Five Men Charged
After Claiming
'Supernatural' Encounter
By Christine Dempsey
The Hartford Courant-Connecticut News
Five young men dressed as Ninja warriors who said they were frightened by demons knocked on a pastor's door at 2 a.m. and wound up being arrested.
They said they had gone to Devil's Hopyard State Park in East Haddam late Wednesday to practice martial arts when they encountered the unearthly enemy.
The men hopped into a car - weapons, masks and all - and drove straight to the Manchester home of a church pastor whose wife, also frightened, called police.
The five, Jeremy Sander, 19, of Ellington; Shaun Cyr, 18 of Newington; Todd Silber, 23, and Paul Poniatowski, 18, both of Vernon; and Joseph Robinson, 18, of East Hartford; said they came out of the woods early Thursday morning panicked by what they saw and heard.
One of the men acknowleged that most will find their story hard to believe.
``We're going to be outcasts,'' Silber said.
After a martial arts class in Tolland, they went to Devil's Hopyard for more practice, they said. The men have varying degrees of martial arts certification in kenpo karate and ninjitsu. They said they chose the park because of the open space and trees that are perfect for practicing stealth Ninja maneuvers, Silber said Friday. They swung baseball bats through the air to build their muscles, they said.
Poniatowski said he suddenly heard his name being called in whispers.
He said he heard ``Paul . . . Paul . . . Leave now or you'll join us forever.''
At least one of his friends reported hearing it, too. Unnerved by the sound, they decided to leave.
On the way out, Silber said, he heard laughter.
Robinson said he saw a beast-like demon sitting on a fence, although he couldn't describe it in detail. Poniatowski said he saw a shadow with a jagged edge.
Silber said he was thrown into the air and into a tree. He later found four slash marks on his pants, he said.
Whatever Cyr saw, it was so frightening, he's not talking about it, the men said.
At Cyr's request, Sander drove the group to Manchester, to the home of Cyr's pastor, the Rev. David W. Bowser Sr. of the Church of the Nazarene of Manchester. At 2 a.m., Cyr and Silber banged on the front door while their friends waited in the car with a 38-inch samurai sword, three knives, a club, four bats, dark-colored clothing and masks, authorities said. The men said they had used the sword and knives while practicing earlier in Tolland with a martial arts instructor.
``We just wanted to talk to the pastor because Shaun was pretty spooked,'' Robinson said.
They weren't wearing Ninja-style masks when they went to the door, Robinson said. But the Bowsers called the police anyway.
Officer Scott Ventura found an ``uncomfortable'' Bowser standing at the front door with Cyr and Silber, he wrote in his report. Cyr and Silber could not furnish formal identification, then Cyr refused to cooperate and briefly struggled with Ventura, police said. Silber tried to get in the middle of the struggle, police said. Ventura found a knife clipped to Cyr's front pocket, police said.
Cyr then collapsed because of what his friends said was diabetes- related shock.
Police arrested all five men. It was back at the police station that officers heard the ghost story. They reported finding no evidence the men had been using drugs or alcohol.
Each was charged with breach of peace and carrying dangerous weapons. Sander was also charged with having weapons in a motor vehicle, and Cyr and Silber were charged with interfering with police. Each was released on a $1,000 bond and was scheduled to appear in Manchester Superior Court Nov. 17.
Robinson said Cyr later told him he tried to get away from Ventura because the officer looked like the demon he had seen in the Hopyard.
Silber said he planned to return to the state park in the daylight to look for signs that the park is haunted.
What about a nighttime return?
``Forget that,'' Silber said. ``I'm never going up there again.''