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Vampire peacock memorial.

Vampire Peacock gets Memorial

On the morning of June 28, 2007, a peacock wandered into the parking lot of a Burger King on Staten Island in New York City. The workers were astonished, and walked outside to feed it bread. What happened next was even more astonishing. A homeless man appeared, grabbed the bird by the neck, threw it to the ground, and stomped it to death (he may have used a baseball bat as well). "I'm killing a vampire!" he cried, and then ran away.

Police caught the man four days later, but only after he had visited his stepfather, threatened to smash his face with a shovel, ran down the street and into the waters of Raritan Bay, and screamed that he had bubonic plague. He was identified as John Potts. His mother explained that he was a schizophrenic who actually loved animals, but who had also stopped taking his medicine. When the police asked him why he had killed the peacock, Potts replied, "It had negative energy. It came out of the darkness and I kicked it."

Face of the vampire peacock.

Four days later the story appeared in a small town newspaper read by Charles Johnson, a former Staten Island industrial arts teacher who had retired to Virginia in 1987. "I read about how one of the workers was distraught that everyone just stood around and allowed it to happen," he told us. "I've taken so much flack down here from people who don't like New Yorkers, and then this happened and I said, 'I have to correct the image of Staten Island'."

Thus inspired, Johnson created a replica of the peacock, life-size, out of a piece of an old elm tree. He hand-painted touches of iridescent plumage using nail polish supplied by one of his daughters, and festooned it with real feathers shed by peacocks on his property. He then went to a local trophy shop and told them, "I'm heading to New York and I want to get a plaque for a peacock." They made one, in gold letters, that reads: "Memorial to Burger King Peacock. Made and Donated by PRHS [Port Richmond High School] I.A. Retired Teacher CHARLES JOHNSON." It doesn't have a date. "I forgot that," Johnson said.

Johnson arrived in Staten Island along with family members and Tina Turner, his Chihuahua (Johnson raises Chihuahuas) and presented the statue to the Burger King on August 1. It will be displayed inside the restaurant -- a rare fast food memorial -- within a corner case that is still being built (The case will probably be installed by September, but visitors should call first to confirm.). "It just flowed in my hands," Johnson said of the peacock replica. "It's a beautiful example of my craftsmanship."


Burger King

Burger King. In the southernmost corner of New York State, just across the bridge from New Jersey. Hwy 440 exit 1, then south on Page Ave. for a half-mile. The Burger King is on the right, at the corner of Page Ave. and Amboy Rd.

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