Camilla Jackson



Minnie B. Ross


On November 24, 1936 Mrs. Camilla Jackson was interviewed concerning

superstitions, signs, etc. Mrs. Jackson, an ex-slave, is about 80 years

of age and although advanced in years she is unusually intelligent in

her speech and thoughts. The writer was well acquainted with her having

previously interviewed her concerning life as a slave.

Mrs. Jackson related to the writer the following signs and incidents:

If a tree is standing in your yard or near your house and an owl lights

in it and begins to hoot, some one in the family will die.

If, during the illness of a person, a cat comes in the room, or the

house, and whines, the person will die.

Another sure sign of death and one that has been experienced by Mrs.

Jackson is as follows: Listen child if a bird flies in your house some

one is going to die. My daughter and I were ironing one day and a bird

flew in the window right over her head. She looked up and said, "mama

that bird came after me or you, but I believe it came for me." One month

later my daughter took sick with pneumonia and died.

My mother said before the Civil War ended her mistress owned an old

slave woman 100 years old. This old woman was very wicked and the old

miss used to visit her cabin and read the Bible to her. Well sir, she

died and do you know the horses balked and would go every way but the

right way to the grave. They rared and kicked and would turn straight

around in the road 'cause the evil spirits were frightening them. It was

a long time before they could get the body to the grave.

Mrs. Jackson before relating the following experiences emphatically

stated her belief in seeing the dead but only believes that you can see

them in a dream.

"Many a night my sister has come to me all dressed in white. I have

heard her call me too; but I have never answered. No longer than one

night last week old Mr. and Mrs. Tanner came to me in a dream. The old

lady came in my room and stood over my bed. Her hair was done up on the

top of her head just like she always wore it. She was distressed and

spoke about some one being after her. Old Mr. Tanner came and led her

away. They really were in my room, you see both of them died in this

house years ago."

Mrs. Jackson could not relate any stories of conjuring; but did mention

the fact that she had often heard of people wearing money around their

legs to keep from being conjured. She also spoke of people keeping a

horseshoe over the door for good luck.

During slavery and since that time, if you should go out doors on a

drizzling night for any thing, before you could get back Jack O'lantern

would grab you and carry you to the swamps. If you hollowed and some one

bring a torch to the door the Jack O'lantern would turn you aloose.

Another way to get rid of them is to turn your pockets wrong side out.

One day a man came here selling roots called "John the Conqueror" and

sister Blakely there, paid him 10c for one of the plants, but she never

did plant it. He said the plant would bring good luck.


On the same day Mrs. Jackson was interviewed, Mrs. Anna Grant told the

writer that if she didn't mind she would relate to her a ghost story

that was supposed to be true. In her own words the writer gives the

following story:

Onst a 'oman, her husband and two chillun wuz travelin'. This 'oman wuz

a preacher and only wanted to stop over night. Now this 'oman's husban'

wuz a sinner, but she wuz a christian. Well she saw an old empty house

setting in a field but when she went ter inquire 'bout it she wuz told

that it wuz hanted and no one had ebber been able ter stay there over

night. De lady dat owned de house offered her pillows, bed clothes,

sheets, etc., if she intended to stay, and even told her that she would

give her de house if she could stay there. The woman that owned the

house told her butler to go and make a fire for the family and carry the

pillows, sheets, etc. Well, they all got there the 'oman built a fire,

cooked supper and fed 'em all. Her husband and children went ter bed.

The husband wanted to know why his wife wanted him to go to bed and she

wanted ter stay up. The wife didn't say nothin', just told him ter go to

bed, then she laid the Bible on the table bottom side up and kept

looking behind her. The house wuz two story and after while something

came ter the top steps and said, "Can I throw down," she said "throw

down in the name of the father, son and Holy Ghost." Two thighs and a

foot came down. Later the same voice sed, "Can I throw down," and she

said, "throw down in the name of the father, son and the Holy Ghost,"

and then a whole body came down. The husband woke up when he heard the

noise and ran away from the house. The ghost told the 'oman ter follow

her, and she picked up her Bible and kept on reading and went on behind

the ghost. The ghost showed her where some money was buried near a big

oak tree and then vanished. The next morning the 'oman dug and found der

money, but the 'oman of the house wouldn't take a penny, said she didn't

want it, sides that she gave her the house. They said this wuz a true

story and der reason dat house wus hanted wuz 'cause der family dat used

to live there got killed about money. Mrs. Grant ended by saying "Deres

a horseshoe over my door right now for luck."


Mrs. Emmaline Heard lives on Cain St. between Fort and Butler Sts. She

is an ex-slave and on a previous occasion had given the writer an

interesting account of slavery as she knew it. When the writer

approached her concerning superstitious signs, ghost tales, conjure

etc., Mrs. Heard's face became lit with interest and quickly assured the

writer that she believed in conjuring, ghosts, and signs. It was not

long before our interview began. Mrs. Heard, although seventy or

seventy-five years old, is very intelligent in her expression of her

different thoughts. This interview, as nearly as possible, was taken in

the exact words of the person interviewed.

"If you are eating with a mouthful of food and sneeze, that sho is a

true sign of death. I know that 'cause years ago I wuz havin' breakfast

with my son Wylie and one other boy and Wylie sneezed and said "Mama I'm

so sorry I jist coundn't help it the sneeze came on me so quick." I jist

sat there and looked at him and began ter wonder. Two weeks later my

brother rode up and announced my mother's death. That is one sign thats

true, yes sir.

If a picture falls off the wall some one in the family will die.

If you dream about teeth, if one falls out thats another sign of death.

Another sign of death jest as sho as you live is ter dream of a person

naked. I dreamed my son was naked but his body was covered with hair.

Three months later he died. Yes sir, that sho is a true sign.

Jest as sho as your left hand itches you will receive money. If fire

pops on you from the stove, or fire place, you will get a letter.

If the left side of your nose itches a man is coming to the house. If it

itches on the tip, he will come riding.

If the right side of your nose itches a woman is coming to the house.

Following are stories told to Mrs. Heard by her parents, which took

place during the period of slavery. They are supposed to be true as they

were experienced by the persons who told them.

"My mother told me a story that happened when she was a slave. When her

mistress whipped her she would run away ter the woods; but at night she

would sneak back to nurse her babies. The plantation was on old

McDonough road, so ter get ter the plantation she had ter come by a

cemetery and you could see the white stones shining in the moonlight.

This cemetery was near a cut in the road that people said was hanted and

they still say old McDonough road is hanted. One night, mama said she

was on her way to the plantation walking on the middle of the road and

the moon was shining very bright. When she reached this cut she heard a

noise, Clack! Clack! Clack!, and this noise reminded a person of a lot

of machines moving. All at once a big thing as large as a house came

down the side of the road. She said it looked like a lot of chains,

wheels, posts all mangled together, and it seemed that there were more

wheels and chains than anything else. It kept on by making that noise,

clack! clack! clack!. She stood right still till it passed and came on

ter the farm. On her way back she say she didn't see it any more, but

right till ter day that spot is hanted. I have knowed horses to run away

right there with people and hurt them. Then sometimes they have rared

and kicked and turned to go in the other direction. You see, horses can

see hants sometimes when folks can't. Now the reason fer this cut being

hanted was because old Dave Copeland used to whip his slaves to death

and bury them along there."

The next story was told to Mrs. Heard by her father, who experienced it,

as a slave boy.

"My father sed when he wuz a boy him and two more boys run away from the

master 'cause the master whipped 'em. They set out and walked till it

got dark, and they saw a big old empty house settin' back from der road.

Now this house was 3 or 4 miles from any other house. So they went in

and made a fire, and laid down 'cause they wuz tired from running from

the Pader rollers. Soon they heard something say tap! tap! tap!, down

the stairs it came, a loud noise and then "Oh Lordy Master, I aint goin'

do it no more; let me off this time." After a while they heard this same

noise like a house falling in and the same words "Oh Lordy Master, I ant

goin' do it no more. Let me off this time." By this time they had got

good and scared, so my pa sed he and his friends looked at each other

and got up and ran away from that house jest as fast as they could go.

Nobody knowed why this old house wuz hanted; but they believed that some

slaves had been killed in it."

The next is a story of the Jack O'lantern as told by Mrs. Heard.

"Old South River on' the Jonesboro road is jest full of swampy land and

on a rainy drizzly night Jack O'lanterns will lead you. One night my

uncle started out ter see his girl end he had ter go through the woods

and the swamps. When he got in der swamp land he had ter cross a branch

and the night wuz dark and drizzly, so dark you could hardly see your

hand before your face. Way up the creek he saw a little bright light, so

he followed it thinking he wuz on his way. All night long he sed he

followed this light up and down the swamp, but never got near ter it.

When day came he was still in the creek and had not gone any distance at

all. He went home and told the folks and they went back ter the swamps

and saw his tracks up and down in the mud. Later a group of 'em set out

to find the Jack O'lantern and way down the creek they found it on a

bush. It looked like soot hanging down from a bush, burnt out. My uncle

went ter bed 'cause he wuz sleepy and tired down from walking all


The following three stories related by Mrs. Heard deals with practices

of conjure. She definitely states that they are true stories; and backs

up this statement by saying she is a firm believer in conjure.

"As I told you before, my daddy came from Virginia. He wuz bought there

by Old Harper and brought ter McDonough as a slave boy. Well as the

speculator drove along south, he learned who the different slaves were.

When he got here he wuz told by the master to live with old uncle Ned

'cause he wuz the only bachelor on the plantation. The master said ter

old Ned, "Well Ned, I have bought me a fine young plow boy. I want him

ter stay with you and you treat him right." Every night uncle Ned would

make a pallet on the floor for daddy and make him go to bed. When he got

in bed he (uncle Ned) would watch him out of the corner of his eye, but

daddy would pretend he wuz asleep and watch old uncle Ned to see what he

wuz going ter do. After a while uncle Ned would take a broom and sweep

the fireplace clean, then he would get a basket and take out of it a

whole lot of little bundles wrapped in white cloth. As he lay out a

package he would say "grass hoppers," "spiders", "scorpian," "snake

heads", etc., then he, would take the tongs and turn 'em around before

the blaze so that they would parch. Night after night he would do this

same thing until they had parched enough, then he would beat all of it

together and make a powder; then put it up in little bags. My daddy wuz

afraid ter ask old uncle Ned what he did with these bags, but heard he

conjured folks with 'em. In fact he did conjure a gal 'cause she

wouldn't pay him any attention. This gal wuz very young and preferred

talking to the younger men, but uncle Ned always tried ter hang around

her and help hoe, but she would always tell him to go do his own work

'cause she could do hers. One day he said ter her "All right madam, I'll

see you later, you wont notice me now but you'll wish you had. When the

dinner came, and they left the field they left their hoes standing so

they would know jest where ter start when they got back. When that gal

went back ter the field the minute she touched that hoe she fell dead.

Some folks say they saw uncle Ned dressing that hoe with conjure.

"My sister Lizzie sho did get fixed, honey, and it took a old conjurer

ter get the spell off of her. It wuz like this: Sister Lizzie had a

pretty peachtree and one limb spreaded out over the walk and jest as

soon as she would walk under this limb, she would stay sick all the

time. The funny part 'bout it wuz that while she wuz at other folks

house she would feel all right, but the minute she passed under this

limb, she would begin ter feel bad. One day she sent fer a conjurer, and

he looked under the house, and sho nuff, he found it stuck in the sill.

It looked like a bundle of rags, red flannel all stuck up with needles

and every thing else. This old conjurer told her that the tree had been

dressed for her an t'would be best fer her ter cut it down. It wuz a

pretty tree and she sho did hate to cut it down, but she did like he

told her. Yes child, I don't know whither I've ever been conjured or

not, but sometimes my head hurts and I wonder."

Mrs. Heard asked the writer to return at a later date and she would

probably be able to relate more interesting incidents.

Calvin Wilson Camilla Jackson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail