Danse Macabre



            When I returned to  Puerto Rico, after a fourteen year absence, it was to take over a manufacturing plant for a client.  I rented a home, set among ten acres, on the outskirts of Arecibo.  I estimated my work would take six months and in three months the NY school summer vacation period would permit Edythe and the two younger sons to join me. I had my Jaguar Mark IX shipped prior to my arrival.  It was the only one on the island and that led me into an unexpected adventure.  One weekend, a few weeks after my arrival,  I drove to Salinas where Paper Mate and Frawley Manufacturing once had their plants.  They were now occupied by  garment manufacturers.  I motored west through Santa Isabel to Club Deportivo in Ponce.  Years ago I had been one of its members.  I was greeted by the manager, Miguel, who remembered me and let me enter the restricted premises to lunch. 


            I was eating langusta at a table overlooking the water.  At a nearby table three of the local gentry were eating and discussing a coming Paso Fino horse competition. A fourth man joined them.  Through the glass-enclosed dining room windows. I had seen his arrival in a Mercedes 300 sedan, park next to my Jaguar.  When the waiter came to him I could not hear the whispered conversation but the waiter answered and glanced in my direction.  I was finishing my meal and ordered a glass of cognac when he rose and  approached me.  He introduced himself as Jesus Torres and asked if the Jaguar was mine, and if I was a new member.  I told him it was my car and that years ago when I lived in Ponce I had been a member.  I answered his questions about my Jaguar and told him that years ago I operated  the Paper Mate plant in Salinas.  He looked impressed and asked me to join his table. Paper Mate had been a legend in the early days of Operation Bootstrap and after answering their curiosity of its sale and removal from the island, I said I overheard their talk about Paso Fino horses but I never saw them.   


            All four were eager to tell me about the horses.  Centuries of breeding in Puerto Rico produced the Paso Fino, a horse of medium height with the lines of a classical Arabian horse.  It had a unique gait, the smoothest in the world.  It could walk with three of its feet on the ground at the same time.  In competition, a glass of water filled to the brim was placed on the saddle and the horse was to walk around a track in the exhibition grounds without spilling a drop.  I was invited to see the competition the following week   Jesus Torres was a mortician and owner of a funeral parlor and home in Barceloneta, a town near Arecibo.


            After lunch we walked out to our cars..  He warily asked me what I thought of the occult.  I was amused and I told him that I had been involved with it all my life.  He invited me to dine with him, and some of his friends, at a small restaurant in his town.the Friday evening before the Paso Fino exhibition.. I accepted but never expected it would develop into a unique adventure.







Danse Macabre


            Friday evening I entered the restaurant and saw Jesus.  He was at a table in the corner of the room. He introduced as Antonio, a handsome, arrogant looking, young man..  He was heir to one of the wealthiest families in Puerto Rico, and a breeder of Paso Fino horses. Two couples approached our table and joined us.  Antonio made the introductions.  I recognized their family names as owners of vast sugar cane fields and rum producing facilities.. A thin, balding man soon joined  our crowded table.  He was the owner of fishing fleets operating in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.  Despite the disparity of wealth between Jesus, the mortician, and the others, they were involved with some common interests.  I noticed that the waiter remained farthest from us and only approached when beckoned.  When he served us food or drinks, he did so with rapidity and retreated to his station at the far side of the room.  The abundant wine consumed while eating made them garrulous. They intermittently questioned me about my belief in mystical rituals..


            Except for Jesus, the mortician,  they were wealthy idlers, buying or taking what they wanted. Bored with their lives. they sought excitement and became involved with mysticism and the occult.  For Jesus to be accepted by them, I surmised he could offer them an opportunity for them to participate in a coverrt and unusual form of Black Magic.


            Permeated with a feeling of mischief,  I felt I could amuse myself and fascinate them with talks of supertitions and occultism.  My Hungarian background with a superstitious mother had fostered an early interest in the occult.  Having been a member of the Society of American Magicians and the American Society for Psychical Research, I had some experience in exposing charlatans and listening to believers in superstitions and psychic phenomena. I concealed my amusement as I impressed them as an authority. I discussed many subjects and aspects of black magic and occultism that were unknown to them.  They were enthralled.  I told them of the Adepts, who achieved the highest step in Eastern esoteric science.  They were members of the Mahatmas, the Great Brotherhood, that had influence over mankind.  They could use psychic power to exert forces of great magnitude in this and the spiritual world.  I lectured on the Yoga and their achieving psychic powers. I told them of man’s yearning to use the supernatural forces and knowledge for their advantage, for evil as well as good.  It was often practiced by invoking diabolical control over the infernal powers, and compeled those powers to serve the invokers.  I outlined the three categories of rituals, Divination, Bewitchment and Necromancy.  They plied me with questions and badgered me for more information.


            They were hungry and thirsty for whatever knowledge I could give them.  I was interested to discover why this apparently well-educated and financially established group of islanders were interested in the subject.  I wanted to know what type of magic these elite Puerto Ricans had taken an interest in.  This was to be my first excursion into an area of study that I had never anticipated existed on this island.  It was with difficulty that I bid them good-bye and left.






Danse Macabre


            The following day’s Paso Fino exhibition was interesting.  I was in a section of seats reserved for Antonio and twenty of his friends.  All of them seemed to have an interest in me, and I felt they heard of last night’s conversations.  After the show, and after seeing Antonio’s two Paso Fino horses, he invited the group to his home for a repast.  I followed Antonio’s Maseratti and Jesus’ Mercedes with the others trailing behind to a low sprawling house, a guest house next to his stables and exercise track for his horses.  Six tables were set with food and drink.  Antonio motioned me to the table where he sat with Jesus and the people I had dined with the previous night.  Aside from congenial conversation, nothing was said of the occult. Before leaving, Jesus asked if I would be interested in seeing a secret occult rite two weeks hence. I did not give him a definite answer but Jesus said he would contact me in a few days.


            He phoned and I accepted the invitation.  Jesus told me it would begin at ten in the evening at his funeral parlor at Barceloneta.  I realized that they were involved with necromancy and my knowledge of the various rites was only from reading.. Despite a surge of contempt for their involvement, I did want to witness the proceedings, and perhaps amuse myself by bewildering them.  I phoned my home in New York that evening and asked Edythe to take certain items from the shelves in the basement where I stored my magic paraphernalia, and send them by air express to my attention at the factory..  I also called Al Flosso in his magic shop and discussed with him my needs for a witch hand, flash paper and some related items. He said he would ship them to me the following day.  Until I received the items from home, and from Al Flosso, I mentally developed the patter I would use and how I would do my magic.   .


            I remained in my office after all the employees left and practiced with some of the magic paraphernalia.  I loaded volatile fluid in the special cup and foo can.  I checked the withered ‘witch’ hand and the batteries that operated the electromagnet hidden inside the control board.  I loaded magic items on my person.  I took some rum in lieu of the special odorless volatile liquid and practiced the fire spitting in the safety of the shower in the bathroom.  Maxmilian Londono had shown me some of the methods he had used in demonstrations of black magic to gullible victims in Spanish Harlem and later in South America.  He had vividly described his procedures and the various occult rituals he created for eager participants.  I sat in the leather office chair, darnk some more rum and imagined, or fantasized, on what would happen.


            Dawn came and the rattling of trucks going to the cane fields woke me.  I was still in the chair and my head was torrmented by a surealistic dream of a strange ritual.  It was so vivid that I was shaken by its apparent reality.  I reconstructed the dream..


            I drove to a small cafe to eat before going to the meeting.  When I arrived there were twelve men and four women assembled in the waiting room of the mortuary.  They all wore black clothes. I had seen or met all of them except a quiet, wide eyed, olive skinned girl whose well groomed hands were pressed against her breasts. Questioning me began anew, except from the wide eyed girl.  They were in a state of anticipation and excitement, anxious to proceed but sought  reassurance that my observations or participation would be a secret.  They were very cautious with a stranger, a possible observer and participant in their secret rituals.   I told them

Danse Macabre


that if they had doubts I would leave, and I headed for the door.  I knew that Jesus would stop me from leaving.  He stood in front of the door and apologized for their doubts since the occult ritual they were to start was secret and no one was to know that dominant families of the island were involved.  I nodded and swore that what I would see would be a deep, dark secret and I followed Jesus and the others into the mortuary.


            Glancing about I noted the preparations that had been made. There were four caskets set into a square. On the four corners of each casket a candle was burning. In the center of the room was a tethered white cock.  Jesus motioned me to wait while they disappeared into a waiting room and shortly reappeared wearing black robes.  Antonio offered me one but I shook my head and declined it.  I definitely could not perform with it on me.  I had dressed all in black, my turtle neck shirt was black silk, and the loose fitting jacket I used for magic shows was black.  A gold chain was on my neck and I rotated it until the gold eight armed Siva glittered on my chest.


            They were infested with the fascination of Black Magic. They were all islanders whose families had been here for generations and who flourished and had risen to wealth and power. Racial strains were evident with most of them.  Some with straight black hair and high cheek bones denoted their Indian ancestry - the conquered island dwellers who had looked upon the Spaniard as a God, and to this day pay obeisance and homage by perpetuating their version of Castilian tradition and language -.a slim girl with ecru skin had flaring Negroid nostrils and black hair whose kinks had been straightened, Antonio, with his arroganceand thin aquiline nose looked like a Spanish Conquistador, Jesus, whose ancestors came from Calabria, looked like a typical Italian.  They were a conglomerate of islanders interested in the same form of occult rituals.  They were anxious to proceed, infested with a virus of awe of the unknown, and I was ready to astound and exploit their beliefs.


            They were astounded when I leaped atop a coffin and shouted, “You are dabblers and novices in witchcraft.  I know. I am the son of a witch and a warlock.´ They looked at one another, not sure if I was serious. “Antonio.” I shouted with authority, “hand me that cup made from a baby’s skull up by the white cock.  Spill out the chicken feed and fill the skull with water. Hand it to me. I will show you real Black Magic”. 


            They watched as Antonio obeyed.  He spilled the seed on the floor and went to a sink and filled the small skull cup with water.  Their eyes followed him as he slowly walked and handed the skull cup to me. Holding it in one hand I reached with the other hand into my coat pocket and withdrew a battered black tin cup, turning it upside down and toward them I showed it was empty. Pouring water from the skull, I filled the cup to the brim and poured the rest of the water in the skull on the floor, saying in a low voice, “Rulers of the Darkness, I summon you forth to do my bidding  I hold a child’s skull cup as an offering.”  I extended my hand holding the skull cup.  All eyes were focused on it, and gasps erupted as the skull vanished, with the aid of the Miller Holdout.  An olive skinned girl, who I had learned was to be the novitiate,. gave a low scream that added to the tenseness and mystery.  “You Fools!  You amateurs!”, I shouted, “Look


Danse Macabre


at the candles you set on the four corners of the casket. They are not adequate for invocations.  They are not made from the fat of human or animal sacrifices.”  I had chanced they were not, and won.  “You can’t call forth the demons unless you follow the Laws of Darkness.”   


            A magician is a performer not unlike an actor, shaman, medicine man. guru, orator. or religious leader,  and a good performer knows when he has complete control over an audience.  I let my eyes scan each of them as I spoke, “You can not evoke demons unless you follow the ancient Laws of Darkness.  I will try to help you.  With my Black Magic I will sanctify the candles so they can be used in tonight’s ritual. God of Darkness,” their eyes were glued on me, following my every move - and misdirection - as I continued, “Great God of Darkness with whom my ancestors dwell, change this water into the Flames of Hell.”  I raised my arm with the black cup, in salutation and then lowered it slowly, slowly rotating it to ‘position’ .  There eyes followed, some with open mouths gasped as I ‘drank’ the contents - the concealed volatile liquid - and turned the cup over to show it was empty.  High I held the cup, a version of a magician’s foo can, containing the concealed and trapped water.  I turned to a lit candle and spat on it.  A stream of fire leaped from the candle flame to my lips. A low scream accompanied gasps and moans.  They were repeated in unison, as each time I faced a lit candle, I shot flame from my mouth to the burning taper.  Then I turned, and with the last of the volatile liquid in my mouth, I sent a tongue of flame over the heads of the cultists. 


            They were terrified, some fell to their knees, they thought they were in the presence of a Satanic figure. They were enthralled and captivated with the mysticism and magic of the American industrialist, a Devil of sorts - in disguise.  This was more than they had expected.  I felt my performance so far had exceeded my expectations.  This was the moment to continue, but not overdo my finale. 


            Holding the black cup which had previously been filled with liquid, I chanted, “Dear mother of mine, from the depths of my heart I call you.  Come from the depths of Darkness and take this chalice as a token of my devotion”.  I extended the cup in front of their eyes and it vanished, with the aid of the Miller Holdout.  They gasped and two women screamed, and I knew they were now in my power and if I had ulterior motives, my obedient subjects and slaves.. A few years earlier, Maximillian Londono, a friend and illusionist, had explained many of his tactics and devices that he used to ensnare victims and exploit their gullibility in Black Magic.


            They knew little about witchcraft or devil worship.  What they knew came from commonly available sources that catered to cults as theirs. They were in deadly earnest in their beliefs and it had become a religion with them.  For me it was an adventure and first time experience.  I was certain that I could convince them to accept me as their leader, and wrest control from Antonio and Jesus, or who ever had any influence over them.  It was too fantastic. and impractical. for me to become completely involved.  I would amuse myself as I manipulated their emotions, then terminate - in a gentle and final manner - any future contact with the fanatical cultists.



Danse Macabre


            “Jesus,” my voice rang with authoritative resonance, and he jumped in front of me and eager to obey my command,  “”Go to my briefcase. Open it.”  They watched as he did my bidding.. “Under some of my clothes and papers, you will find an old piece of wood.“  He searched and then held up piece of wood.  “Bring it to me.”  He did and I took it from him. 


            “Now go back to your place among the others - and watch.”  I held the wood in front of me, an old appearing panel of wood about a foot square and one inch thick.  “This wood is from the casket of my grandmother.  She was accused of Black Magic and being a sorcerer.  They chopped off her evil left hand, then they burned her at the stake.”  As I spoke I drew a withered hand from my jacket pocket.   A muffled scream and many gasps as they viewed the hand, a clever magic device from Al Flosso. 


            “I will ask the hand to answer all questions.”. I placed the hand on the board and extending my arms, I held the board with the ‘witches’ hand at arms length toward my questing cultists.  “Hand from the dead resting on the wood from the casket that once contained the burned body of my grandmother - gather strength and reach out to contact her in the netherworld of Darkness.  Motion to me if you have succeeded.´   They stared at the hand upon the board and I waited until they fidgeted with discomfort, then I reinforced their occult convictions.  The witch’s hand - under my control - with agonizing slowness began to move, slowly it began to rock back and forth on the immobile wood.  They became graven, unbreathing statues as they watched..  “Hand of the dead, now that you are in contact, act as an extension from the World of Darkness, answer my questions.  If the answer is yes, answer with two raps, and if the answer is no answer with one rap.”


            Holding the board steady with one hand, I placed the other hand on my brow and commanded the witch’s hand, “Do you understand me?”   The hand rocked twice, rapping the board with startling audibility.  They were transfixed, ripe and ready to obey whatever commands I would deem proper.  My ego soared with the mastery I had over them. With some reluctance and frustration I had to abort the temptation to continue and exploit this power.  “Is this the best night for Black Magic?”  The hand rapped once, followed by a frantic series of  raps.  My cultists, my worshippers, were waiting for an answer.  “The hand from the dead wants me to give you a message.  Tonight is not the best night for rituals.  Tomorrow night is the proper night, the Witches Sabbath, the best night for Black Magic. Why this night?”  There was silence.  I scowled and stared at them and they shrunk from my gaze.  My eyes finally focused on Jesus.  His entire body jerked as I asked, “Jesus, why tonight. Why?”


            With difficulty and tremors he said in a low voice, “We can’t change the night. Our rituals include dead bodies.  The bodies we are to use as part of our ceremony and ritual of initiation  are scheduled for burial tomorrow.” 





Danse Macabre


            “Hand from the grave, do you hear that?”   Two raps answered.  “Should this cult proceed with their plans tonight?”  Slowly, very slowly, the hand rapped once, their eyes followed the hands slow rise - then with agonizing slowness it rocked a few times before descending for the second rap.  Sighs of relief came from the cultists at this hand’s approval.  “Hand from the Grave, am I permitted to join in the ceremony?”  A harsh single rap of denial, followed by an erratic series of raps.  Over my face I let spread a puzzled look.  Over their faces spread uncertainty, which I let wait until it became unbearable.


            Finally, Antonio squeaked, “What did it say?”


            “You can proceed without me.  I am not permitted to join you.  Under these conditions you may proceed, and from the Land of the Dead, my grandmother, the witch, will watch and protect you while you practice your rituals of necromancy.  I will not watch the ritual. You will be condemned if you ask me for help or advise.  Never contact me.  I will contact you if and when you become masters of the Ritual for the Dead.  If all does not go well with future necromantic rituals, you may all,” I looked and pointed with the ‘witch hand’ at each one of them, “all participants will disappear and no one will ever know where you have disappeared.  In the Land of Darkness and the Land of the Land of the Dead, you will be tortured throughout eternity.  Only tonight you can proceed safely. Raise your left hand,” they obeyed, “say after me, I shall forever keep this ceremony,”  I waited until they repeated the phrase, “and all the names of those who are present.  They repeated the words. “And now all together, repeat the magic word I will utter, and never, ever, say it again,  Now say after me, “Adonoy,”  They all uttered it in unison, “Adonoy,”.


            Without looking back, I picked up my briefcase as ********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************ity and watch the ceremony. The twelve would be mystics wore their black robes.  Antonio seemed to be the leader as he held a scepter with a human skull and a scroll of yellowed parchment in his other hand.  Jesus wearing a necklace of human bones had the role of high priest.  They were chanting and sipping from black glasses.  The novitiate, the thirteenth member of the group, ran back and forth to an urn, stirring the contents with a human thigh bone before dipping in a ladle, filling it and  drinking from it first and then refilling the cups of each member. It is similar to the Hebrew Seder where wine glasses are replenished after each ceremonial toasting. The drink may have been  laced with hallucinogens.  They were intensely engrossed and somewhat drugged.  The novitiate looked pale, somewhat frightened, but in a seemingly self-hypnotic trance, staring, blinking, and eager for her initiation to begin.




Danse Macabre


            Two of the coffins had been opened exposing a naked male and female cadaver.  They formed a circle around the tethered bird,  Jesus pulled the novitiate into the center and disrobed her.  Naked she stood while Antonio cut the bird’s tether with a crescent shaped blade, then the bird’s throat.  Waving the fluttering, blood spurting bird over and around the naked novitiate, they chanted.  The dying bird was held high and the novitiate tilted her head and opened her mouth to drink the last drops of blood from the sacrificial cock. 


            I was observing the rites of this cult composed of the idle rich, the bored, thrill seeking members of prominent Puerto Rican families.  I watched their futile attempts to emulate the rituals of necrophilia sorcery.  As the dying bird shed its blood the chanting became frenzied and they shouted profane condemnations of God, Christ, and everything holy.  They prayed and supplicated themselves in idolization of Satanic powers.  They formed a circle around the sacrificed cock, facing outward.  They disrobed, standing naked they flung their robes toward the caskets The novitiate joined the ring of frenzied, yelling cultists joining hands began to dance counter clockwise.  With increasing tempo they circled thirteen times. By the thirteenth time they were motioning and gesturing obscenely.  The novitiate was writing and screaming curses at God as she lay down, next to the dead bird, in the middle of the circle.  Antonio drew a circle of blood around each of her breasts, and the arms of a cross from nipple to nipple, and the post of the cross started at her lips and wandered down to her crotch. 


            She screamed erotically and writhed in ecstasy as Antonio straddled and entered her.  The others screamed encouragement as Antonio finished and Jesus took his place.  The orgy increased in intensity and the novitiate writhed and screamed more violently as each of the men initiated her.  The women members finally positioned themselves over the novitiate before they positioned themselves of the floor for a continuing wild orgy involving all of them. The novitiate had passed the initiation and continued to screech and clutch her breast which showed blood trails from her clawing hands. 


            The cultists were in ecstatic perversity.  Briefly each male mounted the female cadaver and kissed the dead lips, the women lay upon and kissed the dead male. They were reeling and drinking more, and I felt that were nearing the end of the ceremony.. I had seen enough. I need not watch the ritual in its entirety. When it ended, I slipped out the door and drove away.





I often wonder if the ritual I abstained from was as fantastic as my dream