At a conference in 1962, Sheriff Ed McTeer of Beaufort County, South Carolina, told an unusual story. Some decades previously he had gone on a mission of mercy, above and beyond his normal legal and civic duties.
An evil “blue root”, or curse, had been placed on an old black woman by a malevolent Hoodoo doctor, and by all accounts, she was close to death, as a result.
McTeer was on his way to sort it out. Bizarrely for a white sheriff, McTeer was also a “conjure man,” or practitioner of Hoodoo, the folk magic branch of Voodoo, mainly practiced in the Southern States of America.
He had studied Hoodoo magic back in the late 1920s, in order to learn the ways of the local blacks, whom he regularly came into contact with as a young law enforcer. Once he’d mastered the basics of the subject, however, he declared himself a practitioner and quickly earned himself a reputation as a powerful conjure man.
When McTeer arrived at the ailing black woman’s house, he got the family and neighbors to haul the woman and her bed out on to the front porch. He then put on his blue sunglasses – the conjure man’s badge of office – and addressed the small gathering.
“I know that there is evil working in this place,” he declared, “I can feel it in my bones.”
He then explained that God had given him the gift of clairvoyance and prophecy, and that he was going to use this power to cure the afflicted black woman. With that he went into a trance, circling the yard with arms and legs trembling, and muttering incantations, all of which made the black woman sit up with interest.
Finally, McTeer howled crazily and leaped under some steps, coming up with the offending blue root and waved it aloft in a show of victory (in fact, McTeer had planted the root earlier in a bid to enhance his “performance”).
At the sight of the dreaded object, the spectators recoiled in horror, then shouted hallelujahs and hosannas of praise, as McTeer threw the offending root into the nearby tidal creek.
When McTeer returned to the house the following week, he found that the old woman had made a miraculous recovery. She was up and about, eating, cleaning, and cooking, as usual. Had McTeer not intervened, however, it is likely she would have died – such was her belief in the power of Hoodoo.