Dancing with the Dead — Barbados

“The last time the vault was opened was in 1819. Lord Combermere was then present, and the coffins were found confusedly thrown about the vault, some with their heads down and others up. What could have occasioned this phenomenon? In no other vault in the island has this ever occurred. Was it an earthquake which occasioned it, or the effects of an inundation in the vault? Different versions of the story appeared over the years, with other accounts published in 1844 and 1860.”

Dancing with the Dead No.11: Montserrat No. 2

As John and his wife sat at breakfast on their first morning, John said to me that he sensed there was an angry spirit on the island. To this I replied that that must be the volcano, and explained about the tragedy of the nineteen deaths in 1997. He said, no, that he knew about the volcano, but that it was something more than that.

Dancing with the Dead No.10: Montserrat

She was just about to continue on to the bathroom, when a tall cadaverous gentleman approached her with his hands held out towards her. In a trance, she stepped into the drawing room and her small hands were lost in his large hands. As she had often done with her grandfather, and as so many children do when dancing with an adult, she put her bare feet on the top of gentleman’s shoes. He spun her around into a whirl of dancing, drawing her further and further into the crowd of partygoers. The music played on.

Dancing with the Dead No.9: ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES (1955 – 1962)

Suddenly a cry rang out and I was almost thrown to the ground. There was a huge stampede as every last person fled in terror. I couldn’t see or hear what had happened to cause such a reaction, but if everyone was running away, something terrible must have happened. I ran along with the crowd, panting, until I reached the car and quickly drove home.

Dancing with the Dead No.8: Grenada (1951 – 1955) No. 3

For years I puzzled as to why our house roof remained intact and I finally asked Mammy. It was not by chance or good fortune she said. Through the years she had learned to open one window on the lee side of the storm, and when the eye passes over, during the lull, close that window and open a window on the opposite side of the house. In doing that, the build-up of pressure in the house is released and so the roof stays on. Of course this would not work if a hurricane-spawned tornado struck, but it did not happen to us, thank God!

Dancing with the Dead No.7: Grenada (1951 – 1955) No. 2

I went into the bathroom, locking the door behind me and sat on the toilet. Suddenly a black snake that had been lying in the corner behind the door uncoiled itself and reared up. I froze. Then I screamed for help, all the while climbing up onto the back of the toilet. Daddy had to break the door in to get at the snake and rescue me!

Dancing with the Dead No.6: Grenada (1951 – 1955) No.1

Another legendary figure in Grenada is “Mama Maladie”, the spirit of an ancient hag who seeks the souls of newborn babies and young children. Today, doctors could explain to distraught mothers about a baby dying as a result of crib death, but that cause of death was not known back in those days. Rather than look for a logical reason, some Grenadian mothers would swear that Mama Maladie had come for their infants.

Dancing with the Dead No. 4: Antigua No. 1 (1948 – 1951)

Then a feeling came over me that I was not alone in the room. I looked up and saw a lady standing behind the bedstead, her hands holding onto the metal rail above my pillow. She was dressed in long flowing robes of pale blue, and there was a white veil on her head. She looked down at me and smiled, but said nothing. I smiled back at her, and from that moment I felt peaceful and happy and sure that I would get well.

Dancing with the Dead-No.3: St. Kitts (1945 – 1948)

One day, Granny approached the kitchen to talk to the cook who was preparing lunch. From a distance, she saw the cook seasoning a large pot of stew that was simmering on the stove. Unaware that Granny was watching, the cook took a dark object from the pocket of her apron and began to grate it into the stew. At that point, Granny stepped into the kitchen and asked the cook what she was putting into the stew. Flustered, the cook claimed it was black pepper. In fact, what she was busily adding to the stew was a length of dried stool – her own!

Dancing with the Dead-Episode 1

One evening, while she was eight month’s pregnant with me, Mammy was at home alone reading in bed, which she was wont to do until long after midnight. She was just about to turn in for the night when she became aware of stealthy sounds coming from under the bed. She realized that there was someone under there! Suddenly alert, she decided to keep on reading and see how the situation played out. This was of course very foolhardy of her. If she was ever afraid, she never admitted it.

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