I’d been sitting on this particular post for just the right occasion. Well, Theodore Roosevelt’s home, Sagamore Hill just reopened after a $10 million dollar renovation project. What could be more appropriate than to share tales of blood-drinking orgies at this monument to our huntin’, shootin’, and rough-riding President?
HOLD WEIRD ORGIES
Blood Drinking Described as a Religious Rite in Oyster Bay.
[Oyster Bay Cor. New York press.]
Religious orgies in which the blood of sacrificial offerings is drunk and the warm flesh of lambs, rabbits and chickens is eaten raw, it is asserted by residents of this place, are being held nightly in the dense woods near Sagamore Hill, the home of President Roosevelt. The participants in these uncanny ceremonies, if rumors current here be true, are men and women who attire themselves in heathenish costume and congregate about a smoldering fire at midnight, waiting feverishly for hot lambs’ blood frappe and raw meat to be served. Constable Townsend, of this village has been looking for the blood-drinkers and raw-meat eaters for several days. His quest has been fruitless, because the red-minded religious enthusiasts do no meet twice in the same place, and the Constable cannot get any advance information in relation to their plans for the next night.
If farmers in this neighborhood had missed their lambs and chickens it might be asserted with plausibility that the midnight feasters are common, every-day thieves. No thefts of that sort have been reported to the Constable, however, and the more credulous of the villagers incline to the opinion that the blood-drinkers and raw-meat eaters have mysterious sources of supply.
Lambs have been heard bleating in the woods and the cackling of chickens also has been heard. Villagers who were so venturesome as to try to trace the sounds scurried for home, however, and, with wild eyes, told weird stories of having seen a smoldering fire surrounded by men and women in the garb of Egyptian priests and priestesses. Within the mystic circle a snow-white lamb or chicken struggled in the hands of a powerfully built priest, who, clad in immaculate white, wielded a long and glittering knife. There are persons here who take such stories with a grain of salt. On the other hand, scores of villagers says President Roosevelt ought to send a detail of Secret Service men here to assist Constable Townsend in rounding up the men and women who engage in the orgies.
One of those who asserts that he sneaked up close to the sacrificial fire in the woods and witnessed all the ceremonies of the strange sect is Hezekiah Hardenblatt, whose chin-whiskers worked up and down spasmodically to-day when he told the story.
“I was out on the road near Sagamore Hill last night when I head a lamb bleating in the woods,” he said. “Thinking it was astray, and that it might belong to the Roosevelts, I went into the woods. After proceeding a few hundred feet I heard low singing. That was strange, and I sneaked along and soon reached the edge of a small clearing. Just then a fire blazed up, and I saw standing around it a funny-looking gang of men and women. They were masked and wore robes which covered them from the neck down.
“Some of the robes were red and black, others red and yellow, and a few were blue and black. In the center, near the fire, was a tall man dressed in white. At his feet lay a lamb with its legs tied with a red ribbon. They all stood there, chanting a song that sounded something like ‘Hack-a-dor-summene-kor.’ That lasted until the fire had burned down.
“Then the tall man in white lifted the lamb above his head and marched around the circle with it. Each person touched its fleece as it passed. The tall man returned to the fire, pulled a big knife, slashed the lamb’s throat and held its neck over a copper urn that was near the fire. The blood was caught in that urn. Each of the men and women then walked over to the urn, dipped in something that looked like a copper cup and drank a cupful of blood. Then they grabbed hold of the lamb, tore it to pieces and ate it. There was more singing and I lit out for home.”
Constable Townsend, who has been rather skeptical about the blood-feasts, was informed to-night of this circumstantial recital by Hardenblatt.
“That’s all right,” he said with impressive seriousness. “but you’re a stranger here, and I guess you don’t know that Hezekiah is the biggest liar we have in the village. I’ve heard so many different stories about this thing that I’ve decided it’s time for President Roosevelt to propose Hezekiah and a dozen other prominent villagers, who have been making a lot of talk about blood-drinking and raw-meat eating recently, for honorary membership in the Ananias Club.”
Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 25 December 1908: p. 2
Suggesting membership in The Ananias Club, named for the early Christian donor who lied to the Apostle Peter and then dropped dead, was a polite way of calling out a liar or a teller of tall tales. The very name of the informant: Hezekiah Hardenblatt, is a dead giveaway that we are dealing with a Yankee rustic, notorious for leading strangers astray. I’m wondering what insider joke the chant “Hack-a-dor-summene-kor” invokes. Does anyone recognize it from some fraternal order or fraternity rite?
Given the many animal trophies throughout Sagamore Hill, mutely testifying to the proclivities of its naturalist owner, is this a satire on Roosevelt’s “blood-lust?” During the “Nature Faker” controversy, the President was accused of appreciating animals only if he could slaughter them. What is the point of a bizarre story like this that cites a local law enforcement officer? (Although we find find similar stories about supposed meetings of satanic cults in the news today.) What topical references are we missing?
My money’s on a subtle commentary about the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906.
If you have any idea about the subtext of this story (I refuse to be dogmatic and totally rule out a blood-drinking cult…) you’ll find me at a meeting of the Sapphira Ladies’ Auxiliary. chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.