by Linda Godfrey, www.weirdmichigan.com
In his book, Negro Folktales in Michigan, Richard Dorson tells the tale of the African-American “hoodoo” man who was asked by a Muskegon family to help catch the thief who had raided their woodpile the previous night, and then had the nerve to relieve his bowels copiously on the same spot. The hoodoo man, or person with supernatural gifts, stuck a long nail into the pile left by the thief, then drove the fouled nail into a nearby tree. He told the family that the man’s intestines would remain inactive as long as the nail stayed put.
Sure enough, after several days had passed, word came that there was a man at the local hospital who was severely “backed up.” The family, relenting, resolved to pull out the nail. But during that time, the tree had been felled by the local conservation department due to diseased bark. With no way to remove the nail, the bowel-bedeviled wood-napper was doomed to a painful death. It seems that sometimes things just don’t come out in the end.
The book also details the legendary method of becoming a hoodoo. The instructions were to “throw nine grains of corn in the creek before sunrise; then go back the ninth morning and wish your soul was as far in hell as the water was that hit the grains of corn.” This wish, the man was assured, would bring the devil to welcome his newest apprentice and commence the hoodoo lessons, including “how to make poison, and how to make people crazy.”
Linda S. Godfrey, author of that amazing compendium of the unexplained Weird Michigan. The last Wednesday of every month is a “Weird Wednesday” on Absolute Michigan, so be sure to stay tuned and send us or Linda your Michigan weirdness.