “upcoming nature trips” posting.

The NYTimes presented this piece in 2007, which discusses the presence of Red Tail Hawks in another garden cemetery- Greenwood in Brooklyn

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the great discomfort caused by my injuries, immense difficulty was found in trying to leave Calvary Cemetery on Sunday afternoon. Social obligation, however, drew me ineluctably back to Astoria to attend a party- during which a televised tournament of some kind would be exhibited that held special significance to others in my peer group.

Happily, some number of photographs of First Calvary blanketed in winter colors were captured, many of which will be gathered into future postings of this- your Newtown Pentacle.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Tales of Calvary 12- The Lynch monument

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A magnificent and somewhat unique example of mortuary sculpture found at First Calvary Cemetery here in Queens is the Lynch monument. The screeds engraved on it indicate the presence of several generations of the family, and the quality of the stone work indicates that the Lynches were notable figures during their time. As mentioned in the past, however, when one is searching for information on individuals with a “common” name (particularly a common Irish surname) – things get a little hazy. There have been a lot of folks, both famous and infamous, named “James Lynch”.

Here’s what I’ve been able to positively attribute to this James Lynch, and a promising (tantalizing actually) but false lead…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When James Lynch’s will was read, it caused quite a stir- it seems that the inheritance he left for his widow and children was in excess of 1.5 million dollars (in 1873, mind you), or so says the archives. Now, 1.5 million in 1873 was a heck of a lot more money then than now- which means that this fellow was “somebody”. But who?

The archive article denoting the disposition of his will puts the family residence at 129 East 21st street in Manhattan- a tony and somewhat aristocratic address in 1873 (and today) located near Gramercy Park. Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, was born around the corner in 1858 and other neighbors included Samuel Tilden, Peter Cooper, and George Templeton Strong.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The false lead- I suspected that this might be the same James Lynch (of Tammany) who aroused the ire of the future “paper of record” with a controversial order to the Warden of Bellevue Hospital in 1860 that remanded the bodies of the poor to scientific study (medical schools) and the inquiry of the vivisectionists (coroners).

quoth from the archives

All non-professional men who have ever had occasion to visit a dissecting-room, can well understand the intense loathing and horror with which even condemned malefactors shrink from that portion of the death-sentence which delivers over their bodies after execution to be dissected for the instruction of medical students. No sight can be imagined more revoltingly hideous and horrible than the scientific shambles in which human carcases are cut up, disemboweled, torn limb from limb, dissected and tossed from hand to hand by the young acolytes of surgical science. Half a dozen bodies in this way come to be mingled together in one disgusting mass of flesh, bone, tissues, hair and bowels. Different students carry off particular limbs or organs for home dissection; and then the mingled remains are placed in sacks and carted away at midnight, to be dumped out of sight in whatever sinks or holes the surgeons may have selected for this purpose.

But, alas, I was incorrect.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

click image for a larger and more detailed incarnation

The illustration above, as well as the following text originate in John J. Foster’s “Visitor’s Guide to Calvary Cemetery” published in 1873

Plot O, Range 9, which is a little to the north of the resident clergyman’s dwelling, (and of which we give an illustration).

It is in the classic style, and consists of a superstructure of solid Quincy granite, in the form of a tomb, with polished columns supporting its entablature, surmounted by a draped sarcophagus, in one entire piece, of the finest Carrara marble. At each end of the base of the tomb, seated on clouds, is an angel, one with a trumpet, to call to judgment; the other emblematic of immortality. These figures are separate memorials. The former having been erected to the memory of the late Miss Katie Lynch, and the latter to the late Miss Agnes Lynci, his two daughters.

The whole work rests on a vault constructed after the style of the old Roman catacombs.

Mr. James Lynch was born December 23, 1805, and died December 14, I873. For nearly thirty years he devoted his attention to the grocery business on an extensive scale, in the city of New York, and retired with a competency in the year 1853. He was a favorite with all who enjoyed his acquaintance, and was well known to the public through his good offices and his manifold services in the advancement of all wise and charitable undertakings that came to his notice. The lively interest he excited in all who knew him secured for him many constant friends who now mourn his loss. His good deeds still survive him. The name of such men should be preserved.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Clicking on the 1873 illustration, one observes that the only name on this monument when it was drawn was that of the sire of the clan. Scrutiny of the image also reveals an extensive series of footing stones, rails, and decorative plot demarkations which have not survived the century. Additionally, the entire family seems to be accounted for on the monument, with the last interment (Mary Ann) listed as 1922.

I was able to find a scant mention of Emily F. Lynch in the obituaries of the archives. She lived at 405 Park Avenue, and died there as well.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to the remarkable centerpiece of the monument, one observes the presence of two weeping angels at the tomb, the presence of which are described in the quoted text as having been installed as separate monuments to Mr. Lynch’s daughters.

Like many of the fine marbles and ornate carvings extant at Calvary Cemetery, long exposure to the toxic atmospheres produced by the industries of the nearby Newtown Creek has badly damaged these sculptural elements, imparting an impression that the stone is melted or rotting away.

This isn’t far from the truth- the nearby Phelps Dodge (then called General Chemical) was actually sued by Calvary’s Board of Trustees in the late 19th century regarding the airborne exhaust of their brimstone based acid manufacturing business and its noxious effluents, and the concept of petrochemical pollution creating “acid rain” is well known to modernity.


On the plant grounds, General Chemical erected the tallest chimney in the United States to blow the smoke and gases from its furnace away from the neighborhood. For the past number of years neighbor surrounding the plant complained vociferously about the pollution from the factory. Only after a study found that nitric, muriatic, and sulphuric acids from the plant were destroying local cemeteries’ tombstones did the company try and alleviate the problem by building the chimney. This same year the company filed plans with the New York City’s Department of Buildings in Queens to build another 150 foot chimney, an ore breaker, a storage tank, a boiler house, and a stable.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYTimes archives also present a short death notice for Peter W. Lynch, of 253 west 62nd street, whose death corresponds with the date ascribed to Peter W. Lynch on the stone. I have no way of determining if this is the same man, however.

I could find nothing on Katie, but this is not uncommon for the era, as women seldom received mention if they weren’t scandalous, married to, or the mother of a famous man.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

James D. Lynch died at a 120 West 21st street address in 1917, just down the block from the patriarch’s house. Mary Ann and E. Louise seem to have escaped notice when they passed.

Like many of the older plots at Calvary, which once sat long avenues and lanes which were meant to remain as such, the Lynch monument is surrounded by more modern graves. Such is the lot of older cemeteries, whose financial realities demand that new interments must be made in order to maintain the ongoing operations of the enterprise.

A plot purchased in the 1860’s, after all, hardly figured in the cost of 150 years of groundskeeping. This created no small amount of controversy in the past amongst the descendants of those who lie here, but in the end, Calvary prevailed. This is why you’ll often observe modern grave markers peppering around the edges of grandly august Mausolea.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hey, you never know what you’re going to find at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm

marble glories

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A favored aphorism amongst Occultists is “as above, so below”, a saying attributed to having been coined by Hermes Trismegistis and recorded upon the legendary Kitab Sirr al-Asrar (aka Smaragdine Table, Tabula Smaragdina) or Emerald Tablet.

Such thoughts and sayings often trouble a humble narrator when traveling across the emerald devastations of First Calvary Cemetery here in Queens. The arabic origin of the word Ghoul (ghul) notwithstanding, the term seems appropriate to describe one such as myself, “a person who delights in the macabre.”- although I’m proud to say that (as of yet) I’ve never robbed a grave, drank human blood, or eaten a small child- which are other trademarks of the legendarily abhorrent and undead creatures.

Life has taught me to never say “never” however.


ghoul [guːl]n

  1. a malevolent spirit or ghost
  2. a person interested in morbid or disgusting things
  3. a person who robs graves
  4. (Myth & Legend / Non-European Myth & Legend) (in Muslim legend) an evil demon thought to eat human bodies, either stolen corpses or children

[from Arabic ghūl, from ghāla he seized]

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All ‘effed up, one of the things which tortures me in those moments before sleep comes is “why am I so fascinated by graveyards?”.

Is it some sort of pretentious “Memento mori” artsy fartsy thing, or is there something motivating me that lies deeply buried and hidden in the polyandrion of ideation which defines my thoughts? When these photos were shot, I was indeed “searching for (the name that must never be spoken again)” but as often happens to me in this place, my concentration began to fray and tear in the manner of an overburdened rope. Imaginings and fantastic notions march into your mind here, and on this day, I became convinced that I heard grunting sounds rising from the soil.

As above, so below- and as your humble narrator was walking the gentle landscaping of Calvary, enjoying the bright emanations of that burning thermonuclear eye of god itself- were unknown counterparts mirroring my movements in some subterrane grotto?

from wikipedia

Ideas of reference and delusions of reference involve people having a belief or perception that irrelevant, unrelated or innocuous phenomena in the world refer to them directly or have special personal significance. In psychiatry, delusions of reference form part of the diagnostic criteria for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, delusional disorder, or bipolar disorder during the elevated stages of mania.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As a believer in nothing but the hydrogen bomb (the very existence and functionality of which proves the sterile Einsteinian worldview of the universe, as espoused by Physicist and Mathematician alike, as valid and true. How many angels, or neutrinos, can dance on the head of a pin- indeed), I fancy myself a student of debased and superstitious folklore nevertheless. Revenants, Dybbuks, Dhampirs, and Vrykolakas enter my thoughts when I move through these lonely places during my vast solitudes.

Apotropaic devices are absent from my coterie of gadgets and cameras, and whatever dark and cthonic powers may be extant and watching would perceive me as defenseless. Part of the reason I only go to this place during the brightly lit hours of the day, I suppose.

from wikipedia

In Hindu folklore, the vetala is an evil spirit who haunts cemeteries and takes demonic possession of corpses. They make their displeasure known by troubling humans. They can drive people mad, kill children, and cause miscarriages, but also guard villages.

They are hostile spirits of the dead trapped in the ‘twilight zone’ between life and afterlife. These creatures can be repelled by the chanting of holy mantras. One can free them from their ghostly existence by performing their funerary rites. Being unaffected by the laws of space and time, they have an uncanny knowledge about the past, present, and future and a deep insight into human nature. Therefore many sorcerers seek to capture them and turn them into slaves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, this is a Roman Catholic cemetery, which suggests that the multitudes who lie here were sealed off- magickly- by the sacrament of “Extreme Unction” from suffering such macabre experiences as walking about the earth seeking living victims in some post mortem half life. The heritage of the Catholics extends back through time to the Dagon devotees of Syria and the tomb worshipping Etruscans, and the Romans spent enough time in Egypt and North Africa to have picked up and incorporated many of the Magicks they found into the syncretic system of beliefs and rites known as and inherited by modernity as Catholicism. The mysteries of the church are many, and varied, and more has been forgotten or lost over the centuries than any single lifetime can recover.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

from wikipedia

Magick is an Early Modern English spelling for magic, used in works such as the 1651 translation of De Occulta Philosophia, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, or Of Magick. The British occultist Aleister Crowley, chose the spelling to differentiate the occult from stage magic and defined it as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will”, including both “mundane” acts of will as well as ritual magic. Crowley claimed that “it is theoretically possible to cause in any object any change of which that object is capable by nature”.  John Symonds and Kenneth Grant attach a deeper occult significance to this preference.

Crowley saw magick as the essential method for a person to reach true understanding of the self and to act according to one’s True Will, which he saw as the reconciliation “between free will and destiny.”

Since the time of Crowley’s writing about magick, many different spiritual and occult traditions have adopted the K spelling, but some have redefined what it means to some degree. For some modern occultists, it refers strictly to paranormal magic, which involves influencing events and physical phenomena by supernatural, mystical, or paranormal means.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As above, so below. The full quotation, as translated into english from a latin translation of the original Arabic by Isaac Newton (whose groundbreaking work- particularly “De motu corporum in gyrum”- sets the stage for the later realization of the Einsteinian viewpoint, the Hydrogen Bomb, and our modern world of space going craft, jet travel, and deep sea exploration) goes:

“That which is below is like that which is above that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.”

from wikipedia

The Liber de Causis was a philosophical work attributed to Aristotle that became popular in the Middle Ages, first in Arabic and Islamic countries and later in the Latin West. The real authorship remains a mystery, but most of the content is taken from Proclus’ Elements of Theology. This was first noticed by Thomas Aquinas, following William of Moerbeke’s translation of the works of Proclus into Latin.

The original title in Arabic was Kitāb ul-īḍāḥ li-Arisţūţālis fi’l-khayri’l-maḥd, “The book of Aristotle’s explanation of the pure good”. The title Liber de Causis came into use following the translation into Latin by Gerard of Cremona.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2011 at 3:01 pm


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