(Memphis) When many people hear the word Voodoo, they think of the dark arts, New Orleans and something they probably want to avoid.
In Memphis though, the word conjures up a series of buildings behind a fence, surrounded by sculptures and symbols.
Memphis’ Voodoo Village is known for its sculptures, symbols and series of buildings contained in a south Memphis compound, not to mention some spooky stories.
Kim Anderson has heard many stories, “When I was in high school, I used to hear that when people used to go over there during prom times and their cars would cut off.”
For years, people, mostly teens, have dared to drive by the area off Shelby Drive, even documenting it in photos and internet videos.
Stories range from dead animals hanging in trees, to cars to being chased by people practicing voodoo.
We went to get the real story.
It took only minutes for a woman to tell us to leave.
Then, a man started showed up swinging a bat, threatening us.
For years, the people who live there refused to talk to outsiders, but we did find a YouTube interview offering some answers.
Washington James Harris is the son of the man who built the compound in the 1950’s, which they call Saint Paul’s Spiritual Temple, “Sure, people said voodoo, witchcraft, and that stuff. But that ain’t what it is. It’s a gift from God.”
Harris said his father was a spiritual leader and healer, “People would come from across the water to see him, talk to him. They got problems they don’t feel no one else can help them with.”
Harris says most of the symbols have to do with the Freemasons.
He doesn’t expect, or necessarily want everyone to understand what the symbols mean or what the place means to him and his family.
They’re tired of being harassed by those looking for a spooky time at their expense, “People would be riding up and down the road hollering, shooting, saying bad things.”
Halloween is a particularly bad time, volunteers even block the road.
Tamekia Toles feels for the family, she’s never driven by their home and doesn’t plan to, “I may stand by them in the grocery store line. I don’t know who they are. they don’t bother me, I don`t bother them.”
That’s probably a good idea, unless you too want to met by a man wielding a bat.
Voodoo Village is featured in a book called No Space Hidden: The Spirit of African American Yard Art in addition to that YouTube movie.
There is an effort underway to establish a non-profit that would preserve the art in and around the property.
We would encourage you NOT to go to the property, instead respect their privacy.