Looking at the newspaper articles about Dr. Hyghcock, we have the advantage of looking at this from the perspective of today, instead of “as it was happening.” Dr. Hyghcock, the self-proclaimed “Voodoo Doctor” apparently received a lot of press attention, and was arrested and/or investigated periodically for the rest of his life after the April 1925 incident described below. With the possible exception of the 1935 charges for operating a moonshine still, he apparently was never convicted of anything.
Dr. Hyghcock claimed in 1925 to be 71, in 1931 to be 82, and his obituary in the 1940s stated he was 83. He also claimed 5 marriages and as many as 45 children, although only one has been documented. Even his name is a bit of a mystery, as it has been reported as Reyonquew Hygh, Reyquew, Pepsew, Eryquew C.H., and Ebinger H.H. Hyghcock.
According to the Polk’s Directories, Bell Telephone directories, and the 1920 federal census, Reyquew Hygh was born in Kentucky in 1860. His wife Estelle was born in Texas in 1881. They were living in Pennsylvania when (according to the 1920 census) daughter Rosella was born in 1917, and moved to Camden NJ shortly thereafter. Newspaper accounts also link him to Newport News and Norfolk VA; he well may have been living there prior to coming to Camden.
Another daughter, Ruth, was born in 1919, sadly, she died while still a small child. At the time of the 1920 census, a Reyquew Hygh was renting the home at 413 Liberty Street, and working as a hod carrier. At some point during this time or shortly thereafter, he began using the name Hyghcock, and purchased the property at 413-415 Liberty Street. The Polk’s Directories for 1918-1919, 1920, 1922, 1923, and 1924-25 list him as Reyonquew Hygh. It may also be noted that a Benjamin Brown was boarding with the Hygh family at the time of the 1920 census.
Dr. Hyghcock was arrested, and spent a week or so in jail before being released in April of 1925. He had business cards for activities as an undertaker, preacher, doctor, and real estate agent in his possession. Local authorities searched his house, dug up his tunnels, and although bones and other “voodoo artifacts” were found, none of them were human, and there was no evidence of any crimes for the Doctor to be charged with. Nevertheless, Camden was “too hot” for him, and after the 1925 incident, he moved to Philadelphia, and rented the 413 Liberty Street house out, returning to Camden in the mid 1930s.
In 1928 a Reverend A.W. Brown was occupying 413 Liberty Street. In 1929 413 was vacant, according to the Polk’s Directory, but 415 was occupied by Hiram M. Brown and his wife Julia. Hiram Brown was in business, and went as “Eureka the Painter.” Brown was also at 415 Liberty Street in 1931. A Catino Cavallaro rented 413 Liberty Street in the 1931 Polk’s Directory. By 1940 Dr. Hyghcock was at 413 Liberty Street, and his daughter Rosella was at 415 Liberty Street.
Dr. Hyghcock took ill and passed away after being a patient at the County Hospital at Lakeland, in Gloucester Township NJ, on May 13, 1942. According to the funeral notice, his age was 83, and that may be close to the truth in the matter, it is somewhat consistent with the census information. Services were held at the funeral home of Franklin T. Walker and Son, at 743 Chestnut Street in Camden NJ, and he was buried at Mount Peace Cemetery on the White Horse Pike in Lawnside NJ on May 18, 1942.
His wife Estella and daughter Rosella survived him, and remained at the 413 Liberty Street address in Camden into 1961. Rosella Hyghcock then apparently moved, eventually settling in Willingboro NJ.
Looking back at the Doctor and his activities, it is possible that he was pulling society’s collective leg, and had quite a good time doing it. At age 59 or 60, documents report that he was working as a hod carrier. A hod carrier totes a hod, a vee-shaped trough carried over the shoulder for transporting bricks and mortar, to supply bricklayers with materials so that they can keep working. This would be very physical work for a man of his age, and with a wife and two very young children at home, in the days before Social Security, Dr. Hyghcock apparently found another line of work to support his family. Without a doubt he was one of the more colorful characters to live in Camden in his time.
Politically active, Arthur Colsey served on City Council from the Second Ward from 1907 to 1911, as well as serving in the Camden Police Dept, eventually serving as Chief.
George S. Tempest was hired by Camden to run the police and fire departments during the Roaring Twenties and related criminal activity.
“Doctor” Hyghcock was a “voodoo doctor” and, independent of any police investigations, was a colorful character for Camden, NJ.
Dr. Eryquew C. H. Hyghcock, South Camden mystery man and self-styled voodoo exponent, died Wednesday in the county hospital at Lakeland.
Doctor Reyouque Hyghcock, known for his “House of Terror” was charged with having a loaded revolver and driving without a license.
Old Doc Hyghcock comes back into the news, wearing hip boots and a high hat. The hip boots and the high hat and the crazy old car he drove are funny.