Spooky traditions at National Trust

Although Halloween is not a
traditional Caymanian celebration, that doesn’t mean the island is short on
scary stories of its own.

Spooky Traditions, from 3-8pm on
Saturday, 23 October at the Dart Park on South Church Street, was created by
the National Trust for the Cayman Islands to raise awareness of authentic
Caymanian traditions and culture and to dispel the myths behind some of the
more amusing superstitions and beliefs.

The event promises to be a great
opportunity for family fun, with stories, refreshments for sale, and lots of

According to Denise Bodden,
historic programmes manager for the National Trust, Cayman has its share of
cultural icons that can set your knees to shaking and your heart to pounding —
like the May Cow and Moonshine Duppies (duppie being the Caymanian word for
ghost, of course).

“I was told by some that the May
Cow came out in May and scared the life out of people on the Brac with lots of
loud MOOOOing and the clanking of chains, while others say he was created by
farmers to prevent theft from their provision grounds. However, many still
believe it was real!” said Ms Bodden.

She said Moonshine Duppies
performed a similar function, warding off thieves from provision grounds, but
these are said to be a Grand Cayman creation.

“Moonshine Duppies were created by
taking sea glass and forming the human figure on the ground under fruit trees.
When the moonlight would shine on the glass, it created an eerie shimmer of
light,” said Ms Bodden.

To help bring these stories to life
for a younger generation, the evening will include a spooky walk through a
Caymanian back yard and cemetery, and finally into a creepy crawly cave,
featuring areas for owls, bats, spiders, centipedes and other creatures.

“We will be highlighting the
various kinds of duppies and creatures of the night like May Cows. It is easy
to see how the creation of these two creatures ensured well-behaved children
and honest neighbours,” said Ms Bodden,

She said local belief held that
when an owl passed over a house, it was a warning of death in the household.

“However, we all know this is
incorrect, as the amount of times just one owl passes over various houses at
night would clearly cause a serious decline in our population in just a week,”
she said.

Of course, bats also are associated
with many myths and misconceptions.

“The Caymanian words Rat Bat, while
culturally amusing, are technically very inaccurate. While both rats and bats
are mammals, the two are as different as cats and cows. In fact, Cayman has
only one native mammal – bats,” said Ms Bodden.

Speaking of bats, vampires and the
like, the Health Services Authority will also be in attendance, recruiting for
its blood donor programme.

“We thought it would be an
excellent opportunity to encourage the public to consider becoming blood
donors. While plasma, a component of blood, can last one year, whole blood
lasts only 35 days. Therefore, the need for fresh supplies is very evident,”
said Ms Bodden.

It is the mission of the National
Trust to preserve Caymanian traditions and culture, so Spooky Traditions is
more than just fun and games.

“Every culture has its spooky
characters and superstitions, and we certainly have our share in Cayman.
Sharing and giving to those in need is also a very important part of the
Caymanian way of life,” said Ms Bodden.


Cost for adults is $5; for children, $3. For information, call
749-1121 or email [email protected]


House-shaped graves are a distinctive fea-ture of Cayman’s old graveyards.
Photo: Denise Bodden, National Trust

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