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In Jamaican folklore, duppies are restless spirits of the dead that are believed to haunt the living during the nightime.


Duppy is a Jamaican Patois word of West African (Bantu language) meaning ghost or spirit. Jamaican folklore contains a significant amount of duppy stories in various forms. Jamaican sayings and proverbs also contain references to duppies; “Bull buck and duppy conqueror” and “Duppy know who fi frighten an who fi tell good night” are two such examples.


Duppy is a generic term and there are many different sorts like the 'Rolling Calf', 'Three footed horse' or 'Old Higue'.


‘Duppies’ are said to live at the roots of cotton trees and bamboo thickets, from where they emerge in the nights or at midday.


Duppies are generally considered malicious if not malevolent. The duppy can linger around or be summoned by an obeah-man or woman from the graveyard to do harm in exchange for payment of food or drink, especially rum. According to legend, one can tell if a ‘duppy’ is around if certain signs are observed, such as:

  • If a dog whines or howls at night.
  • A spider web across the face, especially at night.


It is said that to keep duppies out of your house you must either sprinkle salt or rice grains all around the house; as the duppy must first count each individual grain before entering. By which time the sun will have arisen and they must then return to the spirit world. It is also supposed that certain precautions must be taken to ward off or to avoid trouble with a ‘duppy’. When throwing out water at night care must be taken to warn the ‘duppies’ before throwing the water. Stones must not be thrown at noon or nights and one should never sit at the threshold of a door as a ‘duppy’ will walk over and injure you. Methods of getting rid of ‘duppies’ range from cursing or calling “Jesus Christ” to nailing a horseshoe to the house.




The term duppy has been featured in various musical works from the Caribbean. According to Lee "Scratch" Perry, after Bob Marley wrote the song My Cup, Marley was complaining to Lee that he was too "successful" and was being plagued by hangers-on and leeches, referring to them as duppies in the context of 'human vampires' (as in scroungers). Lee apparently consoled him by saying, "Look, we'll sort this out- we are duppy conquerors." Bob then proceeded to write Duppy Conqueror. The term "duppy" is also referenced in the song Mr. Brown.

Several other Jamaican artists have recorded songs that refer to Duppies, including Bunny Wailer's Duppy Gun, and Ernie Smith's Duppy Gun-Man. Yellowman released an album titled Duppy or Gunman. There was also a Drum & Bass single written by the duo Chase & Status called "Duppy Man" featuring Capleton's vocals from his track 'Slew Dem', with the track "Top Shotta" on the b-side. It was released on the Breakbeat Kaos label in 2005. In 2008, Jamaican dancehall artist Demarco had a hit with the single Duppy Know Who Fi Frighten on the well-known "Shoot Out" riddim.


In the Amazing Stories (TV Show) the duppy appears in the episode titled "The Sitter." In this episode the jamican baby sitter warns the two kids(one being a young Seth Green) about the duppy which hides in closets and under beds. She explains that they are unhappy spirits who are tied to the earth and try to attack people. A visual representation of the duppy then briefly appears in the episode as it attacks the kids.


Duppies appear as common enemies in the Acclaim video game Shadow Man (available for Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, and PC). In it, they appear as cadaverous humanoid creatures that attack at close range with their claws and from a distance by vomiting projectiles of green goo.


The term "duppy" is also used in Neil Gaiman's 2005 novel, "Anansi Boys".[6]


  • Beckwith, Martha Warren (1929). Black Roadways, A Study of Jamaican Folk Life. Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press.
  • Banbury, Rev. T. Jamaica Superstitions; or the Obeah Book. Kingston: Mortimer C. DeSouza, 1894.
  • Leach, MacEdward (1961). Jamaican Duppy Lore. The Journal of American Folklore.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren (1929). Black Roadways, A Study of Jamaican Folk Life. Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press.