Olton Road in Manzanilla, rainy, wet, lonely, trees, grey sky, for article Folklore in Sweet T&T, Sweet TnT, Trinidad and Tobago, Trini, vacation, travel

Terrible Dream or Folklore?

By Marc Algernon. “This was one of those nights where nothing seems to go right. Out of the dark comes a horrible scream, this must be a terrible dream.

I just love long Sunday drives and returning home late at night

But I must have made a wrong turn, the narrowing road is cause for concern

The trees hung low to the road, and my gas light started to glow

This was one of those nights where nothing seems to go right

Out of the dark comes a horrible scream, this must be a bad dream

My heart asks me if we’re gonna die, my mind shouts, “For God’s sake DRIVE!”

A woman and child block my path, the white of her eyes stops my heart

It’s a Churile for sure, what I always thought was folklore

My brakes let out a violent screech, but now she sits in my back seat

I opened the door and started to run, then I heard the beat of horrible drums

I am swallowed up by the wicked night as my eyes are filled with the evilest sights

The truth is if you don’t believe me, then come to the land of Silk Cotton Trees

There was a giant black dog eating a goat, I tried to scream but the noise would not leave my throat

Over there on my left in a long scarlet dress was a La Diablesse with her hands outstretched

And over there on my right, was a Lagahoo in plain sight, no yampee in my eye

And if not to appear too soon, a giant ball of fire filled the moon

Moko Jumbies dripping black, Bucks are sitting back

I took off in a desperate run, the ball of fire swooped overhead for fun

This road must have an end to this hell, all of a sudden I tripped and fell

Down I went to the muddy ground, the sound of the drums was all around

The Giant Dog barked in my ear, giant claws grabbed my shirt and started to tear

I screamed and I begged, I begged and I prayed, the Moko Jumbie laughed, “NO REDEMPTION TODAY!”

They chewed on my fingers and bit off my toes, my back wore gashes, something crawled up my nose.

I was dragged down a track by two horrible Douens…

Never to be heard of… again?!

December 2014 – Issue 13    www.sweettntmagazine.com

Common folklore characters

There are many legends that are known to people in T&T, some with the same stories as spirits known in other countries by a different name and some with the same names but carry different stories. Here are 10 common folklore characters and a brief story about them that have circulated the twin islands for years.


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


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.


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 an unexpected miscarriage or a deliberate abortion is called a
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.


Jumbie is the spirit of a person that roams the earth. Like duppy, jumbie 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. Jumbie beads or devil beads is the name given to the red and black seeds known as abrus precatorius, jequirity bean or rosary pea mainly because they are poisonous and could only be used to make jewelry. Moko jumbie is a Carnival character that skilfully walks on stilts.

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 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.


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. People 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”. 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.

Obeah Man/Woman 

Obeah Man/Woman is a person who performs supernatural rituals to help or harm the living. The obeah man/woman is well-known to many persons in a community. The obeah man/woman accepts payment of cash, goods or services in exchange for supernatural remedies to heal sickness, find love, break up relationships, hurt people, ward off spells, gain money, obtain a VISA, pass exams or win court cases. The rituals are usually conducted using hair, clothing, parchment paper, dough, beads, oils, animals, plants, Bible verses and water.

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. 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 them that hunters are near. 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.

Silk Cotton Tree 

Silk Cotton Tree is said to have jumbies, churile, lugarhoo, douen 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.


Soucouyant is an old sinister woman who is usually suspected to be one 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 in 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 in a drum and seal it with tar.

September 2019 www.sweettntmagazine.com

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