TWO WOMEN WAGE EXTRAORDINARY FIGHT AGAINST THE OCCULT AND 'SATANISM' IN POSH N.Y. SUBURB
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation where satanic activity allegedly occurs
Two women are waging an extraordinary battle with school authorities who have allowed New Age philosophy, Eastern religions, and a demonic game to enter classrooms in an affluent suburb of New York City.
The women, Ceil DiNozzi, now of Delaware, and Mary Ann Di Bari, of Pound Ridge, are preparing to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court after an appeals court overturned a previous victory against the Westchester County school district in a battle that has widened to include evangelical groups and pitted them against local celebrities like actress Glenn Close in the suburb of Bedford.
The battle began in 1996 when DiNozzi and Di Bari learned that authorities were allowing students to play a new card activity game, Magic, The Gathering, at the local schools that DiNozzi's children and Di Bari's grandchildren attended. Based on strategy, the game is in the same genre as Dungeons and Dragons and features entities with names like Demonic Tutor, Stronghold, and Fallen Angel.
That led DiNozzi and Di Bari, a Manhattan attorney, to take a closer look at a number of school practices and what they found was startling: there were visits by a yogi who taught meditation, activities that involved Aztec gods like Quetzalcoatl and a Hindu deity named Lord Ganesha, a class on crystals, a lesson on Druid rituals, a tape with Tao Indian invocations, occult "worry" dolls, visits by a local psychic, and drums beat pagan-style to Mother Earth.
"I walked into the school one time and all the lights were off," says DiNozzi. "I thought there was a power failure. And then I heard over the entire public announcement system, `Close your eyes, go to a land you've never been to before...' They were hypnotizing the entire school body, all the kids, with a tape over the PA and no parent knew about it. I couldn't believe it!"
First the women battled the school district in Federal District Court -- where a verdict held that the Westchester County school district violated students' First Amendment rights to religious freedom by allowing schools to engage in such activities. But that decision was overturned on appeal last March -- prompting another round of battling that may one day reach America's highest court.
According to DiNozzi, who says her group is currently preparing legal papers, the school maintained that students were playing Magic before or after school as an extracurricular activity. "But it was filtering through the entire school day," says DiNozzi. "They were claiming at first that it was great to expand the children's vocabulary and then they said it was a 'math' game. The cards dealt with vampirism, insatiable bloodlust, blood-letting, wicca, sacrificing, pentagrams. It was going along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons, as part of 'enrichment' programs in the middle school and they were calling it 'math'!"
Di Bari adds her grand-daughter woke up one night after a nightmare in which she saw demonic eyes coming in her window as a result of exposure to one of the cards. In some cases it was reported that children were calling on demon-characters to take over their psyches. "They were swinging on ropes in the gymnasium pretending they were above a snake pit and calling to the 'master' to possess them," says DiBari. "They were obsessed by Magic, The Gathering. There were some into the vampirism of it and there were kids going into the restrooms cutting themselves on the wrists and ankles and sucking their blood. This is not about winning and losing. It's about enlightening people about what this stuff is and the horrendous curriculum."
The battle lines have widened and along with DiNozzi and DiBari, who are Catholic, is a group of evangelical Christians who recently riled Close by placing her name on a letter circulated to district residents. The group is battling with a faction that includes Close for control of the school board. Close has rallied support for the schools under the tenet of artistic and academic "freedom." An ultra-liberal group called People for the American Way has likewise taken the school district's side.
"We shook and our kids shook," says Di Bari referring to Magic. "In the game there was Demonic Tutor with a pentagram on him and black leather and many other cards with an upside-down sword and a swastika. There was a crucifix with a fat woman on it. There was a wizard parting the Red Sea. The worst was a card that depicted the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation and under it chillingly quoted Ecclesiastes 3:19: 'For the lot of man and of beast is one lot.' The card game was an initiation into satanism."
The school issue is only part of a wider problem that permeates an area steeped in both old Indian and Colonial occultism -- not far from "Sleepy Hollow," where legend has it that early settlers once summoned demonic entities. There has long been cult activity in the area, and according to Di Bari, David Berkowitz, the notorious "Son of Sam" killer, took part in local rituals.
The battle turned ugly when local game-players and satanists tried to halt DiNozzi. "We got life-threatening phone calls, death threats from Chicago and all over," says Ceil. "They came by and spray-painted our driveway with satanic symbols and '666' on my mailbox and all those fun things when you wake up in the morning and you find it on your driveway."
DiNozzi claims an area business had a occult rock at its entrance as a summon to other occultists to sacrifice, and she says a picnic shelter at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, a large parcel of public land nearby, was used for eerie cult activity. "On Thursday evenings they've been holding whatever rituals they're accustomed to doing, whether witchcraft or satanism," says DiNozzi. "Mary Ann went there with my husband and took photographs of the wax on the tables from the candles and they found a cat laying across the rock with no head and blood and inscriptions carved into the wood posts -- goat heads and things like that. The state troopers know of the activity. No one will go in there on Thursday nights, but there are constantly calls to check it out because there's screaming and hollering and they go in a day later and find the remains of animal carcasses and things like that."
Adds Mary Ann: "I saw a satanic altar. I saw an image of a demon -- it was like boards you would put up in a house, in three sections and it stood about seven-feet tall at one particular altar, and I saw two bags. One had bones in it -- animal bones, I presume, because I called the county and they never would give me any information. The other bag had altar cloth, bloody rags. There were carvings and inscriptions on the trees all around. There were circles. And there was a cave where they had beheaded animals -- not only tiny animals, but rather large animals like a deer. I was told there were also goats beheaded in the general Bedford area."
DiNozzi says her group, led by an attorney named Christopher Ferrara, is seeking to reopen the whole case. "When the Holy Spirit started troubling the kids to start telling us what was going on in the classrooms, we finally realized that, my God, they're just reading books on witchcraft every single day," says Ceil. "They had books in their classrooms on witchcraft, the kids were all reading witchcraft. There were about forty books on witchcraft in the elementary school." Ceil said at one point kids were brought to a graveyard to lay on the graves and rub the tombstones -- ostensibly to compare their size with how big people were in past times, but macabre nonetheless. And then there are the coincidences: Salem Road is a major route that runs through Bedford -- and the local phone exchange is 666.
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