Stories of witches, jumbies, devils and shape shifters are staples in Trinidad and Tobago folklore. Parents and grandparents often used these characters as scare tactics to keep their children in line. Their descriptions were so terrifyingly real to children, that they worked to prevent the little ones from wandering away from home, lest they be enticed away by the mischievous “douen” and get lost forever in the forest.
Ahhhh… but those stories are from eons ago, right? Douens and ghosts are mere figments of over-active imaginations; the passing on of the oral tradition of our forefathers from the days of old. Before you breathe a sigh of relief, here are two of Trinidad and Tobago’s spookiest spots that may change your mind… Read on if you dare.
In its heyday, the village of Lopinot, located at the foothills of Trinidad’s Northern Range, was a thriving agricultural town started by the French-born knight, Charles Joseph Comte Loppinot de la Fresillière. According to local lore, the ghost of Loppinot continues to roam the village that claims his name, almost 200 years after his death. Many villagers even claim to have seen the village’s namesake riding about on his horse every now and then but especially on stormy nights. In fact, Lopinot was actually featured on the cable television show, Ghost Hunters International in 2011.
When you get an eyeful of the gorgeous Mariposa Gardens and the Count’s former cocoa plantation abode however, you begin to understand why his ghost might continue to stick around. Lush gardens, eco-trails, stunning mountain vistas and a gorgeous café offering sumptuous local dishes and desserts made from cocoa and other crops grown in the fertile Lopinot valley would make anyone hesitate to leave.
Take a guided tour of Count Loppinot’s sprawling estate and spend a night at one of the few bed and breakfast accommodation options to make the most of your time at lush Lopinot.
Les Coteaux, Tobago
The village of Les Coteaux in Tobago is known for its bewitching history. Legend has it that an African witch by the name of Gang Gang Sarah was blown across the sea one stormy night back in the 1800s and landed in Les Coteaux. She searched the nearby Golden Lane for her family, whom had been transported to the island as slaves. While there, she also served as the village’s midwife and met and married Tom, whom legend says she had known as a child back in Africa.
Gang Gang Sarah outlived her beloved Tom, and desired to return to Africa after his death. She climbed a great silk cotton tree and attempted to fly but had long since lost her magical ability due to eating salt and becoming too fat. She died on impact when she hit the ground. She was buried next to Tom and their graves lie in the African Cemetery at Golden Lane, where Alvin James, a claimed descendant of Sarah is the grounds keeper.
Villagers says that the tree that Gang Gang Sarah attempted to fly from still stands tall today but weird noises and screaming can be heard near the tree nights when there is a full moon. In addition to its legendary folklore and reputation as the home of obeah (witchcraft), old water wheels and the ruins of sugar mills remain rich reminders of the village’s history as a sugar plantation. A tall, arched stairway perched on a hill is the only remnant of the former Alma Plantation House and the perfect position from which to observe the entire village.
Villagers are always thrilled to share their centuries-old oral tradition with visitors. Les Coteaux’s night of Folktales and Superstitions is also a staple and must-see event on the annual Tobago Heritage Festival calendar.
If you’re interested in more spooky spots, visits to the Mystery Tombstone in Plymouth, Tobago, the former leper colony on Chacachacare Island and the village of Moruga in south-east Trinidad may be well worth the chills.