They came from as far as the Netherlands and Canada, each plunking down hundreds of dollars to cleanse their minds for three days inside a cramped Camden County townhouse.
Six of the seven people who participated in voodoo high priest Hector Salva's three-day spiritual cleansing are probably back home now, having been attracted to South Jersey by the promise of the Haitian ritual.
The seventh participant, a 21-year-old male-to-female transgendered woman from Arkansas, died during the ritual at Salva's two-story house in Gloucester Township, police said.
The body of Lucille Hamilton - a youth counselor who also worked for a flag dealer and had planned to attend college in Little Rock, Ark., in the fall - was being flown to Memphis, Tenn., where an ambulance was to take her back home to Little Rock.
Her friends there say they want answers and an apology from Salva, who goes by the name "Houngan Hector" on his Gade Nou Leve Society Web site.
"I'm certain no one meant to hurt anyone, but she was in their care and there has to be some accountability," said Randi M. Romo, executive director of the Center for Artistic Revolution, a Little Rock-based nonprofit agency for which Hamilton worked as a youth counselor.
"They haven't even contacted her mother."
No one answered at the door of the Loch Lomond Drive townhouse yesterday, and Salva, who claims he was initiated as a senior priest in Haiti, did not respond to e-mails for comment.
Hamilton paid $621 to undergo the cleansing ritual, called Lave Tet. On Saturday night, someone phoned 9-1-1 from the home, and authorities found Hamilton dead at the scene.
An autopsy has been completed, but authorities are awaiting the results of a toxicology test before ruling on a cause and manner of death, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
The six others ranged in age from 25 to 50. Three are from New Jersey; the others came from Arizona, Canada and the Netherlands, Laughlin said.
All six, plus Salva, were treated and released at Virtua Hospital in Berlin Township, but authorities would not elaborate on what treatment they may have received.
No charges have been filed in the case, and authorities have not called the death suspicious or said whether drugs or alcohol were involved.
The Camden County Health Department found no violations at the townhouse yesterday. Gloucester Township's code-enforcement office also planned to visit.
Countywide Animal Control, a private company under contract with the county, removed several dead chickens from the house after Saturday night's incident, Laughlin said.
The sole surviving chicken, a Barred Rock hen, is now on a farm in Newfield, Gloucester County, according to Countywide owner James McCleery.
Romo said his organization is planning a memorial for Hamilton for Friday, the same day as her funeral. He said Hamilton was an "explorer" of religion and spirituality. He refuted the suggestion by some that she had traveled to South Jersey because she was struggling with her identity.
"Whether people were being mean, questioning her, or challenging her, she lived true to herself," he said. "I'm sure she had to be afraid sometimes. It's not easy, certainly not in Little Rock."
Hamilton was scheduled to start classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock next month, friends said.
Meanwhile, authorities said it was not the first time they had encountered dead animals in unusual circumstances in South Jersey.
McCleery and police said calls had been received earlier this year involving animals in Lindenwold, Camden County.
In the first case, a goat's head was found inside a recently dug grave in the Gates of Heaven cemetery on the White Horse Pike. Not long afterward, candles and dead birds were found at the doorstep of the Lindenwold police station.
Lindenwold Police Detective Chris Sherrer said police have not determined where the animals came from or why they were placed at either location.