The “Last of the Voodoos” in New Orleans was the infamous tattooed Jean Montanet, commonly known as Doctor John, Voudoo John, and Bayou John. Born a free member of the noble Bambaras Tribe from Senegal, John was kidnapped by Spanish slavers and shipped to Cuba. After earning his freedom from a friendly master he worked as a ship’s cook, finally settling in Louisiana.
Doctor John seemed to possess mysterious Obi powers. He began telling fortunes – and must have been skilled at reading people because he soon had enough money saved to buy a house. Then he set up as a conjure man, and at the height of his fame was estimated to be worth $50,000.
John kept a harem of at least fifteen “wives” that he claimed to have married according to African tradition. Most of these women were bought as slaves and they bore him many children. At one time he teamed up with Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau to sell potions, charms, and spells.
Although Doctor John often looked after the poor in his neighborhood – and gave away food to the needy – he was tricked several times by unscrupulous business men who stole away his fortune. He ended up broke, living with one of his daughters.
But how powerful was this Voodoo conjure man? He seemed to have a charismatic personality and a sound understanding of herbal lore. There are many first-hand accounts that his medicines actually worked.
However, he also liked to take advantage of the gullible white women who came to him out of curiosity. One lady paid him $50 for a potion he later confessed was merely a few common herbs boiled in water. His rationale was, “If folks want to give me fifty dollars, I take the fifty dollars every time!”
“Haunted New Orleans” at http://www.nola.com/haunted/voodoo/?content/history.html
Hearn, Lafcadio. “The Last of the Voudoos” at http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/hearn/lastvdu.htm
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
(Photo: Kit Perriman)
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