A true story from 1909, published in The Sunday Morning Star, Wilmington, Delaware

Wesley Shepardson, aged 49, and his friend, a youth called Norman West, went to the cops to make a complaint. Wesley told them he was being “hoodooed” by a conjure woman from the east side of the city, who apparently was trying to separate him from his wife.

Wesley told Police Captain Evans that the hoodoo woman visited his home the evening before and threw “conjure powders” on the floor. He said he was asleep upstairs at the time and the moment the powder hit the floor he woke up with a start.

He cautiously made his way downstairs and found the hoodoo woman sitting on the sofa between his wife and daughter. Wesley saw the conjure powder on the floor and became very scared.

Rushing out onto the street he ran into the arms of Patrolman Purcell, who he’d had dealings with earlier in the week.

“Lord, I’se sure glad to meet you,” he said. “You done saved my life by arresting me once this week, and now you got to do it again fo’ sure.”

Wesley’s arrest earlier that week worked out this way: He worked at a sand pit where an African-American man was killed. Had Patrolman Purcell not arrested Wesley on a charge of breach of peace, he would likely have met the same fate as the unfortunate guy – who died when a bank at the sandpit collapsed. As it was, he was safe and sound in a police cell.

“De Lord is with me sure enough,” Wesley told Patrolman Purcell. “And you done saved my life. [The Lord] done sent you.”

Purcell duly took Wesley to the police station.

When questioned about the powder the conjure woman had allegedly thrown on the floor of his house, Wesley said: “Well, it was red, white and blue stuff and had something else in it.”

“Did it smell bad?” he was asked.

“Smell! Well, man, you never did smell anything so bad in all your life before! I done opened every door and winder in de house and still de smell stayed there.”

Wesley then invited the officers to go to his house to smell it for themselves, but they declined.

At that point, Norman West, the youth who had accompanied Wesley to the police station, weighed in with his thoughts on the matter.

He told of his experience with conjure women. All you had to do, he said, was go into the woods and get some snake root and catch some flies. Then take both items to an African-American woman called Black Snake, who lived beyond a bridge in the city. She would fix it so that you could use it to good effect against your enemies.

Captain Evans said he would investigate the terrible state of affairs. And with that Shepardson left saying that they might never see him alive again.

“I just felt good when I come home this afternoon,” added Wesley, “but since dat powder was thrown at de floor I’se no good and have been acting kind of crazy ever since.”

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