Many older North Siders believe and will tell you, that “duppies,” or ghosts, used to roam the land long ago.
So popular were duppy sightings in days gone by, a turn in the road in the district was named in their honor. Duppy Turn is located on a quiet spot on North Side Road where there are hardly any homes or businesses – just bush and duppies, as one elder North Side resident recalls.
The sign erected on the spot states: “Duppy Turn came by its name for good reason. Many North Siders believe that pirates used to hide their treasure at the turn in the path, then killed local Caymanians and buried them to ‘mind’ their treasure. The ghosts of the Caymanians populated the turn and were often experienced, particularly by travelers on dark nights. Thus, we have this well-known North Side site of Duppy Turn.”
Long ago, Cayman did not have electricity and most homes were lit by candles and oil lamps, people went from house to house and district to district by the light of the moon through tiny winding sandy roads with lots of bush on each side, the perfect setting for a duppy sighting.
Some locals say they remember duppies roaming freely after the sun went down.
Old Man Bay resident Clinton Whittaker, 90, said he saw duppies lots of times and they were of no harm, only going about their business just like everyone else.
“All the new development in North Side, electric lights and traffic have frightened the duppies all away; we only dream about them these days,” he said with a chuckle.
“On my way to Christian Endeavor one Tuesday night, I had to pass Duppy Turn. I looked behind and saw a man dressed in a full suit coming in the back of me, I noticed he was not touching the ground … it was like he was drifting in the air,” he recounted.
“I kept on walking, and when I got to the church and looked back, the duppy had disappeared.”
If you felt a sudden breeze on the body, if a dog started howling in the middle of the night, that was the sign that “Duppy a wander.” If the lamp light flickered without a breeze, people would say, “Duppy wandering.”
“One night outside, I saw a man sitting on a wall. I came inside and asked mummy if she want to go see the a man sitting out on the wall. She came out with me … I looked all around but we did not see the man again,” said Mr. Whittaker.
On another occasion, after visiting his girlfriend one night in Hutland, Mr. Whittaker met a man on his way back to Old Man Bay.
“The man was walking towards me in the distance, and when he got close enough to say “hello,” the man just turned off in the pond and headed up into the highlands,” Mr. Whittaker said. “He just kept on walking.”
Later that night, he heard a man in the district by the name of Donald Chisholm had died.
“With Duppies, you don’t see their faces, just the bodies walking,” Mr. Whittaker said.
The same night he saw what he believes was the spirit of Mr. Chisholm, Mr. Whittaker said a neighbor also saw Mr. Chisholm look into her back door while she was twisting thatch.
“She said she was sitting in the house twisting strand when a man pushed his head inside the doorway, and she swore it was Donald Chisholm. She got up, looked outside but never saw a living soul. Mr. Chisholm died that night,” Mr. Whittaker said.
Another North Side resident, Allan Ray Whittaker, had a humorous tale to recount. He said one time he was told someone was coming from Hutland and a duppy was following him, so he ran. When he got to his house door, he heard the duppy panting and puffing behind him. According to him, he stopped, turned around and asked the duppy if he was tired. The duppy said he was heading back to his grave for the night, chasing was too much work.
According to Euralee Frederick in Bodden Town, duppies shook hands, lifted your dress, walked you home at night, jumped out of the bushes, sat with you and held a conversation, peeked around doors, and stuck their hands up from behind beds. 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 footsteps you cannot identify as your parents’, and your hair might just stand on end too.
“Duppies are real; I know because I have seen many in my day,” said Ms. Frederick.
Although she says she still gets visitations from duppies now and then, she claims that the amount of activity going on at all hours of the night has driven them away.
“With what is going on in Cayman; if I [were a] duppy, I’d hide too,” she said.