LIMITED INTEREST was devoted goofer
practice by Doctor Jordan, but it shows up throughout
his long career. He made and bought red flannel bags,
then packed them with goofer dust. This dust was used,
in bags or loose, to turn back evil and to bring good
A limited local demand for good
luck and gambling bags continued until the doctor’s
death. Much of the need had been met by conjure doctors
of lesser fame, but Jim’s business increased when death
thinned their numbers.
Bob Dozier of Winton specialized in
goofer dust and good luck bags until his death April 23,
1948. He had a substantial patronage in Winton and
nearby towns of Cofield, Union and Ahoskie. Several
hundred woods working niggers lived in and about these
towns. Women, liquor and gambling provided weekend
recreation for many of them. Bob’s bags were especially
helpful in charming the women and adding luck at cards
When Bob was laid to rest some of
his patrons turned to the famed doctor at Como.
Amos Hall of Cofield cites the case
of Bud Watford of Ahoskie. Watford visited Doctor Jordan
each month “to renew the powder in my bag.” (Some
conjure men restored conjure power by soaking the bag’s
contents in whiskey.)
A BUSINESS MAN of Murfreesboro was
assisted by Doctor Jordan and his goofering. The man
faced legal difficulties during World War II, and he
inquired of his good friend what defense measures he
should take. The doctor set to work:
“I will do what I can for you,” he
volunteered. “But before I can help you I gotta figure
out how I can … first you gotta have faith.”
The doctor put a small piece of
metal on his table, said, “If you’ve got faith, you can
pick it up.”
I reached down to pick it up, but
it moved to one side.
“Maybe I got something else I can
help you with.” He placed a small disc on the table and
cautioned, “Take it real slow.”
That thing slipped right out from
beneath my fingers in another direction.
“This is getting bad; looks lak I’m
not going to be able to help you … I just got one more
thing.” He pulled a small red flannel bag from his desk
drawer. “This is a real old time bag of herbs. If you
can pick it up, I’m sure I can help you.”
The bag remained put and I picked
it up easily.
“Now I tell you what to do. You put
this in your shirt pocket and don’t you come out of the
house without it…” He picked up a second bag and said,
“Now, I’m going to put this other one just like it in my
pocket. When your time of trouble comes I’ll be in touch
It must have worked. I got out of
trouble. Afterwards I opened my bag. It contained a
brown powder that smelled like snuff.
BETTY WOOD visited Doctor Jordan in
1961 and wrote of him in “The Raleigh Times.” Passing
through Northampton and Hertford counties to his place
she learned everybody had heard of him. The observant
feature writer reported:
“Sure I’ve heard of Jordan,” a
filling station man said. “Pulled one of his logging
trucks in for him one time.”
The filling station man said he
sent Jordan a bill, “but I never did hear anything from
him. So I stopped by there one day, and Jordan said he
remembered, but never liked to pay a man except to his
Jordan told his girl to get some
cash out of the desk and the girl opened a drawer just
brimming with money.
“Aren’t you afraid somebody’ll come
in here and steal that money?” he asked her.
“Naw suh,” she replied. “Ain’t
nobody who’d come in Mr. Jordan’s house and steal
“No siree,” said a man in a
Murfreesboro restaurant. “They’d rob a bank before
they’d rob him. He’s the smartest devil you ever saw.”
On down the road a logging truck
was pulling over in front of a group of little houses.
One house resembled a country store.
“Mr. Jordan’ll be in there,” a
three legged dog hobbled out from behind a shed and
wagged his tail.
“Mr. Jordan here?” we asked.
“Yea. On back there,” a boy pointed
to a room where two women and a man stood around washing
tubs full of clothes.
“Through that door,” one of them
directed, appearing accustomed to strangers walking
On the other side of the door was a
room painted “shoutin’ pink” with a green leading to
another room. A man sat on a battered sofa trying to
look inconspicuous. He wasn’t Jordan, but he was waiting
to see Jordan.
The green door soon opened.
“Which one of ya’ll is next?” she
We said he was and he said we were.
Then we both insisted and he went in.
We waited and listened to the
people in the washing room laugh and carry on.
“The Lord is my shepherd,” said one
man. “I shall not want. But I know what I wants and I’m
gonna take it.”
They all laughed. Finally the door
opened and nobody was next bus us.
“Mr. Jordan?” we asked.
A slow talking Negro man looked up.
He appeared to be in his late 50’s. He was wearing a
brown felt hat in the house and a red plaid shirt. He
offered us a seat.
We began a “made-up” story about
letting a gardner go and every morning since that time
there had been a peculiar dust on the front porch.
The maid hadn’t been able to sleep
or eat, claiming somebody’d cast a spell on her. So, we
had come to see what could be done to break the spell.
Jordan looked like he had a good
mind not to believe us. Then he picked up a crystal ball
and squinted at us through it.
He leaned back in his chair, asked
a few questions, then he said solemnly as a superior
court judge, “Somebody’s after your maid’s job. That’s
exactly what it is.”
“But how do you break the spell?”
Jordan thought a minute, then he
said slowly, “I’ll tell you what you do. Next time you
find any dust, take a broom and sweep it three steps
backwards. Then turn the broom tail up.”
“Is that all?:
“Will it work?:
“Sure it’ll work. Why won’t it
We couldn’t think of a good reason
right then nor afterwards either. We asked if we didn’t
need a goofer bag,” but he said he didn’t believe in
“Well,” we said, “Do we owe you
The old man looked straight ahead
with a dead pan expression wiped across his face and
said sullenly “fi’ dollars.”
Now “fi’ dollars” seemed like an
awful lot to be told to turn a broom “tail up,” but we
paid him and left.
Back in town (of Murfreesboro) the
police chief (W. T. Liverman) said, “Always found Jordan
to be a straightforward man. Very religious.”
“Yes,” we thought. “and fi’ dollars
* * *
Some Notes of
JIM MADE CONJURE
DUST during his early practice, and it shows up at times
throughout his career. Some folks called the potent
powder goofer dust, other gummer dust. The dust was red
or brown and smelled like snuff. Jim was a chain snuff
dipper, and some folks ventured the dust was snuff mixed
with other ingredients. The stuff was either sprinkled
about in prescribed fashion or packed into a goofer-bag.
(“Hard Twenty Years”).
Roy Johnson • The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan • ©
Copyright 1963 •Johnson Publishing Co.• Murfreesboro, N.
* * *
Goofer Dust is a
very old African-American
hoodoo curio used to trouble, harm, or kill an
enemy. In particular, it can cause the victim's legs to
swell up and medical doctors will not be able to effect
a cure. Recipes for making it vary, but it is almost
always a mixture of simple natural ingredients, usually
Graveyard Dirt, powdered sulphur (which can give it
a yellowish colour) and
salt. Subsidiary ingredients may include
powdered snake heads or snake skin "sheds," red
pepper, black pepper, powdered bones, powdered insects
or snails, and greyish, powdery-surfaced herbs such as
mullein and sage. In the past, some formulas for
Goofer Dust included anvil dust, the fine black iron
detritus found around a blacksmith's anvil. A modern
substitute for this now-uncommon ingredient would be
magnetic sand, which is also black in colour.
update 23 June 2008