Candle Power originally appeared in The Horsemen’s Journal, March 1985
“I know a man.
The man with The Power.
The power of voodoo.
Know a man.
The man with The Power…”
—Introduction to The Power, a science fiction novel
I didn’t exactly find The Man with The Power as I was flipping through television channels one evening recently, but Fate and Destiny at least led me to The Woman with The Power when I stumbled into the ad for the candle store.
“Want success in Reno?” the announcer asked me. Well, the Egypt Candle Store had the answer for something like $2.50, match not included. Now that didn’t appeal to me too much, I never go to Reno to get rich anyway, and I know a nice little slot machine that usually took care of me when things got tight.
“Want success in your love life?” the announcer continued. Since I didn’t have any problem there to begin with, I certainly couldn’t imagine a candle offering any improvements.
Just when I was about to change the channel, the announcer nailed me. “Want to win at the race track?”
Now I don’t know about you, but practically every day my mailbox is full of offers to get rich at the track, the trouble is most of them cost twenty or thirty bucks. Since I couldn’t afford them in the first place, the thought of a candle accomplishing the same purpose for slightly more than the cost of a Racing Form naturally intrigued me.
And right then I knew I had to have a race track good luck candle to guide my handicapping and checkbook balance to new heights.
Of course, there are people who might scoff at such a venture as going out and buying a candle to bring one luck at the pari-mutuel windows. But at least to me voodoo is a lot like the Mafia…you might deny it exists, but deep in your heart there’s always that nagging doubt. As someone once wrote, the success of the vampire lies in the fact that no one believes in him. And since I’d devoted a few years of my life to writing horror stories to scare the little kiddies with, work that included a smattering of occult research, I wasn’t about to take a magical candle too lightly.
With visions of winners dancing in my head I ventured to a mysterious looking shop in a section of the city that most people wouldn’t be caught dead in at night. Or, to put it another way, there was that distinct possibility, which is why I went to the Egypt Candle Store in the daytime.
Inside were shelves filled with candles, display cases of oils and incenses, powders and potions. A dark woman behind a counter eyed me carefully. She reminded me of a voodoo priestess I had seen once in an old comic book.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a less than menacing tone, as I glanced over her desk to make sure some spare voodoo dolls and pins weren’t lying around.
“I was,” I hesitated, “interested in your…uh…horse racing candles…”
“Right there on the shelf near the front door,” she cackled.
I picked up a tall glass filled with red and green wax, about half again as tall as a Kentucky Derby glass. Except instead of saying Kentucky Derby it said ‘Hipodromo…Race Track’. There was a crude drawing of two horses presumably driving for the wire, below which were circled the numerals 7, 9 and 5. At the bottom was an equally crude drawing of bags of money with dollar signs and stacks of coins.
To my dismay there was only one race track candle left, whereas next to it there seemed to be plenty of Reno candles, which was when the dark woman whose name I had learned was Ella suddenly materialized behind me with half a dozen new racing candles. “Just made them this morning,” she smiled strangely while I was wondering how she had gotten across the room so quickly without my hearing her. “I sort of felt you might want more than one,” she added, placing them on the shelf. “Had a customer this morning, he bought three of them.”
Well, I figured this was all some sort of omen, so I selected two of the fresh ones on the theory that they were even more potent, and then started studying some of the other candles on the theory that I might as well stock up on luck while I was there.
I finally decided on something called ‘Run Devil Run’, a rather ominous depiction of the devil on the outside of a glass filled with black wax. After all, I reasoned, you never knew when you might want to chase away some evil spirits, and this seemed like the best buy.
Ella dutifully made out a receipt for my candles and then leaned back thoughtfully in her chair. “You know how to make the racing candles work?” she asked carefully.
I mumbled that I had noticed there were some instructions on the back, I figured that was sufficient. She leaned forward very slowly. “Yes, the instructions say to anoint the candle with Success Oil and burn High John The Conqueror and Success Incense, but there are other secrets.”
Naturally I figured this is the time I get stuck with having to buy all the oils and things to make the candles work, which was when Ella did a confusing thing. She reached into her desk and produced several peculiar looking bottles and proceeded to anoint the candles.
“Before you light these,” she said ominously while also nodding to my wife, “each of you read Psalms Four, and be sure you each light your own candle. Then, use only one match, and be sure not to blow out the match, you must shake the match to extinguish it.”
“Gee,” I said, “it sure doesn’t say that on the back of the glass.”
“It is because I like you,” she said, looking me over as if I was a candidate for the lead in a zombie movie. “I want you to receive the full benefit of the power of the candle.”
“I appreciate that,” I said nervously, deciding to check out some items in the display cases while my wife and Ella began talking about astrological omens.
Besides, I thought it might be good business to buy a few more items, so I settled on three bars of soap: Love Drawing Power (for our friends, you understand), Old Indian Stop Evil Condition Soap, and Old Indian Conquering Soap. I really didn’t know what the last one was supposed to conquer, but since I had a trace of Indian blood in my American heritage it seemed like a logical purchase.
Topping off this shopping foray with a small bottle of Jinx Removing Oil (I had considered the Drive Away Evil Oil and the Jinx Killer Incense, but figured the Run Devil Run candle would cover those bases), I went back to the counter where my wife and Ellen were discussing things like ‘Golden Triangles’ and making strange markings on pieces of paper.
Now while my wife is into astrology to a knowledgeable degree, I gave up on the conjunctions of the planets after Sidney Omarr told me I was going to get a promotion and I got fired from a rather boring job. Of course, in a strange way, it was a promotion…right out the door.
“Ella’s from Mississippi,” my wife informed me as I paid for my latest collection of soaps and oils. Mississippi, I thought to myself, that’s pretty close to Cajun voodoo country.
“But,” Ella interjected, “I don’t get back there much anymore. I like,” she said pointedly, “to vacation in the islands.”
And if you know anything about voodoo, that doesn’t mean Hawaii.
I decided to change the subject by commenting on a snakeskin she had hanging on a wall. It reminded me of a rattlesnake hide an elementary school teacher of mine back in Oklahoma had been so proud of. “I guess,” I offered. “snakes are a part of your…uh…tradition.”
“Oh sure,” she replied. “Matter of fact, I used to train them.”
“You…uh…trained snakes? Like rattlesnakes?”
She looked at me almost as if I had insulted her. “Only trained the tough snakes,” she said proudly. “Don’t want nothin’ to do with them tame ones.”
“Oh,” I said meekly, picking up my packages of candles and oils and soaps. “Well, we have to be going, but can I ask one question?”
“I noticed you were kind enough to anoint the racing candles for us, but you didn’t do anything with the Run Devil Run candle. I mean, shouldn’t it be prepared in case we get home and want to chase away some evil spirits?”
She stared at the candle filled with black wax and then looked at me darkly. “A dangerous candle. You must be careful with that one.”
Once home, of course, we decided to test the racing candles. We were going to the track the next day and one of the instructions was to light the candles the night before a venture to the track. So we dutifully read Psalms Four from two different versions of the Bible and, while the content didn’t seem to have much to do with impending riches, who were we to argue with the power of voodoo?
We each lit our candles, careful not to blow out the matches, and recited the instructions printed on the back of the glass the indicated seven times: “My richness shall be great for my faith is complete and I shall triumph over all barriers to achieve great winnings.”
We went to the track the next day and, sure enough, the first race I bet I got a winner. “Candlepower!” I yelled to no one in particular as my winner hit the wire and a few people were scanning their programs, presumably looking for a horse named Candlepower.
Unfortunately everything went down the tubes after that, but I figured it was a logistical matter, like perhaps we shook the matches in the wrong direction or didn’t let the candles burn long enough, something like that. “Even voodoo,” I told my wife, “takes a certain amount of practice.”
The following week we forgot to light the candles, but in spite of this ‘our’ magic numbers that Ella had given us as sort of a bonus, 3 and 7, came in for a $3,000 Exacta. Of course, we didn’t have a ticket on it, but like I said these things take mastering.
“Are you going to light the candle next week?” my wife asked. I thought about the extent of her own superstition, noting that she had hidden the Run Devil Run candle in a closet on the theory that if the woman who sold it to us was scared of it, well…
“Probably not,” I replied. “It’s like buying a system or calculating lunar influences. How gullible can people get?”
“I’m glad you realized that,” she laughed.
“Of course,” I replied, digging a dusty book on witchcraft out of a bookcase and setting it next to the racing candles. “Any fool can see that these candles won’t be worth a damn until I go back to the store and get a couple of bottles of Indian Grandma’s Winning Number Oil.”