Telling ghost stories on Halloween can be spooky yet intriguing. Throughout the Caribbean, ghosts, or duppies, as islanders call them, are believed to have haunted plantations, graveyards, and popular hangouts of yesteryear. Some people believe the duppies still haunt many places today. With its colorful and turbulent history, it’s no surprise that tales of the supernatural abound throughout the Caribbean. Here are just a few of the well-known duppy tales of the islands:
Many, many years ago, it is believed that some islanders were scared by duppies into paying their debts. For on Barbados, if you had unpaid sums, a dark ritual was performed on your very street that forced you into submission. An old duppy tale passed down for generations, states that debt collectors dealt in the black arts and those who didn’t pay their debts would suffer with the terror of black magic. It is said that when collecting an outstanding debt, a group of men, the messengers of the duppies, dressed in black would come to where the street began that led to where the debtor lived. There in the darkness and still of night, they would perform a ritual and etch symbols into the ground. No one dared to stop them, but everyone knew what was coming. Nothing could be heard and everything was deathly quiet while everyone who lived on the street sat in fear. Then, the screeching sounds would begin. Chains rattled, the sounds of howls like devil dogs that sent chills down your body. The wiring to the lights would burn out and the smell of burnt wire would fill the house of the defaulter as screams of terror would fill the night air. But no one dared to help their neighbor. The sun would rise and the day would start again. Children would get ready for school and head out walking past the ones who had duppies befall them the night before. Outside, the coolie men, or human debt collectors who performed the ritual would be standing on the steps and money would be seen exchanging hands. The next night everyone would breathe a sign of relief because the neighborhood was safe once again. No one would speak of the night before where terror kept them frozen in their beds.
Some countries are home to a long tradition of ghost occurrences. But one of the most famous hauntings of the Caribbean, and perhaps the world, occurred at the Chase crypt in Barbados. Thomasina Goddard, a plantation owner who died in 1807, was the crypt’s first occupant. Ownership of the burial chamber soon passed to another plantation family, the Chases. Col. Thomas Chase, the head of the family, was reputedly cruel to both his family and his slaves. Two of his young daughters died (in 1808 and 1812), and their lead coffins were also placed inside of the crypt. A month after his second daughter, Dorcas’ death, Col. Chase died. At his funeral, when the pallbearers opened the crypt, they were shocked to see that the coffins looked as though they had been thrown around the small room. They rearranged the coffins, including the new addition of Col. Chase, and replaced the heavy slab at the crypt’s entrance. Rumors spread that Dorcas had starved herself to death, driving Chase to commit suicide. Over the next few years, every time the crypt was opened, the coffins had moved, apparently with violent force. Thomasina Goddard’s wooden coffin even splintered into bits. Thomas Chase had many enemies so at first, people suspected vandals. However, on two occasions the crypt was mortared shut. Sand spread on the floor of the crypt showed no signs of disturbance, even with the coffins in complete disarray. A thorough examination of the crypt for secret passageways, cracks, or other explanations yielded no answers. In 1820, ancestors of the Chase family removed all the coffins and reburied them elsewhere. Although several natural theories have been proposed, such as flooding or seismic activity, many believe that the Chase family duppies just couldn’t get along. The crypt remains empty to this day.
The duppies of Annie Palmer and her victims are said to haunt the Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Annie Palmer, the plantation’s former mistress is also known as the White Witch of Jamaica. She earned her nickname by practicing voodoo, murdering several of her rich husbands, and treating her slaves very harshly. She prescribed torture or death for minor infractions and then began enticing her slaves to be her lovers and killing them when she got bored with them. Needless to say, her slaves weren’t particularly fond of her. Legend has it that, unbeknownst to her, one of her slaves was a powerful voodoo master. With plans to rid the plantation of Annie’s evil, he performed a voodoo ritual, creating a grave for her. When he finished, he confronted her in her home where they battled to their deaths. Afterward, other slaves who knew of his plan buried her in the specially prepared grave. Now a museum offering guided tours, the house’s visitors have reported whispers in the dungeon, old music playing, footsteps, and the sound of crying babies, among other oddities.
These are just a few of the ghostly tales of the Caribbean. The tropical breezes and diverse Caribbean environments bring a distinct magic to these spooky stories. If you're visiting Sandals Resorts or Beaches Resorts during Halloween, get in the spirit and tell ghost stories around the fire pits with newfound friends! See who has the spookiest duppy tale!