It all started couple of months before hurricane David in 1979 and Avandale was the first to see it.
Avandale always went to bed late because he ate dinner late and he would sit under the mango tree in his yard so that his “food could go dung” while he weaved straw basket to sell to passing tourists.
From the north eastern part of Dominica where Avandale lived, Marie Galante was clearly visible, lying like a huge blue whale right across the ocean. The French island was so close that on a clear day one could see white sand beaches and at night the headlamps of motor vehicles.
But that night, what Avandale saw was no motor vehicle. It looked like a boukan (bonfire) with flames leaping in all directions. He knew Marie Galante was close but not so close as to see a boukan and if it was one, it would have to be a really big one to be seen so clearly all the way in Dominica.
Puzzled Avandale dropped his basket and kept observing the boukan but then it suddenly went out and it was replaced by what looked like the blue light of a flash light and soon the blue light was replaced by a dim yellow light. That too eventually went off and was again replaced by the boukan with leaping flames. The flames were so bright that it cast an eerie reflection in the water.
Having never seen such thing before Avandale forgot his work and kept observing the strange occurrence. After maybe half an hour the boukan leapt into the air, “like a helicopter taking off” he would later say, and started heading towards Dominica.
Amazed Avandale stood transfixed as the mysterious object drew closer and closer but after a while it turned south, heading down in the direction of Grand Bay and Petite Savanne.
Suddenly he felt extraordinarily tired and Avandale stumbled to his bed and fell into deep slumber. When he woke up the next day he was even more tired. And it was then he noticed the strange bluish dark spot on his left thigh.
The area was slightly painful to the touch and Avandale tried to remember if he had knocked himself in that spot but he could not recall ever doing so. He rubbed the area with Iodex and decided to keep the previous night’s event and the strange spot in his thigh to himself.
The following night the same thing happened; the boukan appeared in Marie Galante, the blue light followed by the dim yellow light, then the boukan leapt into the air and flew towards Dominica and then the overwhelming exhaustion. The next morning Avandale discovered more strange spots on his body and more Iodex was rubbed.
A few nights later Gibbs was on the latrine paying the price of two days of heavy cask rum drinking. All of a sudden the dark night turned bright as day and he peered through the door of the outhouse to see what was going on. On the breadfruit tree he saw something he had never seen before. He later said what he saw resembled an old woman on the tree and it seems as if she was covered or surrounded by fire.
Filled with tremendous fright, Gibbs did not wait to see more but made a mad dash to his house, leaving his pants and underwear in the outhouse. He huddled in a corner for the rest of the night, to frighten to move even when his bowel freely relieved itself.
Too embarrassed to tell anyone of his experience, Gibbs kept it a secret.
But there were stranger things to occur following the night Avandale first saw the strange light in Marie Galante.
One night Ma Balcooleh could not sleep because her dog had just given birth under the house and the new born puppies kept whimpering unceasingly. After couple hours of torment she decided to move the litter to the kitchen which was some distance from the house. She grabbed a candle and went out in the pitch darkness. As she stepped outside she noticed Ma Johnson’s house up the road was alive with light as if some grand ball was being held there. She had never seen so much light at that house before but she shrugged off what she saw and proceeded to complete the task she had set out to do.
After the last puppy was moved, to Ma Balcooleh’s utter amazement Ma Johnson’s house was in complete darkness and it looked like it had been deserted for days. She suddenly felt light headed and a surge of fear swept through her body. She firmly held the candle and stumbled into her house. She grabbed her rosary and said couple decades in quick succession and then she fell into a restless sleep.
The next day Ma Balcooleh noticed the strange bluish dark spots on her body and she quickly told her neighbor about them.
And more people began seeing and hearing strange sounds at night. One person said one night he saw his neighbor’s house on fire but when he got closer to it, it was fine and there were no signs of fire. Another person said strange footsteps were heard on the roof of her house and yet another reported that she saw weird flickering light in her fowl coop late one night.
Not only that, the strange bluish dark spots began making their appearance on more people and a strange yellow fungus-like thing were seen under many houses.
The different stories all trickled down and formed one big story and it was then everyone realized that the area was being haunted at night by a soucouyan.
Panic gripped the place and everyone began to build defenses against their uninvited nightly guest. People bought horse shoes and nailed them upside down in their houses. Crucifixes were made from bwa dyab and placed over windows and doors. Others bought Jays to scrub their houses and sprinkle in their yards while some took nightly baths of garlic and zeb couwess (snake grass). Some burnt tires in their yards and many took the religious route and said novenas and offered masses in churches all over Dominica.
But the soucouyan seemed unstoppable as night after night people heard strange noises, saw bizarre lights, had more bluish dark spots over their bodies and the strange yellow fungus-like under thing their houses, which was later revealed to be the feces of the soucouyan.
But then news broke that would strike even more fear in the hearts of the people. And that was the news that a powerful hurricane called Hurricane David was coming towards Dominica.
News was sketchy because at that time only DBS radio was accessible island wide on the 595 AM band. Some people tuned in to the Voice of Barbados to get information but nothing much was coming from that station either, so most people simply tied down their galvanize roofs with rope and prayed for the best.
The night before the hurricane struck Avandale ignored the speech being given by interim Prime Minister OJ Seraphin on DBS radio and went and sat instead under the mango tree waiting for the soucouyan to make it appearance in Marie Galante.
And it did not disappoint. Like clockwork the boukan appeared and began leaping in all direction. After its display the soucouyan headed to Dominica as it usually did but the hurricane was also getting closer and closer to Dominica.
Avandale was not sure what was going on but apparently the soucouyan was unaware the hurricane was so close to Dominica and at roughly 3 a.m. the storm caught up with it as it made its way across the ocean to the island.
Avandale watched in amazement as the ball of flame, that was the soucouyan, was tossed around by the storm. Sometimes it went way up in the sky and other times it look like it would be plunged into the dark waters of the Atlantic. For about half an hour the spectacular show continued until the hurricane completely enveloped the soucouyan and the ball of flame disappeared completely.
The next day was August 29, 1979 and Hurricane David struck Dominica with all its fury. Despite the devastation many people in the area were grateful for it because they credited it for destroying the soucouyan from Marie Galante.
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