The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

settled shape

with 6 comments

– 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.

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] day when I finally located the grave of it’s first interment (Esther Ennis, 1848), stepped in a dead rabbit, and picked up a paranormal companion on my long walk- two things came to my […]

  2. […] day when I finally located the grave of it’s first interment (Esther Ennis, 1848), stepped in a dead rabbit, and picked up a paranormal companion on my long walk- two things came to my notice. The first, […]

  3. […] located the grave of Calvary Cemetery’s first interment (Esther Ennis, 1848), stepped in a dead rabbit, picked up a paranormal companion on my long walk, found myself in a state of “stupendous […]

  4. […] finally located the grave of Calvary Cemetery’s first interment (Esther Ennis, 1848), stepped in a dead rabbit, picked up a paranormal companion on my long walk, found myself in a state of “stupendous […]

  5. […] finally located the grave of Calvary Cemetery’s first interment (Esther Ennis, 1848), stepped in a dead rabbit, picked up a paranormal companion on my long walk, found myself in a state of “stupendous […]

  6. […] lies Tammany, the Dead Rabbits, and a good percentage of those colorful characters who populated the “Bloody Sixth […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: