The legend of shadow people goes way back from the passing down of a story which is steeped with tradition from the descendants of the Seminole Indian from one generation to the next. You can say this is partly true for those people who believed and say they witnessed the shadow people figures, for others, perhaps it is just myth. They were often called upon in desperate times as the protectors and guarded over you, and those highly evolved were endowed with their spirits to be powerful warriors against evil doers, as the legend goes. No one really knows the exact origins, or era or period of time, it just always was and always will be.
Every child, girl and boy, learned about the shadow people who follow you to protect you against evil spirits, those known as the evil-doers or otherwise known as our enemies in life. They learned that enemies are not just the obvious haters but are those who challenge, oppose, possess or may even envy you. It started when they were young learning about superstitions of what not to do and who not to trust, it was always about what not to do but never what to do when faced with adversity. Bobby Jean believed in the shadow people and was never threatened but was insecure that possibly one day they would desert her, and leave her to her own devices. You see, she was not that emotionally strong, she trusted everyone and doubted very few. She was naïve to a fault.
How could this be, so strong and so vulnerable at the same time? This was an inter-dynamic and conflict she must face alone to break the mold. How could she detach but not lose her innate powers without giving up her strength and courage?
Bobby Jean Roberts was born in the Deep South, in a small rural town, between gorgeous ocean fronts for the tourists and the backwoods for the natives. She remembers the days when Papa would call all the grandkids to his knee for another story about the shadow people. All the children would race to get the first seat closest to him. They were not afraid but curious about these strange people, asking where did they come from and where do they go in the twilight hours? She was especially interested and attracted to the legends because she felt a stronger than usual connection and sense of empowerment when town folks told her their visions about the shadow people.
There was a time a few years earlier, Bobby Jean recalls the horse incident, where a young boy was chasing a horse from behind during a parade, as the horse abruptly stopped the boy propelled forward into its rear and with the horse’s stiff kick it pushed the child directly under the wagon wheel and pinned him down. As if beyond an impulse or instinct, Bobby Jean experienced a surge of fearless power to leap over and lift the wagon wheel in one single movement and saved him from a crushed chest.
Or what about the cotton mouth snake that was about to take her little pet raccoon, “Rocky” down for an afternoon snack. Again, she saved the day by grabbing the hoe in a flash and spiked it to death without as much as a wince. And there were more similar close calls that she stepped right up, in an all knowing manner that there is something bigger and deeper always lingering and propelling her; the figures in the shadows were always there but some you could see, while others you could only feel their presence when the hairs on the back of your neck stood straight up in a row.
For the record, Bobby Jean was not a big statured person; she was petite with a sturdy and athletic body, which might have resembled a star athlete. The strength she possessed was in her heart and soul that lived in her eyes. She was a beauty inside and out. She was a triple threat, if you will, and most men she encountered were increasingly drawn to and fascinated with her, all at once. She had a flower-like essence and ethereal quality that you could not pin-point but you felt it. There were many other close encounters when it came to dangerous people because they were so attracted to her like a moth to a flame. She knew she was both the protected and the protector.
So the legend goes the shadow people only came out in twilight hours between dust and dawn when they would watch you closely. They would watch and guard you while you were asleep to make sure the devil or evil spirits did not ride your back before the morning sun. After the morning sun, you were safe. But they could also be summoned by the gifted ones in times of great stress or need.
Bobby Jean knew they were there because she saw three at the foot of her bed one night. There was one very tall, the second was average height and then the third was the smallest. They stood erect like stair steps looking straight ahead but never could she make eye contact, and when she tried hard they always seemed to turn away. They stood there in real-life form on guard.
Bobby Jean now in her twenties grew up to be a feisty young woman, with deep brown eyes and pouty, full lips that ‘were ready for kissing’, the boys would say. She had graduated and was on her way to college in Miami in a few more days. In this small town of Washington County, there was a special alley that was called McDougall alley; this was the seat of the shadow people legend. No one ventured there after dark unless you were crazy. It was a well-known fact to stay away from McDougall alley at night. For some odd reason Bobby Jean did not have that sort of fear, she relished in the fact, that she was connected in a weird way.
In fact, almost every young adult was determined to leave town as soon as they could, to join the military or go to college to make a success out of their humble beginnings, otherwise you would be stuck in a dead-end town for life with nothing to do, or be poor for the rest of your life. Most of the ones that did not leave would end up working for the McDougall family, who owned everything in town, the one corner store, the one canteen and the only gas station. Bobby Jean was one of the lucky ones; she had the looks, the body, and was smart. She was leaving town and was not looking back, but not in a bad way, she just wanted a new life, not in McDougall alley.
So after the summer of her graduation, within days she had arrived in Miami with the overwhelming feeling she was where she belonged and was ready for life’s big moments. She met a few students in passing and fell right in with the crowd. She felt she had been here before. The faces, the smells, and the noises of people speaking Spanish and English all at the same time. She had been here in another life, perhaps? During her college orientation back home her counselor warned her about the dangers of a big city, like Miami, and to be aware because there are just too many temptations being away from home in a strange place. But she did not feel like a stranger in a strange land. But she was tired of hearing it and wondered how many times she would have to hear “watch your back!”
Bobby Jean had at least one week before school started, to get around, meet people, explore the big city and have freedom to just do whatever felt good, considering where she came from. She met a few girls her age, including her roommates. She would live with three other young ladies from very different cities, some like hers and others from big cities, with rich parents. It did not matter who or where they came from, she was open and thrilled to meet them all. So the first night was a welcome night reception with cocktails in their dorm room, then to the city to party with the locals, as they would say jokingly. It did not take long before they found the hot spots and the hot guys. It was Friday night so it was not that hard to follow the crowds or long lines.
The girls found their way to Club Flamingo; it was crowded, dark, and full of guys in tight tanks and jeans, just waiting for some action.
“Hey there mama, what is jor nam?” shouted a beautiful Cuban, named Elvis.
“My name is Bobby Jean” she said.
“Where ju from” he asked.
“Oh I’m from Washington County, closest to Panama City Beach” she responded shyly.
Next thing she knew she was right up close and personal with him dancing very closely, from front to back, lost in time and space. Her naiveté was showing itself again. When she took a breather to look around she saw all her girls doing the same, already locked up with some strange new guy. Wow! She thought it sure did not take long to mingle. They were all drinking, talking, dancing partying and the night was still young and there were no commitments for tomorrow.
Soon the guys started talking about let’s all go to Elvis’s place, he has drinks and music. Before they could leave there was an entourage of people from the club, jumping in cars ready for the afterhours party. She felt suspicious as these club people rallied around too quickly, like a swarm of bees or a cult of followers. Bobby Jean started to think twice, if this was such a good idea, since they were all so new to the nightlife scene and after all, these guys were strangers. Her mind kept thinking about… I know I have been here before and her mindset was cautious. In her mind this was too familiar, this was the other piece of the legend.
So she piled in the car with the rest of the girls blindly heading off to the “El Ranchero” as they called it. They all arrived, car after car. They jumped out and ran to a beautiful looking brick Spanish style rambler. In the back were a nice fire pit and a long rectangular pool with a bar at opposite ends. As soon as she arrived and met with Elvis, he grabbed her tightly in a way that was disturbing but exciting. She had never been touched like this before, so wantonly and so possessively of her, it was a brand new feeling for her. The Elvis party had drinks, food, beautiful people, and everyone was having fun, in fact too much fun.
In the middle of the party one of the guys grabbed Bobby Jean out to the floor for a dance but before she could recoil, Elvis had jerked her back to his side.
“No man, thes ise my la-die” Elvis asserted himself out loud.
“Ask da la-die, if she wants tu danse” the other guy replied.
Next thing she knew there was a push and a shove that escalated to a fist fight.
Bobby Jean and her girls ran to the door in one unit, trying to make a great escape before the whole group of beautiful people broke out into a full- fledged, ugly brawl. The girls gathered their purses and scurried to the car in one huge jump. Bobby Jean pushed the others aside and took over the driver’s seat while the other three girls poured into the back seat or whatever seat they could squeeze into.
As soon as the car started, there was a jolt to the car and Elvis and friends were atop of it. She remembered this before; it was like in a dream or something, the shadow people were in the same dream trying to make a way for her, out of the maze of cars and crowed people to make a path for her escape. The car moved sluggishly, as she gazed to the side of the driver’s window, she found herself face to face with a double-barrel, sawed- off shotgun pointed right in the middle of her forehead, with the trigger cocked.
She looked straight into the eyes of the barrel knowing that this could be her first and last night in Miami. As the pounding continued on the top of the car, screaming and crying behind her, all at the same time, she pushed on the gas pedal as hard as she could…three shadows appeared out of nowhere—THIS WAS NO DREAM, THIS WAS REAL. One was so big, over six feet tall, the other right next to him, the third right in place and this time they looked in her eyes and she stared right back in each one of their eyes. They were so close to the car she could see them vividly; they towered over the car, billowy, dark and smoky but clearly serious defenders who were there to protect the protected, the special one.
Without thinking, she made a sudden powerful thrust with her hand, it went straight through the window, sweeping the stubbed-nosed, shotgun off kilter and knocked it right out of Elvis’s grip, leaving him helpless, defenseless and surprised. He was stunned. She had overcome another victory of defeat to “save the day.”
The guys looked up in shock and fear, and jumped with one swift movement off the car and literally walked backwards, step by step until they disappeared from sight. The car tires rotated once, then twice, moving slowly until it passed through the thick of cars lined up in the long narrow driveway, until it reached the main road and was clearly out of danger. She looked back and could still see the cloud of shadowy-like figures hovering over the maze of cars, until Bobby Jean and her girls were out of sight and safe.
“Did you see that, what the hell was that?” the girls cried out.
“I did not see anything but dark dust.” Bobby Jean said.
But she knew the legend of the shadow people was true and it had been passed on to her for a reason. She knew she would always be safe, protected from evil and as her Papa said to her many years ago, beware of men with smiling faces, the shadow people will come to life before the twilight, and don’t ever look back. Would this be a curse or a blessing, this would be her legacy to have to face forever, but never alone because her future was in their hands and always in her mind.
*Lawander (AKA Wanda) Thompson is currently a Civic Arts Commissioner and a strong advocate for all things art and the sustainability for the next generations to come. Wanda has also served formerly as a staff member for the Arts Commission in the 1980’s. And she says this is her second wind for advocating for an important cause for the literary arts community.
Wanda is a graduate of St .Leo’s High School, when at one time, it was all girls and right before Aquinas Academy, St. Leo’s and Bellarmine became co-ed. She says the first book she read was, Little Women, which was given to her as a birthday gift from her mother when she was in the third grade.
She wrote her first poetry and prose in the National Voice of Democracy contest and her poem, Freedom, won her national acclaim at seventeen. Wanda has contributed numerous articles for fashion and beauty in local Northwest weekly’s, and has been writing ever since.
Wanda has served on many community boards and commissions in Tacoma, the city she loves, although she is well-traveled, her early childhood was in France and a year abroad in Paris as an exchange student during her junior year in college, but she always calls Tacoma home.
She’s a graduate of Evergreen State College and currently working on her post-graduate degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, to move forward with her PhD in Narratology and Oral Traditions.
She currently has worked as an administrator and trainer for state government for twenty years and spends her spare time reading the classics, special writing projects, and enjoying versification, in which she believes that poetry is a speaking picture to teach and delight.
Wanda is working on a book of poetry and a trilogy of short stories and her body of work includes four screenplays, numerous poems, and several short stories.*