Folklore - jumbie beads or devil beads.
Jumbie beads or devil beads is the name given to the red and black seeds known as abrus precatorius, jequirity bean or rosary pea.

Folklore: 13 Creepy tales in Trinidad and Tobago

Folklore stories have been passed on for generations in Trinidad and Tobago. When people come together and discuss the tales that their parents and grandparents told them, they have different versions.

There are many legends that are known to people in T&T. Some have the same stories about spirits known in other countries by a different name and some have the same names but carry different stories.

It is said that some folklore stories are told to children to protect them from peodophiles, kidnappers and wayward friends. The folklore tales that involve alluring women are told to keep married men faithful, while some stories help to protect persons from harmful plants and situations.

Also, weird behaviours of people and unusual situations are explained better with folklore stories. People blame spirits for crime, abuse and corruption in the country. If something cannot be logically explained, then it is easier to fault supernatural beings.

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Life in Trinidad and Tobago comes alive in the exciting, entertaining, comical, dramatic, thrilling, mysterious and suspenseful tales in Sweet TnT Short Stories. The novella consists of 34 fictional pieces written by authors from around the twin islands who share narratives with you under the sections Lifestyle, Superstition and Fauna. Created by Culturama Publishing Company, producer of Sweet TnT Magazine from San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago, this book is one of the publications that commemorates the 10th anniversary of the publisher from 2009-2019.

Protection from folklore characters

Most tales end with solutions to get rid of spirits. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is common to ward off spirits with salt, silver, cigarette smoke, holy water, cocoyea broom and verses from the Bible.

Other methods of keeping away folklore characters are sprinkling rice grains on your step, eating food while on the toilet, bathing in sweet oils for a specific period and sticking a needle in a cactus plant.

Here are 13 common folklore tales and characters with a brief note about them that have circulated the twin islands for years.

13 Common folklore tales

1. Churile

Churile is the spirit of a pregnant woman who died during childbirth. The spirit roams the earth in search of her baby and it mourns as loud as a woman in labour.

It is said that the screams sound similar to a cat howling or baby crying. She appears to her victims cuddling a foetus and attacks pregnant women causing miscarriages, stifles newborns and if her husband was abusive, he dies mysteriously.

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2. Douen

Douen is the spirit of a child damned to roam the earth because the child died and was never baptised. It plays a wooden flute, wears a loin cloth and straw hat, has no face and its feet are turn backward.

It frequents water course areas surrounded by trees such as rivers, streams and springs where they feed on raw fish. It hides near schools and listens for the names of children to be called.

It plays the flute to lure children into the forest, and if unsuccessful, it follows the child home. Children are advised to do something repulsive like eat food while on the toilet to upset the douen and turn it away.

3. Duppy

Duppy is the spirit of a person that roams the earth. Duppy also describes a malicious person.

An unborn child who died either because its mother had a miscarriage or an abortion is called a duppy baby. It appears to adults as a crying baby abandoned at the roadside. When the adult rescues the helpless newborn and cuddles it, the baby suddenly becomes heavy and embeds itself into the adult’s arms to ensure that it will never be forsaken again.

Persons are advised to sprinkle rice on their steps for the duppy to count each grain until sunrise.

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4. Jumbie

Jumbie is the spirit of a person that roams the earth. Like duppy, jumbie is a folklore character that describes a person who acts maliciously.

People who lie, cheat, steal, abuse and kill are referred to as jumbies because their actions seem to be inhuman. Jumbies are also known to come out at night and cause disturbance with loud noises that sound as though they are moving around furniture.

5. Moko jumbie

A Moko jumbie is said to be a God that protects his village as it foresees danger and evil. It is known to perform unbelievable acts such as rising from a regular man’s height to standing on stilts at 5 feet tall and then dancing around skilfully.

The guardian is a towering spirit that walks all the way from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean to Trinidad and Tobago. It travels to watch over the descendants of Africans who were brought to the islands during Slavery.

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6. Jumbie umbrella

Jumbie umbrella is said to be used by spirits to shelter from the rain. It appears after a night of heavy rainfall which is the time when a jumbie will need an umbrella.

The poisonous mushroom can be found growing wildly in the yards of locals. It comes in all shapes, sizes, colours, patterns and is generally shaped like an umbrella. The fact that it can kill you when eaten is a viable reason for it being referred to as a jumbie.

7. Jumbie beads or devil beads

Jumbie beads or devil beads is the name given to the red and black seeds known as abrus precatorius jequirity bean and rosary pea. It comes from the crab eye plant which has a woody vine.

The seeds are toxic and can kill humans and animals if eaten. They are used to make jewelry mainly to guard against jumbies and diseases. Children collect them along with tamarind seeds to make bean bags for throwing around.

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8. La diablesse

La diablesse is the spirit of a woman who preys on promiscuous men. She is attractive, wears a white long skirt and has one cow hoof in place of a human foot.

She appears late at night to tired or drunken men who walk the street alone after gambling or partying. She follows them and lures them into a nearby cemetery to perform sexual acts.

She kidnaps the men and supposedly kills them, but some have managed to escape her to tell their stories.

Women who steal boyfriends or husbands from other women in villages are often called a “la diablesse”.

9. Lugarhoo

Lugarhoo is the spirit of a man that walks the street between the hours of 12 am and 3 am. The lugarhoo totes a coffin on its shoulder with a long chain that drags along the road when he moves.

The lugarhoo is said to climb into bed with women and rape them in their sleep. This story is one that has provided an explanation for sleep paralysis for many years.

Men who stay out late at night are referred to as “lugarhoo” and those who seem tired during the day are asked if they were “dragging chain all night”.

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10. Soucouyant

Soucouyant is an old sinister woman who is usually suspected to be one who lives in a community. She sucks the blood of persons who do not consume much salt and leaves a blue or black mark on their leg.

At night, she comes out of her skin and leaves it home to search for victims to suck. She takes the form of a ball of fire and returns home to wear her skin.

A person can identify a soucouyant by sticking a needle into a cactus plant overnight. She will appear in human form the next morning and ask to borrow a needle.

The person can then go to the soucouyant’s home while she is out flying and lace her skin with salt. When she returns, she is unable to wear her skin and remains exposed. It is said that villagers put the skinless body of the soucouyant into a drum and seal it with tar.

11. Papa Bois

Papa Bois is the guardian of the forest that has the face of an old man with a beard of leaves, horns on his head, a muscular torso, and from waist down, the body of a deer.

Hunters chase him deep into the forest as he commonly transforms into a manicou. In T&T, the manicou is a popular catch when hunting wild meat.

When they fire gunshots behind him, the loud noise works as a signal for the animals to hide. Sometimes, he sounds a bull horn to warn the animals that hunters are nearby.

Also, he transforms into a man with cloven hooves and distracts the hunters with conversation. The story of Papa Bois usually explains why hunters go home without a catch or the reason for the occurrence of hunting accidents.

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12. Obeah man or woman

Obeah man or woman is a person who performs supernatural rituals to help or harm the living. They are well-known to many persons in a community.

He or she accepts payment of cash, goods or services in exchange for supernatural remedies. They claim to heal sickness, find love, break up relationships, hurt people, ward off spells, gain money, obtain a VISA, pass exams or win cases in court.

The rituals are usually conducted using hair, clothing, parchment paper, dough, beads, jewelry, oils, animals, plants, flowers, Bible verses, cocoyea brooms and water. It is common to see ceremonies performed by obeah men and women taking place at beaches and rivers.

13. Silk Cotton Tree

Silk Cotton trees are said to have jumbies, churile, lugarhoo, douen, duppy, and other spirits dwelling in the prominent roots. People are advised to steer clear of the silk cotton tree because bad things always happen to people there.

It is said that pirates would bury their treasure at the base of the tree and then kill the slave that buried it so that the slave’s spirit can guard the treasure.

It was also well-known that snakes slept under the tree and even laid their eggs there. The story explains why macajuel snakes are usually found under the silk cotton tree.

It is advised that you should never cut down a silk cotton tree. This would cause you to free the spirits to roam the earth.

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To sum up

These are just a few of the creepy folklore tales that have been passed on for generations in Trinidad and Tobago. If you have heard these but know of different versions, we would love to hear about them in the comments section. Check out more content that we share and feel free to click like and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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