Friday, 19 August 2011

Obeah Story

What would Carnival be without a dose of witchcraft and the supernatural? Here a story, told by Hersketh J. Bell, who spent many years in the British Colonial Service in the West Indies and was subsequently Governor of the island of Mauritius.

In the 1860s, a French priest came to Trinidad, where he had been sent by the Archbishop to take charge of a parish far in the interior of the island. There was no presbytery, and he had to make shift until he could build one. He moved into a small wooden house, of which one room was occupied by an old coloured woman, who lived there with a little girl.

This woman was looked on with a good deal of dread by the people, being supposed to possess knowledge of ëa good many unholy tricksí, as the French priest put it. It was confidently hoped that his near neighbourhood would do her good, and at all events induce the old woman to be seen now and then at church, which was a sign of respectability in those years.

When taking possession of his part of the house, the priest was shown her room, and noticed that is contained some really handsome pieces of the massive furniture so much esteemed by Creoles in those days. A tremendous family four-poster, with heavy, handsomely turned pillars, stood in one corner near a ponderous mahogany wardrobe, and various other bits of furniture pretty well filled the little room. The door of her apartment opened to the priestís room, which she had to pass through every time she went out of the house. This was an unpleasant arrangement, but was shortly to be remedied by having another door made in her room leading outside.

It was never to come to that, though. The night after the priest had taken possession, he heard a monotonous sound through the partition, as if someone crooning a sing-song chant. This continued for over an hour, and more than once he felt inclined to rap at the partition and beg the old dame to shut up her incantations, but it finally acted as a lullaby and he soon dropped asleep.

The next morning, having got up and dressed, he noticed that all was perfectly silent next door, and on listening attentively he failed to hear a sound. He feared something had gone wrong, but noticed that the door leading to his room had not been opened, as a chair he had placed against it was in precisely the same position as he had left it. He then knocked at her door several times, but obtained no answer; fearing an accident had happened, he opened the door, and as it swung back on its hinges he was astonished to see the room perfectly empty and evidently swept clean.

On examining the room carefully, he found it only had two small windows besides the door leading into his room. From that day to this neither he nor anyone living in that district have ever seen or heard anything of that woman or of her little girl. How she moved all her heavy furniture out of that little room, has ever remained an inexplicable mystery. One man could not even have moved the wardrobe alone, and even if the old woman had had strength enough to carry the furniture away, she never could have dragged it through the priest’s room without disturbing him! However, these are the facts of the case, and nobody has ever been able to explain them.

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