By Michael Jordan
Do strange things sometimes happen in the hinterland? I mean baffling, sometimes terrifying things that cannot be easily explained away? You bet they do!
I had my own weird experience in 1993, when a dredge owner whom I had befriended invited me to stay in his camp in the Cuyuni. I readily accepted, since I saw it as an opportunity to write a few features about the interior, and to do some research for a project on which I was working.
As it turned out, I almost regretted my decision. The food was bountiful, the scenery was beautiful, but, for some reason, I could not sleep at night in that Cuyuni camp. My hammock was near the outer perimeter of the campsite; and every single night, when I lay in my hammock, I had this intense, disquieting feeling that something was staring at me from the jungle with evil intent.
I couldn’t explain it. It wasn’t as if I was a stranger to the interior. I had spent almost a year at Papaya, the National Service camp in the North West. At night, the mist was thick and you could hear the howling of baboons from the nearby jungle. A few of the young women were prone to a strange fit that we called ‘anta banta’. This would cause them to run screaming into the misty night.
But this experience at Cuyuni was different. I began to dread nightfall. I would lie terrified in my hammock, my eyes drawn to a section of the forest from which I sensed this malevolent presence, praying for dawn to come. I greeted the end of my stay in the jungle with a sense of relief.
Those nights in the Cuyuni came back to me in October 2008 during an interview with a resident of the Rupununi.
People who know me well know that I am curious about so-called ‘supernatural’ experiences in the hinterland.
I asked this Rupununi resident about his own unusual experiences, and he admitted that he, personally, had never experienced anything inexplicable. But he did relate some unusual but true stories about the hinterland. His view, though, seemed to be that there was a logical explanation to many of these stories, even if one of these stories was about a monster in a mountain.
THE PAKARAIMA MOUNTAIN MONSTER
He told me that there is a mountain in the North Pakaraimas, and the myth is that a monster inhabits it.
He said that there is heavy undergrowth of bush at the foot of that mountain, and, looking at it, it was not difficult for him to imagine that those bushes concealed a cave in which some fearsome being lurked.
The story about this ‘monster’ begins with a young woman from a community of the North Pakaraimas.
She had no children, and was also widowed.
According to the story, her husband’s battered body was found in the village.
The superstitious looked at the injuries on the body and concluded that he had fallen victim to a ‘Kanaima’, a sort of assassin in Amerindian lore with supernatural powers, including the ability to change into a jaguar.
Eventually, though, the woman married again; and one day, in the seventies, several residents, including the woman and her second husband, went on a fishing expedition near the mountain.
The other villagers eventually left, while the woman and her husband remained behind.
The woman, it is alleged, also decided to go home while her husband opted to continue fishing.
But nightfall came and the man failed to arrive home, and the following day, villagers launched a search for the missing man. They were shocked when they eventually stumbled on his battered body near the same mountain. Again, some concluded that the second husband was also the victim of Kanaima’s wrath.
Because he was found near the mountain, others concluded that something had emerged from the
mountain and killed the husband, before retreating again to its lair.
The woman married a third time. He is believed to have escaped the wrath of the ‘Kanaima.’
THE MYSTERY OF THE VANISHED PROSTITUTE
My friend went on to tell me about another unusual incident which occurred in the North West.
‘Baby’ was a prostitute who used to travel to the Potaro to solicit porkknockers. In the late 1970s, she eventually struck it rich, and, laden with raw gold, decided to walk from the Potaro River to Maikwak, a mining settlement some three days away for someone travelling on foot.
For reasons unknown, ‘Baby’ decided to let a male friend accompany her on the journey. ‘Baby’ never made it to Maikwak. She just vanished, never to be seen again.
The man who was accompanying “Baby’ on the journey alleged that he was walking ahead of the prostitute on a trail when ‘Baby’ began to tire. He claimed that, when he eventually looked behind him, there was no sign of ‘Baby’.
According to the man, he assumed that the prostitute had mistakenly taken another trail.
About three years later, a hunter discovered a human skull in the Kopinang area. The skull had one gold tooth, and this made some speculate that the victim was the long-lost ‘Baby.’
Police were informed, and the skull and a few bones were buried at the same spot. However, the remains were never identified.
There was no mystery to the third story.
‘Sharlo’ was an old St. Lucian man who had several claims in the interior. He was the licenced owner of a shotgun which was so old that it would sometimes fall apart.
One of the claims that ‘Sharlo’ had was located in the Potaro, and he worked this claim with his teenaged grandson.
From all accounts, the St. Lucian’s claim was a profitable one, and it seemed that seldom a day went by without the old man locating a diamond or two.
A short distance from ‘Sharlo’s’ claim was another claim belonging to a Bartica miner known as ‘Django’.
While ‘Sharlo’s claim was productive, the claim owned by ‘Django’ yielded little.
Now, ‘Sharlo’ was an affable fellow, and every day he would go over to ‘Django’s camp and show the younger miner the precious stones he had found. This went on for some time, until one day ‘Sharlo’s body was found in his mining pit. He had been shot in the head with his own shotgun, which lay nearby.
The precious stones he had gathered were gone…and so was Django.
But someone had witnessed the deed.
Sharlo’s grandson would later tell police that he had peeped from the bushes and had seen Django making off with the old man’s diamonds. Persons also recalled seeing ‘Django’ walking on ‘the line’ to Maikwak.
The suspect was eventually arrested and taken to Georgetown, where he was charged and remanded for Sharlo’s murder. But, for some reason, I am told that Sharlo’s grandson never testified against Django, and the accused was eventually freed.
They say that Django migrated to Brazil, where he suffered the same fate that he had meted out to old Sharlo. After he had finished telling me his stories, my friend from the hinterland attempted to put his own logical spin on the events.
Explaining the myth of the ‘Pakaraima Mountain monster’, he suggested that the woman might have killed or arranged the deaths of both of her husbands, possibly because of an extramarital relationship.
In the case of ‘Baby,’ the prostitute, he suggested that the male friend who had accompanied her on the trail killed ‘Baby’ and made off with her gold.
And that set me thinking about my Cuyuni experience. Had there really been something in the jungle? My conclusion now is that, at the time, I had been working hard on a story based on Amerindian folklore, and that my research had caused my imagination to work overtime.
Listening to my friend’s stories, and analysing my experience, I can only conclude that Kanaimas and unseen things that walked at night were far less fearsome than one’s own imagination and the treachery of false friends.
If you have information about any unusual cases, please contact us at our Lot 24 Saffon Street office. You can also contact us on telephone numbers: 22-58458, 22-58465, 22-58473 and 22-58491.
You can also contact Michael Jordan by email at [email protected]
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