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

by Mary Alice Fontenot

from The Opelousas [LA] Daily World, August 22, 1965

This article was given to me by Calvin Thierry, the nephew of Dr. Jack Kerry, the traiteur and root doctor described in this obituary. According to Mr. Thierry, the family is of mingled African, French, and Native American background, and his uncle was actually named Henri Jacques Thierry, but some people found his French Creole name difficult to pronounce, so he chose to be known as "Jack Kerry."

The reporter who penned this obituary, Mary Alice Fontenot (1910 - 2003), worked for more than three decades as a journalist, beginning in the early 1940s. She wrote features and book reviews for several Louisiana and Mississippi newspapers. She was also a school teacher and is well-known as the author of 17 popular illustrated children's books about Lousiana life, starring Clovis Crawfish and a variety of other swamp-creatures.


by Mary Alice Fontenot

[Photo not available; Photo caption reads: Dr. Jack Kerry was one of the best known "traiteurs" in south Louisiana. Unable to read or write, he had nonetheless acquired a reputation for helping people which had brought him widespread fame. The 77-year-old "doctor" died this week. See story.]

Henry Jack Kerry, 77-year old faith healer, fortune teller and poor man's psychiatrist died this week.

Born in St. Landry Parish June 8, 1888, he practiced his arts all his life

He was known by friends both near and far as "Dr. Jack." He kept office hours up until his death two days a week in a wooded area near his home off the Opelousas-Washington road. He charged no fees for his services but accepted donations when offered.

At one time Dr. Jack made potions from herbs that grew in the Washington woods. According to the Doctor, up until a few years ago he could identify and make use of 575 different herbs and roots native to Louisiana. At the time of his death, however, he used only a few of the herbs which grew on his own premises.

In addition to his herb potions, Dr. Jack read cards and palms, the latter of which he read only when the moon was new.

"No one can pay me enough to do bad things," he said. "If they come for a bad purpose, I burn a candle on them."

To many of his clientele Dr. Jack gave "cordons," short lengths of cord string tied with knots which are believed to have many curative powers -- for sufferers of arthritis, stiff neck, colic, rashes, ringworm, headaches and many other ailments.

Unlike many such persons in Dr. Jack's trade, he never professed to have inherited his abilities. He said that ever since he was a young boy he had "a gift from God." He said that every day of his life he fasted and burned seven candles, a ritual he believed preserved the gift he believed he had.

On the days he kept office hours, Wednesdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon, cars lined up around the house and office starting before daylight. He saw his clients on a first come, first serve basis


Many persons who consulted the Doctor came with family problems. Through the more than half-century he had listened to people, Dr. Jack said that often times the best way to help a person with problems was "just to listen."

Other requests that the Doctor heard were for help in winning back a faithless mate, for jobs, for children or for children "not to come too fast." The last request he treated like many others -- by burning candles and by a special prayer which he composed.

He claimed there was nothing of magic, witchcraft or voodoo in anything he did to or for people, and no incantations or mumbo-jumbo other than burning the candles, the prayers, and the strings which represented prayers.

He did not depend on the free will donations given by people who consulted him for a living. He had chickens, ducks, guineas, a few head of cattle and hogs, and offered dressed pigeons for sale.

Funeral services will be held for Dr. Jack at 10:30 a.m. Monday in Fenelon's Funeral Home Chapel with burial following in the Cedar hills Cemetary.

This material is reprinted from

Opelousas, Lousiana Daily World
August 22, 1965

[My sincere gratitude to Calvin Thierry for supplying this material.]

is copyright © 2004 by catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

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