“Killer jacket” means different things to different people. To a woman in New York, it may mean a high fashion item. To a strange guy in Cleveland, it may mean an overcoat once worn by serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. To the members of a village in Zimbabwe, it means a jacket that is allegedly responsible for the deaths of at least 20 people in the same family who got sick and died after the patriarch put it on. No, this doesn’t appear to be a mistake due to Google Translate. And yes, one should wonder why the family didn’t donate the coat to a resale shop (Badwill?) after the first few deaths.
The story comes from The Manica Post, which reports that the strange case of the killer jacket came to light when the Chinoona family appeared in the court of Zimunya, a small village in the province of Manicaland on the east coast of Zimbabwe. Court? Yes, the family was appealing to the chief of the Zimunya court to order their uncle to destroy an “evil jacket” which they believe is responsible for the deaths of 20 family members.
There are a number of spirits and possessions in the story, so pay close attention. A grandchild in the family claimed to be possessed by the spirit of the family’s late father. The spirit said he had been murdered by the uncle and the murder weapon was the “evil jacket.” The jacket became evil after the uncle, Mutsiyabako, committed a previous murder and the spirit of that victim came to haunt him. When the uncle tried an “underworld” ritual to rid himself of the spirit, he was wearing the jacket. Mutsiyabako then gave the jacket to his sister to give to her husband (the patriarch). She later claimed the jacket was “heavier” than usual, but her husband wore it anyways, got sick suddenly and died a mysterious death. In 1998.
Does the court of Zimunya have a 20-year backlog? Well, another case in the same week had to do with a talking cow (we’ll get to that) so the chief of the court is obviously busy. The child only had the strange dream recently and the family first went to a sangoma – a traditional healer of southern Africa – who told them that not only did the jacket strangle their father, it was responsible for the unusually high number of family deaths and illnesses since then – reportedly eight children had died in just one family unit and the mother was ill. Not surprisingly, the sangoma told them to destroy the jacket.
Not surprisingly, the uncle didn’t like being accused of all of these murders, including the one that started it all – and is nowhere to be found. The chief ordered his police to bring him in.
This is the same chief who presided over the recent case of the talking cow. The Manica Post reports that the owner of a talking cow was ordered to appear in court with the cow because witchcraft was suspected. As the chief pointed out to the Post, the cow seemed to have legitimate reasons to talk.
“According to Chief Marange, each time the cow in question is taken out of the kraal in the morning destined for the grazing pastures it complains that the herd is being released late to feed. It complains of hunger and immediately demands water. On the way to the grazing pastures when the herd boy directs the cattle to a certain grazing land, the cow in question quickly complains, telling the herd boy in his face that he was taking them to dry pastures. Chief Zimunya said the cow was behaving like a person with normal reasoning capacity.”
The hearing drew a crowd but neither cow nor owner appeared, so the chief sent his cops out again to bring them in.
Is the case of the cursed “killer jacket” really much different than consulting with a psychic to help with an unsolved murder? Sure, the talking cow and talk of witchcraft remind us that tribal and religious customs are strong worldwide but at least the chief is dealing with both cases in a reasonable and civil manner rather than with a torch-carrying posse.
While we wait for further updates, beware of talking cows and heavy jackets.