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VOODOO VILLAGE

Voodoo Village:  Voodoo Village is located on Mary Angela Road in southwest Memphis. According to residents, the area is home to St. Paul’s Spiritual Temple and is enclosed in a huge iron fence. But the legend suggests that something other than church services are taking place there. Reports of sacrificial offerings, black magic, and the walking dead suggest that Voodoo Village is ripe with supernatural activity.

A MYSTERIOUS LITTLE CORNER OF HAUNTED MEMPHIS

You know you're from Memphis when you know all about Voodoo Village. The hoodoo empire of Walsh Harris' Voodoo Village, (a fenced compound of brightly colored houses and signs in deep South Memphis) Home to a variety of artistic and intellectual practitioners.

Rumors of Animal Sacrifices and Strange Masonic Rituals Make Voodoo Village One of the Most Enduring Legends of Haunted Memphis

 

Turn down the abysmal darkness of Mary Angela Road and you find yourself looking down a deserted stretch of asphalt leading directly into the infamous Voodoo Village.

Known for generations to Haunted Memphis enthusiasts, many of whom have had strange experiences in or near the location, Voodoo Village is a rag-tag assortment of houses on a dead end road in a remote corner of southwest Memphis. It first gained attention in the early 1960’s when conflicts between gangs of white youths and the black residents of Voodoo Village made headlines. Ever since, Voodoo Village has been a site of many teen dares and initiations, and its reputation for weirdness has only grown over the years.


It consisted of 4 houses that had Voodoo symbols and statues on their front lawns, fenced in. The most noticible statue was one of Jesus holding a bible with a dagger through it and His hand.

Kids were always going there to gawk and some said the people in the Voodoo homes would pull cars across the road to try and stop them from getting out. It was a tradition to go Friday or Saturday night during the school year. The kids who lived on the lake would go whenever they saw the light of bonfires.

Many old time residents avow that the Village is inhabited by a mixed race African-American/Native American tribe led by a charismatic Chief named Wash Harris. It is said that the Voodoo Village tribe practices strange rituals that look and sound a lot like African voodoo, but have all the formality and strangeness of the Freemason rituals of Europe.
Several people have claimed to have witnessed residents of the Village sacrificing animals in these rituals – especially goats and dogs – and for a time there was a vigilante force in southwest Memphis solely to protect the pets of local residents.

Strange artwork and sculptures on the lawns of residents in Voodoo Village only lent to the widespread belief that something “weird” was definitely going on. Sculptures and carvings depicting strange planetary motifs and decorated with symbols that appear to be Arabic or Hebrew can be found everywhere throughout the village. Most are attested to be the work of Wash Harris himself, and he in fact took credit for most of the artwork in rare interviews he granted in the 1980’s.

It was a rite of passage back in high school to go there at least once. You always heard the stories about everything that was there but you never really thought that anything like that could exist but there it was. Many remember the infamous schoolbus by the entrance that some said they would push across the entrance to the cove, there were quite a few of the voodoo signs painted in some kind of flourescent paint that really added to the eeriness of the whole scene.


Since that time there has been little contact with any resident of Voodoo Village and Harris, who would be well over a hundred now, has never spoken to the media again.

The fact that Harris is still called “Chief” by many of the residents and the fact that many believe him to be a saint or immortal has led to speculations that Harris is still alive inside the Village, being closely guarded by his followers.

Old stories about the chief , some say he was arrested by the Memphis Police Department once and he escaped from his cell into thin air.

Though reporters are often chased away, photographers have often felt the wrath of the Villagers and it is a long standing warning that no photographs are to be taken inside the Village or even from the road. Many who have tried have been pelted with rocks and sticks and chased out of the road by machete-wielding residents.

Some locals in the know claim that photographs are prohibited because, once developed, they will reveal the ghosts of the many people who have lost their lives to Villagers over the years. Still others insist that photographs will reveal the Villagers as they truly are – aging and corpse-like, kept artificially young by the many sacrifices and the pacts with the Devil made by their leader, Harris.

For Memphis natives growing up in the area, Voodoo Village was a place of curiosity and fear.

“Everyone got dared to go down there,” says Holly, a native of Memphis now living in Louisiana. “If you were a teenager, it was the thing to do – get chased by the Voodoo people.”

Holly stated that she can remember vividly the fantastic artwork and trees hung with fetishes and spirit bottles, before she and her friends were chased out of the Village by a group of turban-wearing women.

“They had to put a big fence around it, and a gate,” Holly says, “because it was just so popular with the local kids.”
Popular, maybe, but what of the strange rituals? In one encounter, described by a Memphis reporter, a Village resident asked if he (the reporter) was a member of “the Lodge.” When the reporter replied that he was not, the Villager responded that he “wouldn’t understand any of it” and that he had better get out.

Just what it is that can’t be understood is anyone’s guess. With the fervor of Masons everywhere, the Villagers jealously guard their rituals and culture. Some have speculated that the allusion to a “lodge” could have many meanings beyond the average Masonic lodge, pointing out that many Satanic cults refer to their groups as being part of a “lodge.”

Whatever is going on back there in Voodoo Village, it is definitely not a place to get lost around. One unfortunate man who got a flat tire near the Village late one night claims to have heard hoarse croaking and chanting coming from the darkened houses. He reports that he was “never so happy to see AAA!”

Much of the myth centers on Wash Harris who gave his village the name “St. Peter’s Spiritual Temple” in the 1960’s and claims to be doing the “Lord’s work” there. Reports from those who had access to Harris and his compound at that time say that there is anything BUT a religious feeling back there and that it is more like getting lost in the dark practices of the Congo. Harris’ temple was, they said, decorated with hundreds of tiny fetish dolls and other images syncretized with more familiar religions. Some claim it is clearly a form of Haitian Voodoo.

Others who claim to have lost pets to the Villagers who then used the hapless animals in their strange rituals say that the place should be torn down and the ground burned. They point to the high number of deformities and unusual illnesses in the community surrounding the Village, and they lay the blame squarely on the Voodoo going on there.

So be careful turning down the darkness of Mary Angela Road in the dead of a Memphis night. You never know what you might find, or what might find you, down the road to Voodoo Village.

VOODOO VILLAGE LINKS

http://www.amberjacklanding.com/basement/voodoo.htm

 

Our research turned up no reported instances of such crimes. Our attempt at questioning the residents of this area about possible voodoo practices also stalled, but not for a lack of trying.

www.memphismagazine.com/backissues/august1999/urban_legends.htm

"Voodoo Village has been a wellspring of speculation and myth for several decades, and has even been incorporated into the name of a popular local band, the Voodoo Village People.

Voodoo Village technically operates under the name of St. Paul’s Spiritual Temple. To get there, you have to literally drive to the end of the Memphis city map to Mary Angela road in remote Southwest Memphis. The compound contains several shotgun shacks surrounded by a dizzying array of gigantic, freaky-to-the-unknowing monuments. Tall crosses line up like soldiers, carved crescent moons and stars perch on poles, horns stick out of tree trunks, and larger-than-life Egyptian-type masks stare down at unwelcome visitors. While some of the objects are eerie and some just plan amusing, all are painted in a rainbow-bright spectrum of colors. Overall, the effect is both startling and striking, resembling a sprawling playground constructed by a near-sighted artist on hallucinogens.

Voodoo Village is located on Mary Angela Road in southwest Memphis. According to residents, the area is home to St. Paul’s Spiritual Temple and is enclosed in a huge iron fence. But the legend suggests that something other than church services are taking place there. Reports of sacrificial offerings, black magic, and the walking dead suggest that Voodoo Village is ripe with supernatural activity.

The artist in this case, however, is Wash Harris, a reclusive man who has claimed in the past to be part African-American and part Indian. Reportedly in his early 80s now, Harris has grown tired of the curiosity his commune inspires and has ceased speaking with those who are merely intrigued. I had been told that its’ nearly impossible to talk with him, and that, in fact, gaining entrance to Voodoo Village would be highly improbable.

As we cruised by the first time, entering seemed unlikely. The entire site is surrounded by a metal fence and the main driveway is blocked by a heavy iron gate. When we returned just minutes later, however, the gate was flung wide open. I parked the car, facing the main road (having been warned not go get trapped in the dead-end street), and we quietly slipped inside the compound, wondering how many eyes might be watching. We marveled at the rough craftsmanship and artistic intricacy of the displays, which looked like products of a whittling disciple of Salvador Dali.

Hearing voices in the shack behind me, I apprehensively mounted the steps. After several knocks, a woman in a white tunic and head-wrapping cracked the door.

"You didn’t take any pictures, did you?" she asked. I had the impression that several people were moving around behind her in the darkened room.

I asked if I could talk to whoever was in charge, but she said I should go away, that maybe I could talk to someone later. I suspected this was just get the gate closed behind us again. As we walked toward the gate, a wrecker backed down the gravel driveway and blocked our path. A man wearing a gas station uniform hopped out, smoking a stubby cigar.

"Did you take any pictures?" he demanded.

I told him we were simply interested in the purpose of the commune and in the art work.

"Are you in a lodge?" he asked, referring to what I assumed had to be the Masonic organization (Wash Harris was reportedly a member of the Masonic Lodge for many years). When I told him I wasn’t, he replied, "Then you can’t understand."

The man identified himself as James Harris, 40, son of Wash Harris. "What’s the name you heard for this place?" he blurted at me. When I said "Voodoo Village," he blurted back, "That’s the name the peckerwoods gave it."

Regarding any supernatural aspect of the ominous structures looming over the compound, James Harris said, "Everything here represents something from the Masons or the Scripture."

The Memphis Flyer, October 26, 1989
By Steven Russell

Located on Mary Angela Road, the area is home to St. Paul's Spiritual Temple and is enclosed in a huge iron fence. But if the stories and legends are true, there's more than church services taking place behind those walls. Sacrificial offerings, black magic, revenge spells and the walking dead...if you are looking for buffet of supernatural activity, Voodoo Village is the place to go. You never know what you'll find...or what will find you.

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