Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Charlie, Charlie and duppy bats

Published:Monday | June 8, 2015 | 12:12 AMMichael Abrahams

Jamaicans are a special group of people. Most of us believe in God, with Christianity being the main religion in the country. Many Jamaicans will also tell you that they have faith in God.

But, at the same time, we are also a very superstitious people, and many of the same people who claim to have faith in God also believe in 'guzum' and other weird stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I know that a spirit world exists. I have experienced Appleton and Wray & Nephew. It's just that Jamaicans take this whole belief thing to a whole 'nother level.

For example, consider those large moths that sometimes make their way into our homes. There are some people out there whom you cannot convince that they are not 'duppy bats', the spirits of dearly departed family members or loved ones who have returned in the form of bats. Never mind that bats are mammals and moths are insects, closely related to butterflies. Who needs zoological nomenclature anyway? Pfft! They are 'duppy bats', and that just could be your Auntie Pam who is perched on the bedroom curtain watching you have sex. (You always knew that she was a freak.)

My grandmother was a devout Christian - an Anglican to be specific. She was a member of St Michael's Church, and was also a member of the Dorcas society, a group charged with providing clothing for the poor. Every day she would read her Daily Bread and listen to Midday Meditation on the radio. She was also a fan of Oral Roberts (who I referred to as 'Anal Roberts', much to her annoyance), and would regularly send money to him to help him get filthy rich and build his prayer tower and his empire. In exchange for this, she would receive tokens and religious literature.

But, as religious as my grandmother was, she was also superstitious, and was deathly afraid of umbrellas being opened indoors, as she feared that this would bring bad luck. So, armed with this information, I conducted a series of 'experiments', where I would open umbrellas in her home. They would be opened in the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen, etc. I observed my grandmother's reaction to the openings, and no matter which room I chose, her response was to, like, totally freak out, and likely experience episodes of urinary incontinence. (One of the flaws of the 'study' was that her underwear was not checked.)

She behaved as if I was ISIS and the umbrellas were bombs were being detonated. I tabulated and critically analysed my observations and came to the conclusion that my grandmother was crazy. I mean, how can you 'walk through the shadow of the valley of death and fear no evil' but be afraid of an open floral parasol with frilly edges?

Then there is the whole obeah thing. My mother related a story to me, many years ago, of a man who worked at her office who was afraid of obeah. One day, his co-workers decided to have a little fun at his expense. Before he came to work, they sharpened a pencil, and took the graphite dust from the shavings and placed it in the form of an 'X' on his desk.

When he turned up at the office, everybody pretended to be hard at work, but sneakily watched him through the corners of their eyes. He walked toward his desk, and, on seeing the 'X', nervously and slowly approached it and looked around, before retreating. He did not sit at his desk that day.

Now I am hearing of the Charlie, Charlie Challenge. In this challenge, you draw two perpendicular lines on a sheet of paper and label each resulting quadrant 'yes', 'no', 'yes' and 'no'. You then place two pencils along the lines, balance them, call Charlie to come and play, and ask him questions. Charlie will then answer by moving the top pencil to point to 'yes' or 'no'.

So, armed with this information (Sounds familiar?), I decided to conduct a series of 'experiments' to see if crossing two pencils would freak people the hell out. It does. When I picked up my sons from school one afternoon, I entered one of the classrooms, went up to the teacher's desk, placed one pencil at right angles across the other and asked the question, "Will my son pass the end-of-term exam?" The teacher hastily grabbed up the pencils, pointed to the door, and evicted me from the classroom.

I wondered what I had done wrong, and realised that I had forgotten to say 'Charlie, Charlie'. So, on returning to my office, I made sure not to repeat that error. I confidently went to the front desk, arranged the pencils appropriately, and said 'Charlie, Charlie'. The decent young Christian receptionist panicked, boxed away the pencils, and ran. I think she reached Savanna-la-Mar by later that evening; and my office is in Half-Way Tree.

I did some further research on this Charlie phenomenon and learnt that  the Ministry of Education has banned Charlie from schools in Jamaica. This must have really hurt Charlie a lot and affected his self-esteem, not to mention his attempts to further his education.

So I came up with a brilliant idea. I will give Charlie a job at my office. I am an obstetrician and gynaecologist by profession, and pregnancy issues are rather common in my practice. After being in the speciality for almost two decades, I have become rather busy and could use a little help. I am not sure what Charlie's last name is, but if he is Charlie Sheen, he has probably seen way more vajayjays than I have, and I could definitely learn from his experience.

I have therefore decided to use Charlie to assist me with certain diagnostic dilemmas. For example, I could ask questions such as:
Charlie, is she pregnant?
Charlie, is it a boy?
Charlie, is it a girl?
Charlie, is her husband the father?

Yes, I know, my idea 'sell off'. But do not steal it. I thought of it first. However, if you do, I will just have to set my grandmother's duppy bat on you. And yes, she likes to watch.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to and, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.