“She is suffering from anemia. Though that much blood loss is a bit odd at this little age, but no need to worry, she will be absolutely fine with proper medication” the Indian doctor assured me. It’s good to see someone from your country when you need desperate help in a foreign land. Four months ago, when National Geographic sent me to Africa for the new documentary project about African black magic, I never imagined that this could happen to anyone. I remember the day when I told my 5 year old daughter that we are going to Africa for 6 months. That night she was so excited in joy that she did not sleep and asked me all night about African animals… and today she is lying in a bed in front of me in an African hospital room, semi-conscious due to heavy antibiotics. And you may not believe, the thing responsible for this is not any human, animal or disease, it’s a doll. A wooden doll.It all started seven days ago. I and my crew went in an interior village in central Africa, surrounded by dense forest. The only way of transportation is our helicopter which has been rented from South African coastal guards by National Geographic. As per our guide and translator Robert Jones, the tribal people perform a ritual every fortnight to keep the demons away from the village. Our goal is to film the ritual and also talk with some village people via Robert, our translator. These clips will be used in the final documentary.We were having discussion regarding our project, when my little daughter came inside the tent.“Daddy, see what I have found!” She is holding a wooden doll in her hand. It’s about 10 inch long and has been made by hand by cutting a single piece if tree branch, possibly by someone from the tribe. The doll looks scary and has a hole in its chest. “Oh my god! Sweetie I told you not to go out without me! Where from you picked up this? It’s ugly. Throw it” I told her and took the doll from her. The doll has a small piece of string attached with its neck.
“What’s that?” Robert came closer to see. “Oh that’s a voodoo doll. Where did you found it, honey?” he asked my daughter.“I found it under the big tree there… there are more dolls there. Can I play with it daddy?” she asked me, taking her doll back from Robert.“No, dear, can’t you play with your teddy? It’s horrible. Just throw it away, okay? I’ll buy you a Barbie when we return to South Africa” I said and told Robert to follow me towards the tree.“Oh my god, just look at those” I exclaimed to the team. There were at least 100 of the dolls, hanging from the tree. Each doll has a deep hole in its chest and they were hanged from the tree such a way that it seems like someone has hanged a criminal in a noose.“They are so high. How did your daughter get one of those?” Robert asked.“Maybe one of those fall from the tree, she picked it up. What are these?” I asked Robert.“These are voodoo dolls. A voodoo doll is used for rituals and black magic. There are many legends behind these dolls. Some say that if you put your enemy’s hair and nail inside these dolls and torture the doll, your enemy will also suffer in reality. Some legend says that voodoo dolls can be used as a container to store someone’s soul. I have seen these dolls in Hawaii Island and Brazil before, but never saw someone to hang these dolls from a tree. Maybe it’s a part of the ritual which we are going to film.” Robert explained.“One thing Robert, How do you put your enemy’s nail and hair inside the doll? Those can be opened?” I asked.“Some voodoo dolls can be opened, but not these. See the hole in their chest? I think you have to put the stuffs there. But see, no dolls have anything there, that means they are not being used to punish someone, they are being used for something else, we will find out by talking with the tribe when we film the ritual tomorrow” he said.
Filming went well next day. We saw the entire ritual and found out why the dolls are there. According to the old tribe leader, the ritual is to capture all evil spirits and demons from the village and forest, after capturing the demons, their souls are trapped inside the doll. Then the tribal people hang the doll from a sacred tree at the night. The souls of the captured demons are destroyed the next day when sunlight falls on the container doll.Late at the night, I was sleeping in my tent beside my child. Suddenly I woke up by hearing a mild noise, Robert’s tent is lit. He is doing something. I went to his tent to see if there is any problem. He is sitting on the ground, holding the doll which my daughter found yesterday.I was not happy seeing the creepy thing again. “Will you throw it out please? That thing scares the hell out of me. It has an evil smile in its face, is not it?” I told him.“Ya, do you think Voodoo dolls are real?” he asked.“What do you mean by real? Dolls are dolls.” I replied.“No, I mean do you really believe the legend that if you put your enemy’s hair and nail inside it, then your enemy can be tortured by torturing the doll?” he asked.“No, I don’t believe in that crap” I replied.“I am going to test. I have seen these dolls few times, but I was never been able to get one. Only a little test okay?” He said and cut a little nail and hair with a knife.“What the hell are you doing? Are you crazy? You really believe the legend?” I am surprised to see his activity.“No, I don’t believe, and this is my chance to prove that I am right” He said and pushed the nail and hair deep into the hole of the doll’s chest with a match stick.“Now let’s torture it” he said and took a pin, though he is acting brave, but I can feel the nervousness in him. He touched the doll with the pin.
“Did you feel anything?” I asked. “No, man” he replied and pushed the pin deeper.“Now?” I asked again. I am also a bit tensed now. “Nothing” he replied and pushed the pin completely into the doll. “See, now it’s proven that the legend is false” He said and laughed loudly.“Enough of your childish experiment man, I am throwing this thing out” I took the doll and threw it in the jungle. “We need to return to South Africa tomorrow. We have to pack up our things in the morning, so sleep now, you crazy man” I told and came back to my tent laughing.We had our editing works for the documentary in the National Geographic Studio in South Africa. I used to work till 7PM at the night, then used to return to the hotel by 8PM. I kept an African lady as a babysitter for my child who used to stay with her when I used to work in office. After a week, I noticed the weakness in my daughter.“What’s wrong with you sweetie? Your eyes are red and you look weak” I touched her forehead to check if it is viral fever or not. She had a normal temperature. “Haven’t you sleep last night well, honey?”She did not reply and started to eat her breakfast such a way that she was hungry forever. Before leaving for office, I told the babysitter lady to look after her with extra care and call me in the office if there is something unusual.I returned early that night and told the babysitter to go. I saw my daughter is weeping. “What happened honey?” I asked her.“She doesn’t let me play” my little daughter complained against the babysitter. “And she scolded me” my daughter started to cry.“Awwww… I’ll scold her tomorrow, okay? She will not stop you from playing anymore” I assured her and made her happy.That night I woke up from sleep after hearing my daughter’s voice. She is talking with someone in sleep. She has the habit of talking in her sleep. I went in front of her door. She is uttering “You are bad. My Barbie is a good friend.”
I opened the door and froze in horror. My daughter is talking while sleeping, with a voodoo doll is in her hand. The doll is different from the one which she picked up that time. This one is black. I rushed to her and tried to pull the doll away from my baby. Her hand moved along with the doll. The doll was biting her fingertip and drinking blood from her.I separated the doll from her hand and thrashed it hard on the floor. I tried to wake my daughter up, but she was not responding. I called the ambulance immediately. They took her in hospital and kept under the treatment of Dr. Patel, an Indian Doctor working in South Africa.“She is suffering from anemia. Though that much blood loss is a bit odd at this little age, but no need to worry, she will be absolutely fine with proper medication” the Indian doctor assured me. “May I speak with you for a moment Sir? It’s regarding your daughter”. The babysitter came in.“What?” I asked. I was terribly disturbed by last night’s incident.“I told her not to play with that doll. She told that she picked it up before she boarded the helicopter from central Africa. These are voodoo dolls sir, they are not toys. Tribal people use those to trap evil spirits within them” she told me with a low voice.“But...But, aren’t the spirits getting destroyed in the next sunlight?” I asked in fear.“That will happen only if the doll is attached with the sacred tree. If the doll falls down from the tree before morning, then the spirits will never be free unless you destroy the doll.” She replied.If it was some other time, I would fire the babysitter immediately for speaking rubbish. But last night’s incident forced me to believe her. I came back to hotel with the babysitter and went to my daughter’s room. The doll is still there in the floor. I picked it up.
It was the same doll, only the color has turned black. It’s not black, it’s dark red. Like old blood stain. The evil doll has turned dark red by drinking my daughter’s blood. The poor little girl picked it up again before we came back to South Africa. It was a mistake to take her in this African safari in the first place.“How to destroy a voodoo doll?” I asked the babysitter.“Cut it into two pieces by a saw, then burn the two pieces Sir” She replied.I took out my workshop toolkit and cut the doll into two with a hack-saw. I took the two pieces outside and poured petrol from my car on it. Then I burned it into ashes.“Sir, you people from developed countries will not believe in these things, but these legends are not just stories all the time.” She said.Suddenly it struck in my head like a lightning. What about the other legend? O my god, Robert’s nail and hair were still there in the doll when I destroyed it. I totally forgot his experiment. But wait, his experiment failed? Is not it?“What’s wrong with you Sir?” She asked me. I told her about Robert, and his experiment with the doll.“Oh my God! The doll has to be tortured by someone else; you cannot torture your own doll. This will not work as suicide is forbidden in the tribal culture” she screamed in horror.I rushed to Robert’s room in the hotel and banged on his door for half an hour. He did not respond. Finally hotel manager came with police and a duplicate key and opened the door. We entered the room and froze.One part of his body is lying on the blood soaked bed. The other part is down there on the floor.