“I was up late last night making a voodoo doll for, well, never mind, you’ll know who you are soon enough.” Anonymous
Droop Mountain, 1971
When Clifton Schumacher first awoke the following day, he wished for a second that the horror of the previous evening was just a dreadful nightmare. But Clifton knew it was much too real.
He had opened a strange wooden box with something horrific inside. He remembered throwing the box and its contents on the floor and seeing a gruesome clay doll shatter upon impact. Did he really feel something move inside the box just before he opened it, and did the lights flicker for several minutes?
Yes, he had imbibed a bit of liquor, but Clifton knew he had seen these things.
Then, another enigmatic phenomenon sent him running from the room. When the clay doll shattered, he saw a strange swirling black mist arise, moving about the room like a suspended wiggling snake before finally going up the chimney.
Now, Clifton had to muster up his courage and try to understand what transpired the evening before.
What he saw when he arrived in the living room made him question his sanity. Clifton knew that shards of clay were strewn across the floor when he left the room the previous evening.
Instead, he found the doll sitting on the fireplace mantle as if mocking him. Touching, let alone looking at that doll, was beyond his current level of courage, so he promptly left the living room and the baleful glare of the horrid clay demon.
After breakfast, Clifton walked outside; he needed to think clearly and not panic. The bright light of morning ordinarily has a way of dispelling irrational fears, but not on that morning.
He acknowledged that something extraordinary was going on, but he did not know how to proceed. His daughter, Rachel, was flying in for a visit in a couple of days. He would confide in her even though he wasn’t entirely sure how she would react.
What she does, she does for love – Rachel
As usual, Rachel pulled up in her rental car, all smiles, hugs and kisses. Yet, before any words were exchanged, she saw that her father seemed to have aged dramatically since her last visit just two months earlier.
Clifton returned her tokens of affection, but she knew something serious was happening. The moment she got in the house, she pulled a bottle of 18-year-old Glenfiddich out of her luggage, grabbed a couple of glasses, and led her father to the kitchen table, saying, “Let’s talk, Dad.”
In a voice that belied his fear, Clifton told Rachel all that had happened to date. She hesitated for a moment, then looked into her father’s eyes.
“Dad, I just don’t believe in those kinds of things,” she said. “For god’s sake, I am a scientist. That’s why you sent me to college. Have you stopped taking your antidepressants? If you quit cold turkey, that can cause hallucinations.”
Clifton reminded her that he quit taking any medicines a few years back, and that he was not inebriated or hallucinating. He was adamant that he had related to her precisely what he had witnessed.
Rachel followed her father to the living room, where he showed her the box and the clay figure. She desperately wanted to believe her father and knew him to be a stickler for the truth. She would give him the benefit of her materialist doubts.
He then showed Rachel the Marine footlocker that belonged to Harold Miller during the occupation of Haiti.
Rachel asked her father if he knew this man. He said he did not but that a few Miller families are left around here.
“OK,” Rachel said, “maybe I can contact the family and see if they know anything about Harold and the trunk.”
What he does, he does for money – Roger
Roger, Rachel’s brother, always had a manipulative personality and a selfish streak a mile wide. Yet, Rachel loved him and felt it necessary to share her father’s plight with him.
Unbeknownst to Rachel or her father, Roger had over-borrowed to keep his machine shop in Pittsburgh from closing its doors. His wife had left him the previous year, and he had alimony and child support for his three children. Roger was drowning in debt and his gambling habit didn’t help.
His response when Rachel described their father’s claims about the evil doll was predictable.
“Well, if you want to placate Dad, go right ahead,” he said, “but I plan to be straight with him, and he is losing it, Rachel. He needs supportive care, someone to look after him.”
When Rachel asked Roger what he meant by “losing it” and “supportive care,” he stated that their father was entering into some form of dementia and unless she wanted to leave her professorship in Colorado and move back to the farm, they’d better get him into a nursing home.
Rachel was determined to have none of it; she would help her father despite Roger’s thinly veiled motives. He wanted to sell the farm, and there was only one way he could legally do that.
“That old black magic has me in its spell”– Rachel’s inquiry.
If anyone was qualified to look into the history of the voodoo doll, it was Rachel, a cultural anthropologist specializing in legends and myths. She managed a sabbatical leave and, within a week, had gathered a great deal of information on Haitian curses and beliefs.
Likewise, Rachel had tracked down Harold Miller’s cousin, a resident in a convalescent center in Lewisburg. Maria told Rachel that Harold had passed away on Droop Mountain in the early 1960s.
She vividly remembered conversations about the death of Darcy Adder and some connection to a wooden box, something Harold had picked up when he served in Haiti. When asked about a voodoo curse, she said, “We didn’t know anything about voodoo. We were told it was black magic used to kill that bastard, Adder.”
Break out the shovels kids; families that rob graves together, stay together.
Rachel’s next step was to pick the brain of a colleague who studied and wrote about religions that dabble in a certain amount of magical thinking.
Most religions, even the major ones, have certain mystical elements. For example, in Judaism, there is a vengeful creature called Golem. Jewish folklore includes a malevolent wandering spirit, the dybbuk, that enters and possesses a person until exorcised.
Rachel was determined to help her father but did not believe in golems, demons or voodoo. What she did have faith in was the placebo effect. She appreciated the power of suggestion, a phenomenon well studied and documented.
Rachel’s friend, Becky, never suggested that she believed in these magical curses, nor did she repudiate the dark arts. Her advice to Rachel was that she could try to contain anything evil about the doll by placing it back in the box and sealing it with wax again.
Becky faxed Rachel a Creole curse from someone she knew outside New Orleans. If this bit of theater were to be convincing to Clifton, they would have to put a personal item from Darcy Adder in the box before sealing it.
With no Adders still living in the area, they would have to exhume his coffin.
On a chilly November evening, the Schumachers, shovels in hand, made a midnight visit to Adder’s overgrown and neglected grave near Beartown State Park.
Digging fast, they soon hit the coffin lid. When opened, they gasped when they saw a bare skeleton; Adder must have been buried naked. Why bother dressing a corpse nobody wants to see?
Rachel noticed a large gold ring on the middle finger of Adder’s right hand. She carefully slid it off the finger, and the three passed it around. No one had ever seen anything like it.
A monstrous skull protruded out from bizarre symbols and unearthly creatures. Inside the ring were the initials DA. Roger was especially intrigued by the object and kept examining it.
Before daylight, the Schumacher family gathered in the living room to reinter the clay devil and its ring into the wooden box. All went well, and finally, Rachel said, “OK, what do we do with it now?”
Clifton replied, “It should be placed where no one will ever find it. I don’t want it to be here on the farm or anywhere in the county.”
Roger volunteered to bury the wooden box deep in a national forest near his home in Pittsburgh.
When bad things happen to bad people.
Behind their backs, Roger had set in motion an appeal to obtain legal guardianship of his father. He intended to use Clifton’s claims about demon dolls to guarantee he would be placed in a nursing home and the children would have control over his assets and the farm.
Roger felt that once his father was out of the farmhouse and in assisted living, Rachel would see the error of her ways and agree to sell the farm. His rationalization for this absurdity was that dear old dad would get the help he needed.
Roger packed up and left late the next day, saying, “Well, guys, it’s spitting snow, so I better get on the road.” The Schumachers said their goodbyes and off went the wooden box in Roger’s back seat.
He didn’t get far before he found himself thinking about Adder’s ring. “That ring would fetch a pretty penny,” Roger imagined, “but a voodoo doll with provenance might garner a fortune.”
“Besides,” he rationalized, “this whole voodoo drama was just an act to appease an old man who is losing his mental faculties.”
As Roger drove up Little Mountain, the snow began coming down harder. By the time he crested the mountain, it was a whiteout. Driving slowly, he finally came upon a forest service road and pulled in.
After an hour, the snow was still coming down hard. Roger tried to open the driver’s door and found it blocked by snow. He had a collapsable shovel in the trunk. He rolled down the window and crawled out.
He fumbled with the keys, dropping them in the snow. “Damn”, he thought, “I am obviously not going to get out of here now, and I can’t even run the heater in the car.”
Crawling back in the car through the window, he sat there, lamenting his situation. The dreaded gloom of darkness closing in around his vehicle.
He thought he heard a strange sound coming from the back seat and turned to look at the wooden box. What he saw made his blood run cold – the box was open, and the ring and doll were gone.
Roger was terrified and frantically tried to think his situation through, but he was beginning to panic. He finally dozed off, awakening to someone tapping on his window.
“Thank God,” he shouted, “Help is here.”
Roger could not open the door, but he could roll down the window. The figure standing outside was very tall and towered over him. Roger craned his neck out the window but could still not see his face.
Roger asked his rescuer if he could pull him out of the car. There was no answer, but after a few seconds of silence, a massive hand reached into the vehicle, roughly grasping him by the arm. Roger must have felt sheer terror when he saw the demonic ring on the middle finger of the right hand.
We will never know the details of his disappearance. A Forest Service employee found Roger’s snow- bound car several days after the blizzard ended. Nothing was found in the car but a strange wooden box.
We can only speculate as to Roger’s last words and thoughts.
And, what about the malevolent and vengeful soul of Darcy Adder; where does it now reside? Soon after Roger’s disappearance, citizens of Pocahontas County began reporting seeing glimpses of Darcy here and there, and always in the deepest of shadows.
Keep an eye out and have a Happy Halloween,