GEORGE S. TEMPEST was born in Pennsylvania in March of 1869. He lived in Philadelphia virtually his entire life. As a boy, he went to Girard College, a boarding school for poor orphaned and fatherless boys. After finishing his education he secured a position as an officer with the Philadelphia police department.
When the 1900 Census was enumerated he was a member of the Philadelphia police department, and living at 2404 Catherine Street. He was then married, his wife Mary Burg Tempest having born four children, Mary, Frederick, Anna, and Eleanor. His sister Anna, and brother-in-law William Burg also lived with the family. By 1920 he had risen to the rank of Captain, and had moved to the next block, the family now residing at 2336 Catherine Street, his daughters, all still at home and working.
Camden changed to the commission form of government in 1923. It appears that George S. Tempest was hired to run the police and fire departments, as Commissioner Dr. David S. Rhone, who had no law enforcement experience, was having a difficult time contending with bootlegging, gambling, and other "Roaring Twenties" criminal activities. He was in charge of the police when the "voodoo doctor of Liberty Street, Reyquew Hyghcock, came to the attention of law enforcement personnel.
George S. Tempest apparently left Camden's service after the 1927 election, when General Winfield Price and and a Republican slate swept the races for Mayor and City Commission. He and wife Mary had moved to 25129 South 20th Street in Philadelphia. His daughter Mary was still at home, and working as a bank secretary. Daughter Eleanor and her husband George Bailey were also living there. George S. Tempest died of a stroke on January 31, 1931.
|Camden Daily Courier
February 21, 1925
|Camden Courier * April 9, 1925|
transcribed by Phillip Cohen
Discovery of the body of a white baby several weeks old, human bones and other gruesome articles in a maze of dungeon-like caves and sub-cellars under 413 and 415 Liberty Street today have led the police to hold without bail "Doctor" H.H. Hyghcock, 71 year-old negro preacher, medicine man and undertaker.
The weird discoveries were made in the fantastically furnished "torture chambers" and "witch caves" under the houses. In addition statements made to Patrolman Charles Naylor and a Courier reporter by a seven-year-old daughter of the accused man, point to a possibility of a woman having been murdered in the place only last week.
"Weirdest Ever" Says Tempest
The labyrinth of underground passages and chambers discovered under the houses is declared by Deputy Director Tempest to be the "strangest and weirdest layout" he ever has visited in all his long career in police work.
Twisting and narrow underground passages and half-buried doors in almost inaccessible portions of the underground passages led to a belief that many more chambers remain for the police to enter in their underground exploration.
Deputy Tempest has ordered that a complete search be made of every corner of the cellars and sub-cellars and that if necessary the two houses above be torn down to make examination possible. The earth of all the cave floors is being dug up by the police in search of further clues.
Bone of Forearm is Found
The white baby's body was found shortly before 1:00 PM today, lying in a large glass jar in one of the sub-cellars. What is believed to be the bone of a child's forearm had been found in one of the passages a short time before. In another glass jar the police found what they report to be a human stomach.
To count the rooms, or divisions, of the many underground passages is impossible, because of the irregular arrangement, up and down and in all directions. Some of the policemen engaged in the exploring task have estimated there are more than 75 different compartments.
Second Arrest is Made
While the police were exploring the place shortly after noon a colored man walked into the Liberty Street entrance and started down the tunnel leading to the underground chamber as if he were well acquainted with the place.
Arrested and taken into police custody was Louis Reeves, 23 years, 1061 Ivins Street. he had been employed as a chauffer to drive the voodoo doctor's automobile, he said, and he had been accustomed to visiting "Doctor" Hyghcock daily and being given a bottle of soda water. That was the only purpose of his visit today, he declared, and he disclaimed any knowledge of the activities of Hyghcock.
The little daughter of the "proprietor" of the strange "place of horrors" made her hair-raising statements while being questioned in regard to her father's recent activities.
"Shot a Woman"- Took Her Away
"How many people has your father killed here?" she was asked.
"He never killed nobody until last week" she replied with childish frankness. "Then he shot a woman, and he took her away in her automobile at night."
In his cell at City Hall, Hyghcock maintains an air of mysterious silence. He is of an impressive personal appearance. although below medium height, he has a proud bearing, made more compelling by his white hair, mustache and imperial.
He has boasted to acquaintances that he is the father of 32 children.
Bootblacks tell of him giving 50 cent tips.
Hyghcock was arrested last night when he appealed to police, demanding a warrant for an unknown thief about whom he told a weird tale of threats to return and kill him. Hyghcock styles himself a clergyman, physician, an undertaker, a real estate operator, a clairvoyant, a palmist, and a fortune teller.
Hyghcock was held on $500 bail early today on the charge of obtaining money under false pretenses and in an equal amount on the charge of practicing medicine without a license when arraigned before Police Judge Cleary this morning.
He could not raise the money and was held in jail.
Then, when the other discovered were made, he was held without bail.
A visit to his place by the police led to the exploration of the intricate series of underground chambers. They were separated by swinging doors operated by mechanical springs. Some of the cave-like dungeons contained weird contraptions, like ancient machinery of torture, believed to have been used in connection with "cures," is to which patients of the voodoo man were terrified.
Patient Believes In Him
Besides Hyghcock police arrested as material witnesses Mrs. Bipp Hyghcock, 43 years old, aid to be his wife, and Mrs. Lotte Ingram, also a negress, 43 years old, of 59 North Peach Street, Philadelphia.
Mrs. Ingram, who was found in the house at 413 Liberty Street, aid she was there to receive treatment for heart disease from Hyghcock. In a statement to Detective Hunt, Mrs. Ingram said she gave Hyghcock $25 as part payment for the cure of her disease, and that she had been visiting his house for several months. Upon questioning she revealed further that Hyghcock had given her herb medicines, adding that she had faith in his powers and believed she was being healed.
Hyghcock has no license to practice medicine, police say.
The revelation of the startling interior of the place and the practice of Hyghcock, at the Liberty Street houses, both of which were rented by him, was brought about when the "doctor" inquired for a magistrate to issue a warrant for a Philadelphia man who, he said, stole some automobile tools from him and threatened to return to slay him. Hyghcock made the first inquiry of Howard Westsell, 797 Mt. Vernon street, who was standing at Railroad and Kaighn Avenues t 6:00 o'clock last night. Westsell referred him to Howard Fisher, a negro policeman of the Second District, who approached the two.
Cops Take Him Home
Fisher, becoming suspicious, questioned Hyghcock, who became evasive and insisted that the officer could not aid him. Fisher placed him under arrest, summoned Policeman James McTaggert and William Prucella, of the Second District, who were in plain clothes at the time, and went to the Hyghcock house, where they were admitted.
In the house at 413 Liberty Street the policeman found Mrs. Ingram, Mrs. Hyghcock, and the latter's 7 year old daughter. The two women were sent to police headquarters for questioning.
The dingy front room of the house was heated with a glowing coal stove and dimly lighted with a flickering kerosene lamp, faintly disclosed several ancient and must articles of furniture, several dozen bottles of soda water inside a glass showcase most of whose sides were missing or broken, several mysterious looking grips, bed-clothing, bric-a-brac, and other odd articles scattered about, it suggested what might be found in the rudely constructed entrances to chambers beyond.
In the glow of their flashlights the officers made a hurried search of the premises.
Entering the kitchen the trio descended a narrow, winding cellar-way into a gloomy cellar
McTaggart branched into one passageway, while Fisher and Prucella each chose a different path. After stumbling upon blind tunnels which ended in closets or in compartments from which there were no exits, the three officers joined into one party.
Stooping at times under low ceilings, squeezing between the sides of converging walls, jumping over pits covered with rotted trapdoors, and pushing through a seemingly endless series of doors rudely constructed of odd pieces of lumber, and each equipped with a powerful springs, the officers wormed their way through a tunnel extending 50 feet under the yard after leaving the cellar. It ended at a trapdoor in the floor of a ramshackle refuse littered woodshed in the rear of the yard.
As soon as they emerged they took Hyghcock, who had accompanied them through the tunnels, to police headquarters
Cops Go Look For More
Hyghcock, his wife, and Mrs. Ingram were placed under arrest. Captain Arthur Colsey assembled Sergeant Charles Smith and Policemen Prucella, McTaggart, Howard Fisher, Harry Kreher, William Bryant, Herbert Anderson, and John Bryant of headquarters for a needed investigation of the premises. On the way to the house the patrol picked up Officers Enoch Johnson, Charles Smith, and William Michalak.
With the arrival of the patrol a crowd gathered in front of the unkempt buildings. Bordering the gloomy houses on each side are modest, well-kept two and three story homes, inhabited by white families.
Guided by flashlights and lanterns, a long line of policemen laboriously wound through the circuitous underground passages, scrutinizing every nook, and opening every container upon which they came.
Many Rooms Entered
At least seventy-fie rooms or compartments were entered and hurriedly examined. Contents of innumerable closets and holes in walls were left undisturbed for fear that they would litter the narrow passageway and block the progress of the searchers.
In one room was found a large cartwheel daubed with dabs of white paint on each spoke. the wheel was mounted on a short upright axis set into the ground, permitting its rotation. Above the wheel was suspended a stuffed bird. The legs could be made to twitch and the wings to flap by the manipulation of a set of strings attached to them and fastened to a stick in an adjoining den.
Beside these the room contained an old iron bed, an oil lamp. and an oil stove. Other dens were similarly furnished.
Wires and Bells and Things
Closets and alcoves revealed odd collections of preserves, trinkets, charms, and indescribable odds and ends. In one closet in the kitchen of 413 Liberty Street were discovered a complicated set of improvised signaling devices. Wires attached to sticks will ring bells and unlock doors and various rooms of the house. Each door was equipped with a spring and bolts, and contained bells of various shapes and sizes.
In the rear of 413 Liberty Street partitioned with odd boards, curtains, and rags was a chapel. This room, about 10 feet wide by 13 feet long, contained an old wheezy organ, an altar, and religious pictures. Two more organs helped furnish two other rooms.
In a bedroom by the third floor of 413 Liberty Street, evidently occupied by Hyghcock, the searchers found charms sewed up in bags, odd implements, and three high silk hats.
Mrs. Hyghcock said that she her husband and daughter had occupied the two houses for eight years. Hyghcock, she said, had been working on the tunnels and underground dens for four years, carrying out earth in small quantities and depositing it in the back yards. police doubt that all the sand extracted from the subterranean dens would have been dumped in the yard, and believe that Hyghcock must have carried it away under the cover of darkness.
The Police Knew Him
A year ago Hyghcock was arrested by District Detectives David Kates and Walter Smith on Mount Ephraim Avenue near Van Hook Street. At that time he was searching for a policeman to report a hold-up. Looking into the closed automobile, the detectives found in the tonneau a bed in which lay a young negress, a lighted lantern hung from the roof, and a kerosene lamp on the floor. After questioning at police headquarters Hyghcock so changed his first story of an alleged hold-up on Kaighn Avenue and Cooper River bridge that the police disbelieved his tale.
Captain Colsey will notify the fire department today to safeguard the buildings from fire hazards and also will call to the attention of the health department the unsanitary condition of the place.
In his seventeen years completed with the police department, Captain Colsey said he has never seen such a layout.
Camden Courier * April 10. 1925
Click on Image to Enlarge
Police investigating the "voodoo den" of H.H. Hyghcock, 413-15 Liberty Street, whose arrest on suspicion of murder made several important discoveries today.
1- The finding of a bloodstained hatchet buried under the floor of one of the underground rooms.
222- Discovery of a hidden vault, the entrance freshly cemented and covered with wall-papered boards
3- Discovery of what is believed to be a well under the "sacrifice room". When the police tore off the lid of the well today, they were driven from the underground passage by the odor that emanated from the large hole.
4- A blood-stained mattress cover, hidden in a second story rear room, was found.
5- Police digging in the underground den this afternoon unearthed the skeleton of a baby, the fourth infant's body found in the "voodoo den".
6- Lastly, police say Hyghcock is the biggest liar they have ever seen.
When informed of the finding of the supposed vault Director Tempest instructed Captain Gordon to "tear it out if you have to tear down the house".
The police questioned the "voodoo medicine man" for an hour this morning during which he admitted he is a bigamist. He confessed that he had five wives and is the father of 37 children.
Hyghcock Questioned For Hour
After spending the night in a prison cell, Hyghcock was taken before Deputy Director Tempest . In the room at the same time was Chief Tatem, Captains Colsey, Golden, Humes, and Sieh.
Hyghcock was visibly serious as he sat in a chair facing the police officials. He clasped and unclasped his hands and stroked his goatee as his eyes shifted around the room.
Director Tempest started the first shot of a barrage of questions that swept over the voodoo man before he was allowed to leave the room.
For nearly an hour the medicine man matched his wits with those of the police. Several times he seemed about to crack and reveal something startling but caught himself just as he was to fall into a trap.
As each questioned was asked him Hyghcock repeated it slowly and after thinking a few seconds made answer.
"Hyghcock" Director Tempest began, "how many children have you?"
"Newspaper reporters printed stories that I have thirty-two children" the prisoner answered. "That is all wrong. I have thirty-seven children."
Five Wives, Says Hyghcock
"How many wives have you had?"
"Five" he answered.
"Two are living."
"Are you a bigamist?"
"Yes, I guess you would call me that. I don't know where my fourth wife is now."
"How long have you been married to this wife?"
"All your children living?"
"All but two."
"Where are the other thirty five?"
"Scattered all over."
"How many women have you killed in your time?"
During the questioning of his married life Hyghcock smiled continuously as he answered the questions.
The last question had the effect of an electric shock upon the prisoner.
"Come on, come on," Director Tempest said. "How many women have you killed?" This was one question that Hyghcock did not repeat.
Says He Bought Dead Bodies
"I never killed any women" he answered as he looked at the faces of those gathered around him.
"How many operations have you performed in that den of yours?"
I didn't perform any operations"
"How do you account for the finding of those bodies of these infants in the cellar?"
"I bought those babies from Dr. White on South Street in Philadelphia."
"You are lying, aren't you?"
"No sir" Hyghcock said, as he toyed with his hat.
"Tell the truth now. How many women died in that house of yours?"
"Who said I killed anybody?"
"We have the goods on you, so you might as well come clean. Your daughter has told us she saw you kill that light skinned colored woman when your wife was away. What did you kill that woman for?"
"My daughter say that? She must be wrong."
"Why should your daughter say you killed a woman if you did not? We know you shot that woman and your daughter saw you do it. Why should your daughter say such a thing if it were not true?"
Stumped by Daughter's Tale
Beads of perspiration broke out on the prisoner's face.
"I don't know" he answered.
"Didn't you take a woman's body out of that house not so long ago?"
"How many women have died in that house?"
"Only my daughter."
"Are you a physician?"
"Sorta of a physician."
"Why do you have the stethoscope in your home?"
"What kind of thing is that?"
"Are you a physician and well acquainted with surgical instruments?"
"Yes, sorta," Hyghcock said. The stress was beginning to tell on him.
"And you don't know what a stethoscope is? You are not a doctor, Hyghcock. You are a liar."
"Yes sir" he answered.
"Are you a regular minister?"
"Sorta. I'm an evangelist."
"What do you mean? I've been an evangelist since I was a child."
"Ever been arrested before?"
"Yes, in Philadelphia. Man I was with shot a woman with a baby in her arms."
"You did the shooting, didn't you?"
"But you shot the woman in your house on Liberty Street, didn't you?
"How many women do you keep at your house at one time?"
"Four or Five"
"You are lying now, aren't you?"
"How many women have you killed?"
"What do you know about the bloody hatchet we found in your cellar?"
"I don't know anything about it. Where did you find it?"
"We are asking the questions, you just answer them."
"Did you ever have a hatchet?"
"Yes, I lost it six months ago."
"How did the blood get on it?"
"I don't know."
"Why did you cement that vault?"
"The vault in your cellar that you just cemented a short time ago. You might as well come clean and tell us about what is hidden behind that cement wall because we are going to find it out."
Hyghcock shifted in his chair and the perspiration flowed in a stream from his forehead. He bit his lips.
"There is nothing much there" he said after thinking for fully a minute.
Walls Against Water
"What did you build it for?"
"To keep the water out."
"Why didn't you cement up the rest of the cellar?"
"I don't know."
"You know that we know you are lying, don't you?"
Hyghcock did not answer that question.
"Why did you dig out all those rooms in the cellar?"
"For church services."
"Did you use about 65 small rooms underground for church services?"
"In the room way back under the yard. That was he main church?"
"How can you take nine people and put them in 35 rooms?"
"I don't know"
"The why did you have so many rooms?"
"The people wanted them".
"Are you a regular minister?"
"Mr. Johnson in Newport News told me I could be a minister."
"What was that room where the crow was swinging on the board supposed to be?"
Noah's Ark Room
"That was the Noah's ark room. The bird was on the ark."
"What was the idea of having ropes to make the stuffed bird flap his wings?"
"That was part of the church service."
"How many women are you in love with?"
"I don't know. A lot are in love with me."
"Hyghcock, you have been performing illegal operations in that house of yours, and we have more than 100 letters from women that were sent to you. Those letters contain evidence that will be used against you. What have you to say about them? You read the letters, because they were open when we found them."
"Just what particular letters are you talking about?"
Director Tempest then went through some letters and mentioned the names and addresses of the senders. Many of them were from white women. To each letter called to his attention Hyghcock said:
"I just can't recall reading that letter."
"How about this letter from Ann Miller of Philadelphia telling you that she was thorough with you because you killed the man next door?"
"I don't remember seeing that letter."
"You are lying Hyghcock, and you had better come clean and tell the truth."
"Women Stuck on me"
Then letters containing endearing terms were read to him. Asked what he had to say about them, he answered:
"They are some of the women who are stuck on me."
"How many women are stuck on you? Are there as many as 100?"
"I don't think there are that many. I know women all over the country and they write to me."
What do women all over the country write to you for?"
"I guess they like me."
"I guess they do", Director Tempest said as he gazed at the prisoner, who averted his glances."
"Ever perform any operations on any of these women?"
"Then what do they write to you about?"
"I don't know."
"What is in that well under the board in the cellar?"
"Did you throw any bodies down there?"
"No sir, I ain't hid no bodies."
"Where did you bury the women who died in your house?"
"Nobody died there."
"Why did you go out late at night in your automobile with a shovel?"
"Who said so?"
"You did, didn't you?"
"I can't recall."
Says He Took Women Into Tunnels
"Just think for a minute"
"Nope, I can't recall."
"Did you take women into those underground rooms"
"Yes, I took them down to church services."
"Didn't take any men down there, did you?"
"How did you come to dig all those rooms?"
"I was looking for money."
"What do you mean?"
"When I first moved into the house I dug in the cellar one day and found $25.00"
"What has that got to do with the rooms?"
"Well, I kept on digging and found $300.00 more."
"Yes, go on".
"Go on where?"
"What gave you the idea for all of the rooms?"
"Well, when I moved into the house there were rooms directly under the XXXXX and I dug XXXX the back yard XXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX."
"For how long have you been live there?"
"Eight or ten years"
"Who dug that cellar with you?"
"A man by the name of ______ (Name withheld at the request of the police)."
"What did he do?"
Becomes Badly Mixed
"He helped me to make the room- the chapel."
"Did he help you get rid of the bodies?"
"Who did help you get rid of them?"
"Did it all yourself?"
"Did I do it all myself- yes, sir- no, sir."
"Well, what do you mean?"
"I mean I didn't do anything. I hid no bodies."
"What did you bury the hatchet for?"
"I didn't bury any hatchet"
"How did it happen the hatchet was covered with blood?"
"I don't know."
"What did you have those shovels and picks down in the cellar for?"
"To dig with."
"What is is this religious college you have up by Willow Grove?"
"Who told you about that?"
"You tell me about it now."
"I started a church up there."
"You built shacks and rented them to colored people for $30.00 a month and then charged them $10.00 a month extra. What was the extra $10.00 for?"
"It was for the Lord."
"What do you mean Lord Hyghcock?"
"No for the church."
Sold Willow Grove Settlement
"Do you still have the church settlement?"
"No, I sold it."
"Sold the church too?"
"Why did you tell your wife you would kill her if she went into the cellar of the house where all those rooms were?"
"Who said so"
"You did, didn't you?"
"I can't recall."
"When you would have a crowd of women in the rooms you would send our wife away, wouldn't you?"
"Speaking of illegal operations, do you know Miss....."
"Who ain't one of the women I operated on."
"Who are some of these women, then?"
"I ain't operated on any women?"
"Did you tell women to keep away from you?"
"Tell us about how you shot that woman and buried her body?"
"I ain't shot nobody"
"How did you kill her, with that hatchet?"
"Come on, tell us how you killed her?"
"I didn't kill any women."
"The woman just died in the house, oh?"
"How about the man who lived next door whom you said you killed?"
"I didn't kill anybody."
When Tempest finished, each of the police captains fired a barrage of questions at Hyghcock."
Several times under severe questioning by Captain Golden, Hyghcock became confused and gave evasive answers.
Turning to Captain Schregler, Director Tempest said:
"He's a liar, take him upstairs."
Mrs. Hyghcock Quizzed
Hyghcock was then taken up to the bureau for further questioning by detectives. His wife was quizzed in an adjoining room and when she was taken back to her cell, their seven year-old daughter, who told the police her father killed a woman in the house when she was questioned again repeated her version of the killing.
During the questioning of Hyghcock in the Detective Bureau, Commissioner Middleton came into the room. He sat with the detectives as they questioned the 71 year-old medicine man.
Where the Ropes Came From
A Broadway hardware merchant called at police headquarters today and told the police that he had been selling rope to Hyghcock for the past two years.
"He would come into the store and buy the rope in six foot lengths. He would also buy barn lanterns by the dozen. I often wondered what he intended to use them for but I never asked him."
The ceiling of the underground den was a cobweb of ropes, which operated through pulling and rang bells, opened doors, and made the raven in "Noah's Ark" flap his wings.
That Hyghcock contemplated more cement work, when discovered yesterday when the police found a load of sand in the front part of the cellar. In the afternoon a truck with fifteen bags of cement came to the Hyghcock house.
The driver, seeing the crowd, drove away, taking the cement with him.
Director Tempest sent a detail of police and firemen to destroy the maze of underground tunnels and "torture chambers" under the "voodoo" houses. The entire cellar of the two houses will be dug up to a depth of six feet in an effort to learn if any human bodies are buried there.
The 'voodoo palace" was raided early yesterday morning by a detail of police who arrested "Dr." H.H. Hyghcock, a 71 year-old "medicine man". When the police searched the house yesterday they discovered the bodies of two small infants hidden in one of the underground rooms.
County detectives who went on the case yesterday and city police are endeavoring to learn if any women were murdered in the house. The decision to tear out the thirty-five underground rooms came at a conference at police headquarters last night between Prosecutor Wescott, City Prosecutor Bernard Bertman, Director Tempest, and Chief Tatem.
Each of the officials declared that he believed a digging up of the cellar would reveal the finding of human bodies.
Will Do It Monday
'I am going to order a detail of firemen and policemen to the cellar of the two houses" Director Tempest said, "with instructions to tear out every one of those rooms in the cellar. After the cellar is cleared the policemen and firemen will dig up every foot of the cellar. I have some information which I cannot divulge that leads one to believe that our search will not be unsuccessful. It is not probable, however that the work of clearing up that underground "hotel" will be started before Monday."
"In my police experience I have never seen anything that compares with that underground voodoo den."
Hyghcock as questioned for several hours last night by detectives. He refused to make any statements, even when he was shown incriminating letters that were found in his home. The police seized more than 100 of the letters which were mailed from every state in the Union. Many will be used against the "physician" when he is placed on trial as they reveal he practiced medicine without a license.
The police place great stress upon the statement of Hyghcock's seven year-old daughter who told them that her father killed a woman in the house a week ago and buried her body. The child is being held in custody as a material witness as is the wife of the "medicine man".
Last night more than 5,0000 morbid curious people gathered at the Hyghcock house and stormed the doors seeking admittance to the underground passages. A detail o police inside the house fought back the crowd. A riot call was sounded at 9:00 o'clock and two details of police were rushed to the scene. The crowd was driven back and the street roped off. During the excitement the front door was smashed in by the crowd.
Today detectives are reading the large bale of letters found in the house. They also seized the prisoner's set of books, which show he received large sums of money from superstitious persons for "love and enemy" charms. The books contain the names and addresses of more than 1,000 of Hyghcock's customers.
Police said that although Hyghcock has only been a resident of this city for three years, he has amassed a small fortune and owns considerable property here and in Pennsylvania. They said that several years ago Hyghcock built a small chapel near Willow Grove. Around this chapel he erected 20 small frame houses. he rented them to colored folks who joined his religious sect and in addition to the rent paid him an assessment of $10 a month which he said he turned over to the Lord.
Three Years of Work
When Hyghcock was taken from his cell in police headquarters last night to be questioned he smiled as the cell doors clanged open. He was taken to detective headquarters and questioned, but refused to make any statement. he will be questioned again today.
The police said he must have spent nearly three years building the underground "chamber of horrors" So quietly did he work that none of his neighbors knew the spooky subway rooms existed. Most of the excavating was done between midnight and 3 o'clock in the morning.
Entering the house at 413 Liberty Street, a visitor sees a small counter and a candy show case. Arrayed on shelves behind the counter are bottles of pop and packages of cigarettes. Three feet away from the counter toward the kitchen is a door leading into a hallway three feet square. A winding flight of steps lead to the upper floors and a door in the hallway opens opens on to a narrow winding stairway into the cellar.
Secret Winding Passages
Once in the cellar the visitor finds himself in a small alley running toward the front of the house. In this alley are shelves filled with roots and herbs. The aisle turns at right angles to the right and one sees a large door upon which is printed "Noxvill". A heavy spring slams the door to. The visitor is then in complete darkness. In front of him is a winding, twisting passageway, barley three feet wide, Directly over his head are ropes running along the ceiling which control the opening and closing of doors and the ringing of bells.
To the right is a dark room. The rays of a flashlight thrown into the room reveals a stuffed bird resting on a swinging shelf. A pull on one of the many ropes causes the crow to flap his wings. Just ahead in the passageway, and to the right and left are three doors. Sleigh bells are fastened to each of the doors. The door to the right leads to a tunnel connecting with the house at 415 Liberty Street, next door. The other doors lead into other rooms and n the rooms are other doors leading into still other rooms.
Rooms Poorly Furnished
And so on down the entire length of the cellar.
In the rooms which are not more than four feet square there is very little furniture. The walls and partitions are made of packing box lumber covered with various pieces of wall paper, one shade bordering on the other. In each "den" a kerosene lantern, or lamp hung on ah hook. The air is stifling.
In the room known to the police as the "Graveyard" are three lanterns and several spades and picks lying on the dirt floor. The soil shows that it has recently been dug up.
Still following the dark passages the visitor find himself confronted with a door, with a glass panel in the bottom. A heavy spring makes the door hard to open, but a pull on one of the many strands of rope running along the ceiling and the door swings slowly open without the least effort. it is controlled in some mysterious manner by weights.
Hyghcock has undermined his entire back yard. Back under the yard runs the passageway with the dens turning off to the right or left. In one of the underground rooms a large clock instead of being placed high on the wall is fastened down near the ground. The clock was functioning yesterday but was four hours fast.
Tunnels Become Confusing
Now the passageways gets narrower and darker and the odor is sickening. Towards the extreme rear of the room is the "Sacrifice Chapel". This contains a baptismal bath, a large Bible, a XXXXX and a carriage wheel with various colored spokes. The wheel spins from an iron peg driven into the wall. Everywhere is seen patchwork carpenter work. A birds-eye view of the underground rooms reminds one of the futurist, or cubist, paintings. In one of the rooms the floors are covered with freshly laid cement. The police will endeavor to find if anything is buried underneath the flooring.
Just ahead is daylight. One finds a small hole in the roof where a chimney or a uphill coal stove extrudes into the yard. This follows another maze of doors. In several parts of the tunnel thick doors can be opened at the same time to form a triangle. Not twenty more feet down his dark passageway and a ladder leading upward is seen. It is a hastily constructed affair and the top rungs are covered with grips made of automobile tires.
A walk through the upper story of the two houses show that bedrooms have been partitioned off to make three rooms.
He Doted Bells
Overhead is the network of ropes operating on pulleys the XXXXX XX XXXX XXXX. In the underground rooms and tunnels, XXXX XXXXX and a door XXXX XXXX. XXXX XXXX will open or a bell will ring. Hyghcock just doted on bells. The largest bell is fastened to a door on the third floor. This one can be sounded from the rear room in the tunnel by means of the rope. Bells are everywhere. They range from baby bell rattles to large cow bells.
The rooms on the upper floors each contain beds. Yesterday they were in disorder. The bed clothing was scattered on the floor and the floors were strewn with papers, letters, books, and clothing. In a closet in a third story room was found two new dolls in a basin, glassware, phonograph records- everything imaginable. The rooms resembled "junk shops".
Yesterday the police spent most of their time searching for bloodstains on the floors and walls of the buildings. Trunks were forced open and those were found to contain soiled linens. The police questioned Hyghcock's seven year-old daughter.
"How many men did your father kill in here?" Patrolman Charley Naylor asked the girl?
Says "Pop" Killed Woman
"My Pop did not kill any men" the child answered, " but when my mother was in Washington to see my sister not long ago, a woman came to the house and started to fight with Pop. It was late at night. They fought terrible and they were in the big room in the front of the house. I saw them fighting and my Pop got a gun and shot the woman. Pop took her out in the automobile and buried her. He told me to keep quiet and said the woman was sick and died and he buried her in a cemetery.
The child was taken to police heads when she was again questioned by Director Tempest and Chief Tatem. The police tried to get her to change her story but she refused to do so and stuck to the narrative she first told in her home. Her mother was then arrested and detained as a material witness.
Persons living in the neighborhood said today that on two occasions they had seen Hyghcock place large bundles in the back of his car at night, place a shovel in the rear of the car and drive away.
The police have been unable to learn much so far about Hyghcock prior to coming to this city. They do know that he came here from Norfolk VA where he still claims to be in the undertaking business.
Strange Powders Sold
Hyghcock, the police said, manufactured powders and sold them to colored people as good luck chars. if a woman was unfriendly with another woman she went to Hyghcock and for $12 she received a small bottle of powder. This she sprinkled in front of her enemy and from then on "everything will suffer for the enemy because she would be pursued by evil spirits and her luck would be something terrible".
If a superstitious young man who "rolled the bones" as a pastime wanted to stage a winning streak, he would visit the medicine man. For $40.00 he would give the man with the gambling instinct a blue powder that he was supposed to rub on his hands just before it was his time to "roll". Powder to keep another woman from stealing one's husband went for $30.09. Hyghcock's records show. What the 9 cents was for is not known. IN one day, the police said, Hyghcock sold more than $190 worth of powder that originally cost about twenty cents.
The more serious charge against the prisoner is that he used the building for immoral purposes and for performing illegal operations.
Camden Courier * April 13, 1925
THROUGH MAIL BY 'VOODOO' MAN
Correspondence Indicates Conspiracies to Put Husbands and Wives 'Out of the Way'--
Police to Start Excavating Underground Maze of Caverns Today In search of Bodies
Police investigating the career of "Doctor" H.H. Hyghcock, the Liberty Street sorcerer, learned today that the "medicine man" ran a correspondence "murder college"
In letters found in the houses at 413-15 Liberty Street, used by Hyghcock as a church, it was learned that the seventy-one year-old Negro urged women to kill their husbands and gave them powder for that purpose. One woman pleaded with the medicine man to kill her husband "next month."
The police started to dig out the labyrinth of rooms underneath the two houses and when this is completed they will dig up every foot of the cellar in an effort to discover if any human bodies are buried beneath the floor. The police will also tear out a freshly cemented vault.
Hyghcock is being held without bail in the jail at police headquarters told the police that no bodies are in the house and that he never killed anyone.
Many Murders Scented
Chief Tatem said today that with the discovery of letters in the home of the "voodoo doctor" they are almost convinced that he is connected with numerous murders, directly or indirectly. The two "murder" letters were found in the Hyghcock house today by a Courier reporter and turned over at once to the police. They were found under a bureau in a room on the third floor of the house at 413 Liberty Street occupied by the wife of the medicine man who is being held as a material witness. The police said today that Mrs. Hyghcock was "in" on the scheme to "murder by mail".
"Students" Ask Aid
One of the letters beseeched the "doctor" to aid the writer in slaying a victim. It read:
November 27, 1923
This letter was registered and sent special delivery.
In another Hyghcock was asked to aid the writer in getting rid of a woman whose existence is evidently distasteful to her. She writes:
Route 1, Box 75, Egg Harbor
The police also learned that when Hyghcock was arrested in Philadelphia in October 1922 he bought his way out of jail for $100. He was arrested in connection with the shooting of a woman. The letter dealing with this fact and which was found in the house reads as follows:
I am respectfully yours,
Arrest of Woman Asked
The police immediately got into communication with the Atlantic City authorities when the letter by Etta Horsey to Hyghcock was handed over to them. They asked the Atlantic City authorities to arrest the woman and check up if her husband is dead. If he is dead his body will be exhumed. The woman will be charged with conspiracy to commit a murder. This charge will also be added to the long list of those now against the voodoo man.
Hyghcock was asked to explain the letter form the Atlantic City woman.
"So you found that letter in my house, eh?" was his only comment. "I don't remember reading it. I sorta have some idea about some letter from the woman."
"Do you know Etta Horsey?" he was asked.
"Never heard of her" Hyghcock answered.
The police said they had numerous letters in there possession which were written by the Horsey woman. They were all found in the prisoner's home.
Expects Freedom Soon
Among other things the police said that Hyghcock is the "biggest liar" they have ever encountered. Hyghcock said yesterday that he expects to be liberated shortly. As yet he does not know that his house has been searched from top to bottom. neither does he know that his wife and seven year-ol daughter are in custody.
They were arrested after the girl told police that several weeks ago her father killed a light-skinned colored woman in the Liberty Street house when her mother was in Washington. The police do not place much credence in the child's statements, however. The girl said that a woman called at their house and engaged in a fight with her father. The argument ended, she said, when her father shot and killed her and carried her body away in his automobile.
Thousands of persons went to the house Saturday afternoon, that night, and all day yesterday. a detail of police including a mounted man was necessary to keep the crowds moving. Persons seeking admission were told that he only way they could enter was to secure a permit from police headquarters. A large section of the crowd then rushed to police headquarters. More than 200 persons made application within two hours Saturday night. They were all refused.
Passes Are Stopped
So great became the crowd seeking permits to enter the house that Chief Tatem ordered a sign placed in front of the police station. The sign read:\
"No more passes issued for the voodoo house, 413 Liberty Street, until Tuesday".
Chief Tatem and Director Tempest said they expected to have a detail of firemen and police tear down the partitions of the 35 underground rooms and the roof of the "mystic maze" that extends into the back yard today. Then they will dig to learn if bodies are buried under the flooring.
Hyghcock, who is in a prison cell at police headquarters was grilled by detectives yesterday. Since his arrest several days ago the fakir has never taken off his overcoat., He told one of the turnkeys that the was afraid that some of the other prisoners might steal it. He occupies cell No. 30 alone.
Saturday night a Negro was arrested for disorderly conduct following a riot at Seventh and Sycamore streets.
They Had to Move Him
After being treated for a laceration of the head at the Cooper Hospital, he was placed in cell No. 21. For an hour he conversed with Hyghcock without knowing who Hyghcock was.
"What are you in here for?" he asked Hyghcock.
"I don't know," Hyghcock answered.
"Who are you?" the Negro asked.
"The Rev. Dr. Hyghcock," the man in Cell No. 30 answered back.
Then there was a scream. "Take me outa here. Take me outa here. I don't want to be near this witch doctor. He will put evil spirits around me."
The prisoner was moved.
|Camden Courier-Post * April 14, 1925|
|CAMDEN VOODOO MAN ONCE KEPT DEN IN
Police Learn Hyghcock Ran Another Underground Hotel Years Ago
DRIVEN OUT OF TOWN CAME TO PHILADELPHIA
Excavation of Cellar Here for Bodies Starts as Owner Gives Consent
MAYOR KING TO DIRECT
Armed with picks, axes, and shovels a detail of police and firemen started this afternoon to tear up the underground voodoo den of E.E.H. Hyghcock, 413-15 Liberty Street.
The police are searching to learn if the medicine man buried any human bodies in the cellar.
When the diggers stared to excavate the many rooms of the voodoo den, Director Tempest and Chief of Police Tatem were on the scene directing. One of the activities that will be tackled by police and firemen will be a freshly cemented vault under the house.
Ran Place In Norfolk
The police learned today that "Doctor" Hyghcock operated an underground voodoo den of many rooms, similar to the one recently discovered in this city, in Norfolk, Virginia.
The den in Norfolk was located at 350 Church Street. When the police raided this den Hyghcock fled and evaded several warrants that had been issued for him. The police said that the Negro medicine man had taken many white girls of Norfolk into his underground hotel.
The Norfolk house was owned by Joseph C. White. The owner was tipped off that the house was being used for immoral purposes and he complained to Chief of Police Thomas Downey.
Chief Downey sent Policeman T.J. Arrington to the house to arrest Hyghcock. The medicine man saw the policeman, fleeing out a rear door and failed to arrest hum. Hyghcock went to Philadelphia and about 10 years ago came to Camden.
Arrington, the policeman who was sent to arrest Hyghcock, is now living at 3154 Alabama Road in Camden. He is the only member of the Norfolk police department serving XX Years ago who is alive today.
The decision to excavate the voodoo den followed a conference this morning between police officials and City Counsel Howard M. Miller. The police started digging the cellar but after a few shovelfuls of dirt had been removed the work ceased because the consent of Walter Miller, the owner of the house had not been obtained. Miller is a druggist at Eighth and Mount Vernon Street.
Got Miller's Consent
Today Mr. Miller gave his consent for the police to dig up the cellar beneath the house and under the yard. Five minutes later, Chief Carter was instructed to have a detail of firemen at the voodoo den at 1 o'clock.
"I expect that the digging will require over a week" Inspector Tempest said today. "We will dig up every foot of the cellar and learn if any human bodies are there."
Mayor King announced at noon today that he would try to arrange his official business to be present at the "digging up" work.
February 2, 1931
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