Once thought relegated to campfire stories and bush legend, ritualistic killings are on the rise in Liberia. Some say the killings, in which bodies are stripped of various organs thought to contain power, are connected with the country's presidential election, which wrapped up last week. Some believe consuming specific body parts - the eyes, ears, throat, genitals or heart - confers special 'powers', and in a crowded field of 22 presidential hopefuls there was fear some supporters were taking things too far. 'Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't happen,' said Edward Dennis, a reporter who has written about ritualistic murders for The Analyst, a Monrovia-based newspaper. Thirteen bodies, with various organs or appendages missing, were discovered in a period of two weeks in the summer and bodies have turned up intermittently throughout the country over the past few months. Rumours of cannibalism are nothing new in Africa, where endless cliches spread the idea that in the darkest heart of the darkest continent lies an exotic kind of people who worship dark arts and demons with human sacrifice. Most Liberians resolutely refuse to talk about the reports of ritualistic murders, some fearing retribution from a mysterious society known as Poro, said to be linked to the killings. Others are simply unwilling to give credence to something they feel is just unfounded rumour that paints their country as backward. Yie Gbeimie, a midwife in the northern part of the West African country that borders Guinea, allows that ritualistic killings are happening in the area, but is reluctant to talk about the details. 'We hear rumours,' she says. 'It's going on.' An 18-year-old boy was lured out to the bush on a motorbike; when his body was discovered three weeks later, all his organs were missing. The boy's body was widely photographed and published in local newspapers, which don't shy away from gruesome pictures. Things became so bad, transitional president Charles Gyude Bryant issued a warning to his citizens and a reminder that involvement in ritualistic killings was punishable by death. The run-up to the country's first election appears to have intensified the ritualistic murders. Liberian politics has long featured cannibalistic elements. Prince Johnson, a rebel leader who was recently elected a senator, was caught on tape nibbling on the cut-off ear of former president Samuel Doe while interrogating him about Swiss bank accounts. Liberia last week held its first presidential and parliamentary polls since a 14-year civil war ended two years ago. It seems almost certain the presidential contest will go to a second-round run-off early next month between soccer star George Weah and former finance minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.