Mystery of voodoo doll and masks found in historic New York mansion
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:49 PM on 8th March 2011
Auctioneers clearing out the attic in New York's historic Steinway Mansion have made a chilling find - a voodoo doll and creepy masks.
Antiques experts made the discovery deep in the fabled Astoria landmark, which was home to the Steinway piano family until the 1920s.
They are sorting through a vast array of items following the death of its last owner, Michael Halberian, in December.
Spooky: The box containing voodoo masks and a doll surrounded by rusty nails in a little coffin that was found in the attic of the Steinway Mansion in Queens
His children brought in auctioneer Michael Capo to sell the mansion's contents, including items left behind by the Steinway family. Mr Halberian had lived there for 82 years.
The property is now up for sale for $2.5 million.
Mr Capo said: 'We were clearing out the far reaches of the attic when we came across what looks like a late-19th-century wooden box or trunk.
'It was eerie. We broke the lock and inside we found five voodoo masks and a doll surrounded by rusty nails in a little coffin. I don't know if the masks are made out of wax, pigskin or even real skin.
For sale: The Steinway Mansion in Astoria, that is one the market for $2.5m, was named after former owners the Steinway family, famed makers of pianos
'This thing has some energy, and I am not sure that it's good energy.
'Everyone went silent. We are professionals, but nobody wants to go near this thing.
'Clearly, somebody used this in some sort of ceremony, because there's a mirror inside the lid so the image could be reflected to others in the room.
Battered: The box containing the masks and a doll was discovered buried deep at the back of the attic at the Steinway mansion
'The Halberians do not think one of their relatives would have owned this.
'I think it had been there since the late 19th century. It was hidden away in an area where the owner wouldn't necessarily go, so perhaps a member of the domestic staff kept it there.'
The 27-room house, packed with such objects as telescopes, barometers and old maps, was built by Benjamin T. Pike Jr in 1858. It sits right in the heart of Astoria's industrial district.
Grand entrance: The hallway of the mansion that was built in 1858
In 1873, Mr Pike's widow sold it to the Steinway family, which had begun moving its piano-making facilities to Astoria from Manhattan.
Tailor Jack Halberian bought the mansion at auction in the 1920s after the Steinways moved out.
Mr Capo is auctioning off the first lot on March 26.
Elegance: The house, in the heart of Astoria, Queens, has 27 rooms
'I don't know if we are going to sell the voodoo masks yet.
'I think we'll hold on to [them] and get some research done. There's a dark story here.'
The voodoo religion originates in the Caribbean country of Haiti and is based upon a merging of the beliefs and practices of West African peoples and Roman Catholicism. It was created by African slaves who were brought to Haiti in the 16th century.