By Ed Staskus
The Wall of Voodoo was a plywood wall littered with dolls. There were nearly a hundred of them in a garage behind a brick house on Vrooman Rd. a mile north of I-90. The dolls had pins stuck in them. The pins didn’t bother the dolls, although they bothered the people who the dolls represented. If they didn’t have aches and pains already, they had them for sure once a pin cushion of them went up on the Wall of Voodoo.
Voodoo is a religion that came out of West African ancestor worship and is practiced mostly in Haiti and parts of the American south, especially Louisiana. It is about serving spirits. Prayers and rituals honor the spirits and ask for their blessings. Voodoo enthusiasts chant, dance, and go into trances. Papa Gede is the number one spirit. He is a skeleton who wears a top hat and carries a cane down Resurrection Road. Voodoo dolls are almost always good, meant to bring good fortune to the person they represent. Friends and relatives pin flowers and photographs on the doll to appeal to the spirits.
Sometimes bad people make voodoo dolls do things they don’t want to do. Those bad people ask the devil to give them black magic to get their revenge on somebody. No matter how much the dolls protest, once they are on the Wall of Voodoo they have to do the bidding of the evildoers who put them there.
Hardly anybody in the town of Perry knew anything about voodoo. What they knew was lots of their neighbors were suffering from unexplained ailments. One newcomer in town was a man relocated from Louisiana. He knew an incantation that could bring Papa Gede to life for a minute. When the spirit appeared, the man asked him one question.
“Is anybody in these parts messing around with voodoo dolls?” he asked Papa Gede.
“Yes,” the spirit said, and disappeared in a puff of smoke. He didn’t like the weather north of Mason-Dixon. He sped back to the bayou.
Lake County is a conservative northeastern Ohio county, more conservative than most of the state and more conservative than the rest of the country. Everybody had new cell phones, new flat screen TV’s, and new $50 grand pick-up trucks with gizmos galore, but they didn’t like anything new. They didn’t like the emerging culture. They especially didn’t like any new religions. If the religion had something to do with Africa, they liked it even less.
They thought of themselves as can-do people but didn’t know what to do about voodoo dolls spreading misery in their corner of the world. They were at their wit’s end when a local gossip piped up, “I heard there’s a boy who lives in one of the developments near Perry Cemetery who everybody says is a monster hunter. Maybe he could help.”
Oliver was the Unofficial Monster Hunter of Lake County. He saved the Perry Nuclear Power Plant when Goo Goo Godzilla attacked it. He saved Lake Erie College in Painesville from Old Joe Croaker. He knew how to deal with ghosts and trolls. He was just over eight years old. His sister Emma was his right-hand man. She was just under eleven years old.
“Okey doke,” Oliver said when a delegation of Perry men and women asked him for his help.
“What are you going to do?” Emma asked him when they were alone.
“Everybody in a sick way seems to live near here,” Oliver said. “Whatever is making it happen must be close by. I’ll get my Bad-Oh-Meter and we’ll go looking for it.”
“No, you’ll be with me,” Oliver said.
Emma stuck her trusty jackknife into her back pocket. Oliver turned in a slow circle. His Bad-Oh-Meter was a Y-shaped forked stick. It looked like a dowsing rod. He and Emma followed its lead when it started to twitch. They cut through the Church of Jesus Christ’s weedy field, walked up S. Ridge Rd. to Vrooman Rd., walked across the bridge spanning the Grand River, and soon came to a brick house where the Bad-Oh-Meter started twitching like a madman.
There were two giganto vinyl banners on the front lawn. One was turned slightly to face traffic coming on one direction. The other one was turned slightly the other way. One said, “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Trump.” The other one said, “Trump 2024 Make Votes Count Again.” The banners were blue, the lettering was white, and the trim was red.
“I thought he was a traitor, not a red, white, and blue patriot,” Emma said.
“Don’t let grandpa hear you say that,” Oliver said. “His head would explode.”
When they walked up the driveway the Bad-Oh-Meter twitched to behind the house towards the garage.
“Whatever it is, it is in there,” Oliver said.
What they found was the Wall of Voodoo. The voodoo dolls were slapdash on the wall. Each one of them had lots of pins stuck in it. Each one also had a name written on a scrap of paper. One of the names was Harry Culver, who lived in their development and had recently been complaining about his suddenly achy knees. There were pins stuck in his doll’s knees. Below his name was written “DEMOCRAT PANSY.” The same words were written below each one of the names.
“What’s a pansy?” Oliver asked.
“Beats me,” Emma said, stumped.
Oliver and Emma took the dolls off the wall, took all the pins out of the dolls, removed the scraps of paper, and threw everything in a pile outside the garage. They found a can of gasoline and poured it on the pile, setting it on fire with kitchen matches Oliver always carried in his Monster Hunting Field Kit. They went back to the garage to make sure they hadn’t missed anything. When they did they saw a half-scale mannequin of Donald Trump, wearing a red baseball cap and smirking.
“I thought he was bigger,” Oliver said.
“I thought he was smaller,” Emma said, and just for fun jabbed the tip of her jackknife into the mannequin’s big toe.
At Mar-a-Lago Donald Trump was on his way from the dinner table to the bathroom. He felt a sharp pain in his big toe. He couldn’t walk. He stopped and sat down. He called for help.
“We should stick a pin in his tongue since he’s such a blabbermouth,” Oliver said. Both of them thought it was a good idea.
“What’s wrong with the boss?” asked one of Donald Trump’s flunkies.
The bossman wanted to say what was wrong but when he tried to talk he felt a stabbing pain in his tongue and couldn’t say a word. He pointed to his big toe and his tongue, grunting and squirming. His flunkies couldn’t make heads nor tails of what he was trying to say. “Maybe he could tell us on Twitter,” one of them suggested. When they looked, they couldn’t find his solid gold cell phone. He had left it on the dinner table, where his children stole it and sold it on eBay. The flunkies dragged him to his bedroom and laid him out on his king size bed.
Oliver and Emma were tending to the fire when a billy goat came running out of the house. He was wearing body armor and waving an AR-15. “What the hell are you doing?” he squawked and raised his gun. All of a sudden Papa Gede appeared. Smoke was pouring out of his ears. His bones were radiating. He was mad as the dickens. He didn’t like his voodoo being used for evil purposes.
“Get away from those children,” he roared and struck the man on the side of the head with his cane. The man went down like a lightweight and started crying and complaining. He swore he would sue Papa Gede for all he was worth. “When my lawyers get done with you, you will be mashed potatoes,” he foamed at the mouth.
Papa Gede had heard enough. He snapped the AR-15 in half over his knee and threw it to the side. He spit on the fire. The flames got red-hot higher. He picked the man up, tossed him over his shoulder, and carried him to the house.
“If you go inside and behave yourself, I will forgive and forget,” Papa Gede said.
Machine Gun Kelly ran to his front door, tripped over the threshold, and crawled inside. He broke his fall with his fingernails. He got on the horn to 911. “Help, there’s a monster here, hurry, send the SWAT team!”
“A fat lot of good that’s going to do him,” Papa Gede said laughing bananas in the split second before disappearing.
“Thanks, pops!” Oliver called after him.
Emma and he went back to the fire, dumped a bucket of water on it, and scattered the ashes. There was nothing left of the voodoo dolls. Walking back home, when they got to the bridge over the Grand River, they stopped and looked down. It had gotten dark and a full moon was reflected in the still water. A breeze rippled the water and made the moon look like it had wrinkles.
“It’s rotten old goats like that one,” Emma said, gesturing over her shoulder, “who give witch doctors a bad name.”
Ed Staskus posts on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Made in Cleveland http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”