Residents of this bucolic paradise of cornfields and broad woodlands feel cursed.

Since 1989, when a family of four was murdered, Dryden has been traumatized by episode after episode of horror.

The most recent tragedy involved two 16-year-old high school cheerleaders, best friends house-sitting for one of the girl's vacationing parents when they were abducted and killed, allegedly by a neighbor. Body parts were found strewn around a town some 30 miles away.

"It's surreal. It's like this really isn't happening. It can't," said Donald Trombley, the schools superintendent who has watched a wave of grief engulf his students and staff.

"It's like a curse or something," said Rick Pace, who lost two nephews in car accidents within the last year. "It isn't right. It seems like things no one deserves once in a lifetime have happened six times in six years in that small town."

Even Mayor Robert Day is unsettled by the protracted string of misfortune to befall his village of 2,000 residents, many of whom greet each other by first name.

"The folks that grew up here remember never locking their doors. Folks never locked their cars. They would even leave the keys in the car all the time," Day said. "It's not that way anymore."

The town sits on the southern tip of the Finger Lakes region's eastern reaches, spreading over nearly 100 square miles. With fewer than 14,000 residents, the region is an eclectic blend of farm families who can trace their roots back several generations and newcomers who work at one of the four colleges and universities in the area.

As best anyone can remember, Dryden's small-town soul became forever corrupted beginning with the gruesome execution-style murders of Dodie and Warren Harris and their two children three days before Christmas in 1989.

The couple, their 15-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son were each shot in the head and their bodies set afire by an intruder. He was shot to death by state troopers who raided his apartment six weeks later.

"We've been locking our doors ever since. Every door," said Faye Eck, who lives about a quarter-mile from the Harris home. "These terrible things just keep happening again and again. And we just keep repeating, This can't be happening here. This can't be happening here.' "

Tragedy struck again in the summer of 1993 when 26-year-old Scott Hume was stabbed to death in his girlfriend's apartment by her ex-boyfriend.

Five days after Christmas in 1994, popular high school football coach Stephen Starr was gunned down in his home while trying to protect his 17-year-old daughter from a deranged ex-boyfriend, upset over the couple's breakup. The boyfriend fled to a cemetery and killed himself.

Then last month, Robert Bergman, 29, was shot and killed at the car dealership where he worked. A co-worker was charged.

Jennifer Bolduc and Sarah Hajney, the cheerleaders, were among the mourners at a community service for Pace's nephew Scott, 17, a Dryden High School football player who was killed last month on his way home from practice.

Jennifer and Sarah were reported missing when they didn't show up for school on Oct. 4. They were declared dead Monday after searchers found body parts apparently belonging to them scattered across Otselic.

Authorities this weekend continued searching the heavy woods and sturdy overgrown shrubs in four central New York counties for the girls' remains. Police have not released any details about their abduction or slayings.

John Andrews, 31, who lived with his wife and son next door to the Hajney family, was held without bail on a first-degree kidnapping charge that presumes the victims died.

What troubles the mayor is that the suspect in each case was not an outsider. "We are talking about people who are our neighbors, our co-workers," said Day, who moved to Dryden from Cleveland in 1982. "For the nation as a whole, that may not be unusual. It is quite striking for this area."

Trombley has heard the talk about Dryden's curse and has tried to defuse it. The tragedies are unrelated, he said.

"There is absolutely no connection between any of them or anything that has happened. It has just really been a string of bad luck," he said. "These things always happened someplace else, but unfortunately they've been happening here." CAPTION: Message at McLean, N.Y., Volunteer Fire Department reflects sentiment for slain cheerleaders from nearby Dryden. CAPTION: Cheerleaders from Norwich, N.Y., leave Friday memorial service for victims.