"Spiritual acupuncture" against cops fails to save hoodoo-ing housing huckster from hoosegow


Ruben Hernandez, a former used car dealer from Downey, CA, was today sentenced to a dozen years in the klink for defrauding banks of about $4 million in home-buying fraud schemes. He was evidently someone who practiced a bastardized form of "applied magic" derived from West African traditions. The particular craft he practiced (reports say it included elements of Palo Mayombe) has become popular among Latin American drug dealers and criminals who wish to exact revenge upon enemies, or protect against prison time. At any rate, the guy's spells weren't very good. Snip from LA Times:

"Investigators went into one of the bedrooms, and it was a shrine with a cross and all kinds of skeletons and stuff," said Eugene Hanrahan, a deputy L.A. County district attorney. "The star attractions were these three effigy dolls dunked upside down in this brown liquid. One of them had my name, and the other two had the names of investigators."

Each doll had pins in its eyes, he said. Attached to the dolls was the case number in the criminal charges. Hanrahan said that inside the home on Thorndike Road investigators also found their names wrapped around a baseball bat.

(...) The prosecutor said Hernandez later admitted creating the dolls of his enemies but claimed the "pins were a form of spiritual acupuncture" to make them see that he was a good man.

With the trial finally over, Hanrahan said it's safe to report the apparent spells did not work. But he wasn't always that sure.

"Around the time of the preliminary hearing my left foot swelled up. It became very painful.... But it later fixed itself," said Hanrahan. "I didn't think about it at the time, until we discovered the shrine."

Those familiar with vodun and all her offshoots will see familiar elements in Hernandez' shrine, above, photographed by investigators. That one red, black, and white carved figure looks like a manifestation of Eshu-Eleggua, with the burnt cigars and cigarettes as offerings nearby. I see other elements in the photos that look like they belong to Ogun and Ochossi, and I'm going to guess that the image above was shot just behind the primary entrance to Hernandez' home (or altar room), as shrines for these three deities are generally placed near doors/entranceways.

Just as some crazy people use Christianity to justify crimes, other wackos pick and choose elements from Afro-diaspora traditions, and apply them to whatever sociopathic behavior suits them. Don't take away from this story that the ancestral traditions of West Africa are all about crackheads, fraudsters, or dunking needled dolls upside down in poo-water to smite motherfuckers.

Man tried voodoo, black magic against prosecutor and investigators, authorities allege (Los Angeles Times)


  1. Unfortunately, those sorts of spells only work against people who believe in their efficacy.

      1. This stuff doesn’t work on me, but I know folks who study it. It’s a fascinating cultural thing. Mind over matter and all that.

    1. Unfortunately, those sorts of spells only work against people who believe in their efficacy.


    1. Yeah, ya got me. I’ve seen a lot of vodun altars, including many in West Africa where the tradition originated. None of them included lavender-maned “My Little Pony” dolls. Then again, to my knowledge, none of them were maintained by used car dealers slash mortgage fraud artists.

  2. Why is he lying about his intent?

    He could just say “They are representations of you that I am trying to murder to bring about your own untimely death. I am all mystical and shit and you gonna die. Ain’t no law against poking my My Little Pony to try and kill you!”

    Really, why lie?

  3. Re: “The prosecutor said Hernandez later admitted creating the dolls of his enemies but claimed the “pins were a form of spiritual acupuncture” to make them see that he was a good man”…

    LOL at this – does it matter? Why make excuses – it’s not like making a voodoo doll is a crime. Or is it? If so, there are an awful lot of people praying for bad things that need to be put behind bars.

  4. I don’t know which is more disturbing. That drug kingpins are using voodoo against our law enforcement agents or that my daughter’s Wonderbread sandwich container, like the one pictured in the upper right hand corner, makes for a handy vessel to conjure up black magic from the underworld.

  5. A number of inaccuracies in this post. If this *were* Palo Mayombe, this tradition (as well as Palo Monte, and other religious formations called “reglas de Congo” in Cuba) is Central African in origin. Hoodoo is something else entirely–not a ‘catch-all’ term for ‘witchcraft,’ but its own healing tradition, also termed ‘conjure’ or ‘rootwork,’ crystallizing in the American South prior to abolition.

    Although the cauldrons seem to be associated with Ogun and Ochosi in the Lucumi tradition (also known as Santeria), the “one red, black, and white carved figure” is probably a cast plaster statue often sold in botanicas to represent a Congo or “old slave” “spirit guide” for practitioners of Espiritismo (Spiritism).

    And none of these traditions endorse the type of do-it-yourself sorcery that was attributed to the suspect.

    1. A number of inaccuracies in this post.

      I’m unclear how your ‘ is probably’ is more accurate than Xeni’s ‘looks like’.

      And none of these traditions endorse the type of do-it-yourself sorcery that was attributed to the suspect.

      Did you read the last paragraph of the post?

    2. Um, “Prof,”

      A) Did you read the entire post? Doesn’t sound like it. Are you copypasting wikipedia here in an attempt to sound more knowledgeable than thou?

      B) I’m not an initiate of whatever specific tradition this man was following a derivative of, but: that male figure is dressed in the colors of Eshu-Ellegua for a reason.

      C) Give me a break. You’re trying to tell me some people don’t go into botanicas looking for hechiceria helpers, to punish a cheating man, get a lover, kill a cop, make some money, other earthly (or illegal) desires? Just as Christianity is contorted and abused in some followers’ attempts to fill personal wants, so, too, are these traditions.

      No, Vodun by her many names isn’t about killing cops. I stated this clearly in the post. But a million bags of witching powders and “yo domino a mi hombre” candles wouldn’t be sold if these petty bastardizations of more noble traditions didn’t exist in the Americas (and, yes, back in Africa also).

      It doesn’t denigrate the root tradition to acknowledge an unpleasant element of reality.

  6. It’s actually kind of amusing that someone would dedicate all this effort and energy to something so obviously ridiculous. As if inanimate objects, words, and ritualized actions can somehow cause gods or spirits to intercede in worldly affairs on your behalf. It’s completely absurd; who would ever believe such a thing?

  7. All joking aside, of course, this article raises a somewhat interesting question to which I do not know the answer, nor do I really have any good idea how to go about finding out: “What is the standard of ‘plausibility’ for attempted murder?”

    If I, say, adhere to some obscure flavor of sympathetic magic, and think that I can kill you by certain rituals, which I attempt, have I committed “attempted murder”? Is my belief in the efficacy of my attempt enough? Would it be enough if the two of us were both adherents of this peculiar little sect, and both you and I believed in the efficacy of my attempt?

    What if a third party, who thought this flavor of superstition to be absurd, decided to demonstrate its absurdity by performing the ritual against me? Would that qualify? Would it qualify if I believed that an attempt had been made?

    What if belief in the efficacy of that ritual were quite common within society(say about as common as Protestantism, with 20 or 30 percent hardcore enthusiasts, and a much larger fringe of people who will say ‘yes’ if asked?)

    Would prosecuting someone for an attempt at murder by religious/magical means constitute an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the state?

    1. Certainly societies make cultural beliefs part of the legal system. I was going to say that the American government does not currently recognize sympathetic magic, but I believe homeopathy is a recognized medical practice.

    2. Waitwaitwait. This guy’s just being charged with fraud, right? And the story is an “isn’t that strange” sort of thing, that he was also trying to hex the prosecution? No one here’s seriously arguing that any kind of spiritual hokum is or should be illegal, right? Because ya’ll seem to be taking this awful seriously.

      1. I don’t really take the incident that seriously, people’s bullshit magical thinking isn’t really my problem. I just thought it raised interesting questions about what actually constitutes the “attempted” in “attempted murder”.

        Obviously, this guy’s brand of mumbo-jumbo is harmless; but it is presumably attempted in the good-faith belief that it isn’t harmless. Firing on somebody, and missing, is also harmless; but is definitely criminal.

        My question was “does an attempt have to be ‘plausible'(and in whose estimation) for that attempt to qualify for the purposes of “attempted murder?”(or any similar attempt-based crime).

        1. “I don’t really take the incident that seriously, people’s bullshit magical thinking isn’t really my problem. I just thought it raised interesting questions about what actually constitutes the “attempted” in “attempted murder”.

          A good question! Is “intent” enough, even if ‘method’ isn’t enough?

  8. Perhaps this ‘Voodoo’ can be used to fight back against those annoying Nigerian spammers. Sending a reply with a powerful hex would freakout some of them.

  9. @#14,

    oh yes it does work… just not in a Harry Potter kind of way… very few fireworks, certainly no dragons…

    This guy was probably an amateur toolbag, or his spirits were weak, or he pissed them off, or they found his reasons for working with them to be as sleazy as the rest of us do…

  10. Xeni nailed it on the head with “petty bastardizations.” Ultimately, the symbols used are irrelevant – what is relevant is the association that one creates in them. The type of magic that requires belief of those it’s being worked upon, as well as requiring specific (if not necessarily codified) imagery and symbolism is contagious magic.

    Apologies in advance – my knowledge of this is rusty, but I’m attempting to explain it to the best of my recollection.

    For instance (and I’m completely making this up right now), let’s say I leave a butter knife on your doorstep and you find it when you wake up in the morning. Maybe it means that you’ll have an altercation and be weaker than your opponent; maybe it’s symbolic of a knife and you’re going to get stabbed, maybe you’re going to run out of butter. It’s really just the same thing as psyching somebody out, saying “don’t choke” when you know that it’ll get into their head.

    At the same time, that can also work positively. I can leave a shiny penny on your doorstep and it could mean that you’ll be prosperous or that it’ll be sunny out or maybe just that you’ll have a good day.

    Point being, the specific things in this dude’s apartment are ultimately irrelevant. What’s relevant was that he was attempting to use them for sympathetic magic.

  11. Why would he have lied about his intent? Hexing probably can’t be treated as attempted murder or attempted battery, but, in most jurisdictions, at sentencing a court can consider all kinds of things that aren’t relevant to a conviction. If the State persuades the court that the guy was seriously trying to injure the investigators, the court may decide that that shows that he was dangerous or has low rehabilitative potential and so go toward the long end of the whatever the sentencing range.


  12. the reason this stuff doesn’t work better is that you are ‘protected’ by christian magick. for now.

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