Duppies are spirits said to come out and haunt people at night here in the Caribbean. As we approach Halloween, Caymanian Jewel Levy tells us her personal experiences with these strange and supernatural beings.
I don’t know if it was a duppy or what but when I was a little girl I saw something.
My duppy got my heart a pounding and my hair standing when he took a seat on the bed next to my head one night.
Not too long ago older folks believed in having lots of children. I do not know if it was to keep each other company or to have plenty help around the home.
But a lot of us packed into one room did not stop duppies from visiting.
In those days there was only lamp light and moonlight, and that was the perfect setting for a duppy visit.
Combine imagination with glowing ghostly shapes moving eerily on the bedroom wall, a gentle breeze scraping the branches of a tree against the house and a pair of footsteps that you cannot identify as your parents, your hair will stand on end too.
With these settings it is a surety that a duppy will turn up and pass the night away with you.
Let me get back to that great big hulk that sat down at the head of my bed one night.
The crinkling of that old plantain trash bed did nothing to soften the effect of the huge pasty white man dressed in a plaid shirt and khaki pants staring down at me.
I don’t know if this happens to everyone that sees a duppy, but my mouth opened and no words came. I silently screamed at the top of my lungs and tugged at the clothes of my sister sleeping next to me.
She was asleep, not knowing what was going on. Her first reaction was to strike out at what was pulling at her, the first punch landed in my guts and then I was rolling off the bed. All the while the duppy was silently watching all the action.
Ending up on the floor with one foot dangling dangerously down the well, situated in the centre of the room floor, of which I had accidently kicked off the cover, I scrambled to keep from falling in.
Scared out of my wits from the duppy’s silent stare and the idea of landing up in an 8 foot well did not sit well with my already shattered nerves.
By this time I was fully awake and when I screamed the second time I knew I was. The rest of my siblings started screaming too.
I pointed to the end of the bed where the duppy still sat watching all the action. By this time my parents heard all the commotion and hurried into the room.
Their first reaction was to count and call names to make sure everyone was accounted for.
Where did he go?
Seeing my parents standing in the doorway I took my eyes off the duppy to seek comfort in their presence and when I looked back he was gone. The next night an old man in the neighbourhood died.
Now long ago it was the traditional custom that the Webster United Church bell would toll for the dead. This was to let residents in the community know that someone had died.
But what was really nerve wracking was that it seemed like people only died after midnight in those days.
As children we were told not to worry about the ring, which shattered the deadly silence of night but to ignore the steady bong…. bong….. bong.
To me each bong signalled the footsteps of duppy coming.
Mark my word, before the tolling of that bell ended, duppies were making their presence known.
I know that Leviston Terry, who owned a little grocery store in the neighbourhood, visited me the night before his tolling. Maybe it was for all the mischief I created in his store or the day I pinched his Cracker Jacks from the store shelf or maybe it was just his way of saying goodbye.