Southern Spirits: Ghostly Voices from Dixie Land
introduction | 19th century hoodoo | 20th century hoodoo | 21st century hoodoo


by Anonymous
from The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach), Florida, September 23, 1942

This uncredited story originated in "The Palm Beach Post" of West Palm Beach, Florida, was distributed via an unknown wire service, and was reprinted in condensed form far from its point of origin, by the "The Vidette-Messenger" newspaper of Valparaiso, Indiana, September 24, 1942.

First, let's dispose of the obvious:

WARNING: The material on this page was written by a European-American who was describing African-American spirituality as an outsider. This author was racist or race-derogatory and the conclusions he or she drew while writing this eye-witness account are grossly offensive. However, the text is included in full because it accurately describes practices and customs of the African-American South during the 20th century (albeit not always with complete understanding) -- and it also serves as a political reminder of how far we have some in our struggle for race equality and respect in the ensuing years. Read with caution and compassion.

On its surface, the story seems to be little more than a promotion of several racist tropes ("Negroes are thieves, Negroes are so ignorant that they do not know the true value of a stolen diamond brooch, Negroes are gamblers, some female Good Negroes are "loyal" to upper-class white women and gratefully receive small rewards for undoing the damage perpetuated by male Bad Negroes").

Okay. That is the text, but the sub-text is interesting because we also learn that in West Palm Beach, Florida, in September 1942, Lily May Williams sold a brooch that she had purchased for 75 cents, assuming it to be costume jewelry, to a root doctor who called himself Dr. Rabo.

The point of interest here is that at that time, the name "Rabo" was in wide use by the Massachusetts-born African-American root doctor, bookie, shop-keeper, author, and publisher Carl Z. Talbot (1890 - 1974), who worked in New York City under the pseudonym Rajah Rabo for his entire professional life.

So here, in this otherwise unremarkable story, we have proof of the wide distribution and influence of Talbot's Rajah Rabo lottery dream books, such as Rajah Rabo's 5-Star Mutuel Dream Book (1932), Rabo's Rundown and Workout Book, and Rajah Rabo's Pick'Em Dream Book (1953). Rajah Rabo's influence continues well into the 21st century. See "Ancient Beliefs Still Alive In Georgia" by Don Schanche Jr., Macon, GA, circa 2000.

[For more information on lottery dream books, read the pages on the "Pick'Em Dream Book" by Rajah Rabo, "Rajah Rabo's 5-Star Mutuel Dream Book," and "Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book" in my online book "Hoodoo in Theory and Practice."]

We may never know who the derivative "Dr. Rabo" of Palm Beach really was, but he certainly was NOT Carl Z. Talbot, who was running his Rajah Rabo shop in New York City at the time.

Because the interview subject used terms unfamiliar to modern readers and employed spellings not commonly found in the literature of hoodoo, a few explanatory notes have been added [in brackets].


by Anonymous

The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach), Florida, September 23, 1942

A $13,000 diamond and ruby brooch, lost last Wednesday by Mrs. D. C. Norman, Surfside Hotel, Palm Beach, was back in her possession, police reported Tuesday, after changing hands three times in negro town, twice for the price of 75 cents, once "on approval" while a price of $1 was being considered.

It was a newspaper ad, with police cooperation, that finally turned up the lost pin.

Lily May Williams, negro, bought the pin for 75 cents when offered by a negro man who claimed to have found it, then passed out of the picture. Later Lily May offered it to another negro, a root doctor known as Dr. Rabo, for $1. He took the matter, and the pin, under consideration.

Then Lily May saw the ad in the lost and found column. She tried to get the pin back, but was told it was stolen. She and her husband went to the owner, who called the police.

Det. Chief R. C. McGriff and Officers Ted Wells and T. J. McCants went to the root doctor, learned he had lost the pin in a "skin game." He had tried to put it up for $1, but was allowed only 75 cents.

Police recovered the pin from the negro who won it, returned it to Mrs. Norman, and Lily May was rewarded.

[Georgia Skin, also known as The Skin Game, was the most popular card game among African-Americans during the first half of the 20th century. Player cards are dealt face up. Players can bet against two alternatng dealers, called "the principles, and can make side-bets against other players, called "the pikers," hoping that the face-up card in front of the player they are betting against will be matched or paired by rank before their own face-up card is matched. As the dealer slowly turns over the cards remaining in the deck, he sings a short melodic verse and the face-up card hits the table. When a card is matched, it "falls" and the player forfeits his bet but can pay a fee to "scoop" or pick up another card "in the rough" from the discard pile, as long as a card of its rank is not already face-up on the betting field. Then new betting challenges are made, bets are "rolled up," and one again "the deal goes down," as one by one the matched players' cards fall. The rank and suit of the cards are not scored; no one has an advantage, and unless someone cheats (which is a predictable part of the dealer's strategy), it is a game of pure chance aided by memory. The player with the most money is the winner. See also Jelly Roll Morton's description for The Library of Congress and Zora Neale Hurston's description at The Library of Congress Audio Files Part One and Part Two and in her book "Mules and Men" (1935).]

This material is reprinted from

The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Florida)
Wednesday, September 23, 1942

and also online at

and was reprinted in condensed form in

The Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso, Indiana),
Thursday, September 24, 1942

and also online at

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