Ossie Griffiths, Contributor
Do you not like duppy stories? "Uno nah live nuh life yet man. I remember long time ago when people used to draw long bench ina de moonlight and chat pure duppy stories till granny call fi go light de lamp an wen dem fraid fi dweet, an' she fling de chimmey afta dem ... ".
Ezekiel Sheppard might be an old man, but his mind is certainly fresh with vivid memories of the past. As a child, I learnt many stories from him, touring the countryside in his truck.
Now, before I start, I must explain to my friends in other countries that the word 'duppy' is the same as ghost or ghouls. Jamaica has a rich heritage of ghost stories dating back to the early days of our African ancestors, centuries ago. These apparitions or ghosts supposedly come in the form of cows (rolling calves), moving coffins with wheels, ghost babies known as 'duppy pickneys' or 'duppy babies' and dead men and women (duppy man or duppy woman) returning to their homes after death.
Stop in the road
Mass Sheppy and I came to a stop in the road and exited the truck to see what was wrong. At the same time, a taxi driver swerved past Mass Sheppy in jest to hit him off the road.
"Yes man, lick me! You ever see car ina hospital!" he bellowed."That's why duppy nuh stop haunt unnu a road!" he continued.
I knelt down beside him while he tried to change the ill-fated tyre on the truck. I asked him what he meant by that statement and he told me: After the disastrous Kendal crash in 1957 there were many duppy stories, that circulated. One famous one was about the Kendal taxi driver:
"One late Friday night, a nurse took a cab from the intersection of Kendal and the Winston Jones Highway. At first, his intention was not to pick up any late passengers, but seeing that he was on his way home, he decided to give the little nurse a 'bligh'.
He noticed that she didn't sit at the front and all her conversations were abrupt. He even tried to look in her face but at no time at all was he successful. Anyway, before she reached her stop, she explained to the cab driver that she didn't have enough money on her to pay him so she begged him time to retrieve it inside the house.
This cabby was more than lenient to grant her the second wish and he pulled to the side of the dark, deserted road to wait for the nurse. He noticed that she didn't pull the gate as it was already opened for her. Another strange thing he also recalled was that no lights were turned on and the door of the house was not opened, but since it was so dark he didn't bother to pay it any mind.
After waiting for about 10 minutes, the driver tooted his horn but no one came out. He tooted it a second time and drove off with the intention of returning in daylight. When he got there the next morning, he was greeted by the resident of the house. The owner of the house asked if the taxi man blew his horn the night before and he said yes. The taxi driver explained that a lady promised to take her fare to him but went to bed apparently without returning.
The man held his jaw and said, "Jesas Christ, yuh pick up duppy! A de third taxi man Nurse Barnes do this to ennuh! Sorry yah, boss," he apologised, paid him the fare and went inside the house.
It was then that the driver discovered that Nurse Barnes died in the Kendal crash years ago at the same time, 11:45 p.m. In all the incidents, she would ask the taxi men to take her to the house and never return. She was the wife of the man who lived at the mysterious house!"
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