Most people would have walked right by the small rock sprinkled with orange dust. But Farel Paul became paralyzed with fear. He was convinced someone cast a voodoo spell on him by leaving the rock by his car door.
Paul called 911 in April, fearing that because his son touched the rock with his foot, something bad was on the way.
“Even though you may not believe in it, they seriously believe in it and you have to treat it that way,” said Police Officer Paul Pitti, who responded to the call. “This guy wouldn’t even go near the car. He was freaking out. He didn’t want us to go near his car.”
Delray Beach police occasionally get calls from Haitian residents fearing supernatural death threats and curses. The department takes a report and leaves it at that. There are no specific records available for voodoo calls.
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“You have to be professional, Pitti said. “You don’t want to make things worse.”
About 10 percent of Delray Beach’s population is Haitian.
People who practice the religion, sometimes referred to as Vodou or Vaudou, say it is one of peace. However, its meaning has been misconstrued and led people into violent acts.
Last year, a 25-year-old Fort Lauderdale man was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his father on Christmas Eve 2006. At trial, Barnard Joseph’s attorney said his Haitian client suspected his mother was putting a voodoo curse on him and brutally attacked his parents to “battle the demons.”
In late 2007, Pitti was dispatched to a man who claimed he was battling “evil spirits” in his home. Oswald Varemond, 47, was straddling his girlfriend, both covered in blood. Varemond attacked Pitti and another officer. Despite several shots with a stun gun, Varemond felt no pain, Pitti said.
“I’m not one that believes in voodoo, but it made me think there’s some kind of evil spirit if someone can endure that without a mark on him,” Pitti said.
Varemond, who pulled out some of his teeth, was not on drugs. He eventually was cuffed and charged with attempted murder. The charges were lessened to domestic battery. In April 2008, he was put on 60 months of probation.
Most voodoo reports to Delray Beach police don’t involve violence. But they illustrate believers’ fear of it.
Two months earlier, a woman called Delray Beach police: “When she went outside her front door, she noticed that there were voodoo artifacts in the entrance,” the report stated.
Voodoo, which means “Spirit of God,” is a religion brought to Haiti by African slaves and has little to do with black magic. Haitian voodoo followers do not stick pins in dolls, as often portrayed in movies and on TV.
Besides calling police, people who fear they’ve been cursed sometimes visit a botanica shop, where a voodoo or Santeria priest consult with and possibly cure “victims.” Besides curses, people visit the priests for day-to-day pains or problems stemming from the wallet or the heart.