What you give out returns to you threefold. I knew that when I cursed
the land you stand upon, but at the time...I didn't think of the consequences.
You must understand the devastation I was feeling.
My people inhabited this land for an eternity before it was stolen from
us. Perhaps we were naive. We believed we would be sharing the land rather
than handing it over. For it wasn't ours to hand to someone else...so
The area you now know as South Astoria was once called Sunswick -- The
high woman's place. I believe there are a number of markets there now,
where the women of your tribes gather food. Some things never change.
I too frequented the area of Sunswick often. It wasn't a place of great
beauty...more of a swamp region really. But it abounded with with rare
medicinal herbs and, therefore, magic. My people always acknowledged the
spirit that resides within each plant, each flower. It is this essence
that we use in our work to heal the sick, appease the Gods and even banish
that which is evil. Evil...how quickly we judge what is evil. How often
is evil premeditated? Perhaps the truest evil is calculated, but often
it is ignorance, arrogance...anger that leads you there. For me it was
anger. In a split second of rage I committed an act of evil. And yes,
what I did impulsively may have echoed in Hell for decades...but surely
that one moment in time shouldn't define who I was...even if it has shaped
who I have
I, along with other tribal wise women, visited the swamp lands regularly.
They were necessary to our culture and we had the greatest respect for
them...as we did all the lands. When the white man arrived we had to adapt.
There were others to share the land now. We were given...certain...residual
rights. It was an agreement. We could continue to use the area to collect
the herbs we needed. This was no surprise to us. In our minds it was only
natural...we never conceived that it could be taken from us. Land was
not to give, take and own. It was to be respected...revered even. Definitely
Then came the day I arrived to gather and instead found my favorite terrain
had been destroyed. A tidal mill had been build, the area surrounding
it polluted. We had been fooled. Lied to. For me it was the final blow.
These people had already desecrated ancient burial grounds, throwing the
remains of our ancestors into the river. They had treated the land with
ignorance...and as I said before, that can often be interpreted as evil.
I raged, for the loss of the herbs, the spirits, the heart and soul of
a sacred place. I thought, if we can't have it, then no one else can either.
So I cursed the area. I cursed all those who lived near it yet refused
to respect it. I cursed that the swamp...so filled with life up until
then, would become a place of death and despair. And so...over time...it
Sunswick became a quagmire of quicksand and mud pools, tangled bogs and
foul stench. As the secrets of its plants were forgotten, a different
legend grew. Word spread. Those who enter it never return. And year by
year my curse became a reality.
Bodies were found throughout the 19th century. In 1852 a dead infant
was discovered, exposed in a cigar box. It's tiny face at peace, it's
fists clenched in balls of terror. The marshlands were a blessing for
young women who had been...less than restrained in their behavior. It
was also the perfect place to stash the corpses of those you had wronged.
Later, the East river became famous for corpses wearing cement shoes.
The swamps and murky ponds of Sunswick often swallowed similar secrets.
And occasionally they
spat them back out.
One time, two laborers noticed an object in the water. The tide was low
but the rough, wintry wind raised such heavy ruffles that it was difficult
for the men to determine whether the few fluttering tufts of hair they
saw were those of a man or a dog. They got the police, who, on closer
inspection, found it was indeed a man. They attempted to drag the body
from the water but it seemed stuck to the bottom. A coroner was summoned
and he and a group of villagers gradually pulled the corpse from the mud.
man...was about 45 years old, with a sandy complexion. His features were
wildly contorted and wrinkled as though he had died in agony. His face
and hands were badly eaten by fishes. The body was borne to the Sunswick
Hotel and there an inquest was held. The jury returned a verdict of death
by drowning, although many people continued to believe he was murdered.
Ultimately, I know it was my curse that killed him.
The curse began to rebound on me when I realized what I had done. The
agonizing deaths these locals were experiencing at the hands of my angry
jinx. But the worst was yet to come. A munitions manufacturer had rented
a building, probably because of its isolated location, and had recruited
about 30 girls and a few boys between the ages of 10 and 18. They were
all from poor Irish families and presumably from near-by Astoria. Their
job was to fill and pack cartridges with gun powder. Some distance off,
against the wall, was the powder magazine from which the children drew
Because of the intense January cold, the children kept a belly stove
alight in one corner of the little room. In some way a bit of the highly
combustible powder came in contact with the stove and the whole works
exploded with a roar that shook buildings and blew out windows for a mile
around and was audible even in Brooklyn. Fifteen children were blown to
pieces and the immediate area was strewn with limbs and flesh. Over 50,000
cartridges blew up. One projectile flew into a local mansion, and destroyed
a chandelier. A local hostess was giving a dinner when a severed hand
smashed through a window and landed on the table, in front of her horrified
This great swamplands of South Astoria remained until the opening of
the Queensborough Bridge made the area too valuable to ignore. In 1910,
intensive filling-in began. The swamps were drained, ponds filled in.
The land became what it is today.
With the passing of the swamp the curse had nowhere to go except home.
Return to sender. To me. And rightly so. I, who had lived in total harmony
with all living things, had caused untold pain to countless people. And
for that, there is a price to pay. I am condemned to eternally experience
the ugly sprawl my home has become. There is no peace for me. Evil always
returns home to those who are responsible for it. And that is the reality