A trans woman from Arkansas has died after apparently taking part in a voodoo ritual.

Lucille Hamilton, 21, flew to Jersey on Friday to undergo a ritual that would remove her “spiritual grime”.

Friends said she was taking part in a ‘lave tet’ ceremony, which literally translated, means ‘head-washing’. It is thought to be a kind of baptism ceremony involving various herbs.

The website of voodoo priest Houngan Hector, who carried out the ritual, claims it “improves the ability for possession, clears the mind, clarifies abilities for seeing, and substantially improves the life.”

On Saturday night, police responded to a call from the house in Gloucester Township and Hamilton was pronounced dead at the scene. Seven other people in the house were taken to hospital as a precaution, although police would not say what treatment they received or whether they took part in the ritual.

Billie Miller, Hamilton’s boss at Arkansas Flag and Banner, told the Philadelphia Daily News: “I’m still trying to find a scenario that makes sense. She was very spiritual and beautiful. She was not there for some dark purpose. She wasn’t depressed; in fact, you couldn’t meet a more upbeat person.”

Hamilton, a devout Catholic, was not thought to be planning gender reassignment.

Police are awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination and toxicology tests. No charges have been filed yet.