Located on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the historic neighborhood of Algiers. Registered on the National Register of Historic Places, it is the second oldest neighborhood in the city, and is known for its historic architecture, churches, and as once being the home of numerous jazz musicians, as well as having sustained much damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is a vibrant city full of history and the arts, yet what many people may not realize is that it was once supposedly the haunt of a strange, devil-like entity that terrorized the area in the 1930s.
In the fall of 1938, a rather bizarre stranger began prowling the darkened streets of Algiers at night. Witnesses began reporting that there was a tall, hulking figure with “cartoonish eyes, long black horns and pink star-shaped ears” stalking through the night and lurking about near bars and eating establishments. This figure was said to have all manner of strange powers, such as the ability to levitate, shapeshift, disappear into thin air, and strike profound fear in those he gazed upon. In many cases people reported being confronted by the mysterious stranger and feeling as if they had temporarily died, watching their lives flash before their eyes before losing consciousness, after which they would suffer potent nightmares for days after. This stranger was said to harass people going home from bars, introducing himself as the Devil and hurling obscenities and insults before disappearing into the night, and he was apparently also a bit of a racist jerk because he mostly targeted black women and couples. He would also reportedly start fights at bars in which he displayed superhuman strength, or buy drinks and disappear without paying for them, basically causing quite a bit of trouble wherever he went.
When these reports started trickling into the news he became known as the Devil Man, and some reports really stood out as particularly odd and frightening. One dramatic case revolved around a couple who were traveling home by car one evening when they saw a dark figure by the side of the road waving at them to stop the vehicle. They pulled over to see if the man was in trouble, and he then asked them for a ride. At this time, they were getting a bad, slightly sinister feeling from the man, and so they declined and drove on. A few miles down the road they then passed the same man, waving his arms frantically at them. They passed right by and then passed him yet again a short while later, and this time he was reported as transforming into the Devil, with horns, red skin, the whole nine yards, and a brown horse also supposedly materialized beneath him. The terrified couple sped off to the police, and a search was launched for the ominous stranger. They apparently managed to find him riding along the road on his steed, and police allegedly fired on him when he refused to stop, after which the man laughed, got off his horse, walked right into their hail of gunfire, and handed them their own bullets with a hairy, clawed hand before evaporating before their eyes.
A similar story supposedly happened to a young woman who was leaving a dance hall one night and was confronted by a man with horns on his head. She called out for help and a policeman showed up to arrest the man and put him in a cell. The policeman then walked back outside and the same man was standing there grinning with a demonic smile. He then allegedly walked towards the policeman, who fired on him at point blank range to no effect, after which the Devil Man bent down, picked the bullets off of the ground, and threw them at the shocked officer. The man was arrested again and put in jail, but reports of the Devil Man continued, and the man claimed that he was able to leave his cell whenever he wanted to and change shape, and a few days later he vanished for good.
In the meantime, reports of the Devil Man continued to pour in, throwing Algiers into a mass hysteria. The police continued to look for the culprit, and on a tip they were led to a man called “Lord Harold,” later identified as a man named Carleton Clark, who locals were convinced was behind it all. Police booked him on causing a public disturbance, saying that he had been putting on fake devil horns and causing trouble at bars, but the reports continued even as he sat in jail for 30 days for skipping out on a bill at a bar. At the time people were losing their damn minds, with vigilante lynch mobs actively cruising the streets looking for the Devil Man, and there were several arrests made for mobs beating innocent people or even discharging firearms. There was even talk of a “Devil Baby with horns 'n all” born to a poor black woman, and on at least one occasion police had to break up a riot when mobs of people cornered who they thought was the Devil Man.
Things got very bizarre when the police interrogated Clark, who claimed that he was not the Devil, but in service to one greater than the Devil, “a mighty monarch, sometimes known as the King of Zulu,” as well as “great benefactor and advisor to Neptune, who comes only to those who speak his language.” He claimed that he had many supernatural powers, including being able to leave jail whenever he wanted, and that he had been the same man arrested at the dance hall. Although he would not demonstrate these purported abilities on demand, he would tell police of his origins and how he got his powers:
I came from the hills of Arkansas on September 6, 1938. I walked under the stars and Neptune guided me through the darkness of the night. I reached Port Allen, Louisiana, and from there I rode the ferry into Baton Rouge; then I came to New Orleans, still under the guidance of Neptune and possibly one of his assistant stars. I stopped at the Page Hotel. I came to New Orleans as the sun came down in the skies. Yes, they got me in jail, but it's my spirit that is haunting the people, because I have not been treated right by the police. That's why I'm going to keep on troubling them. If I wanted to, I could get out of sight right now - I could disappear away from all of you.
I am no longer Carleton Clark. I am Carleton Carl. The King of Mars has decreed it. It is the better title for me. He is a mighty monarch, sometimes known as the King of Zulu. He is, according to the prophecy of Daniel, you know. He has a queen, the queen of the Southern range. I know you are a great man. I have contacted great men, among them the president of this district. You want to know how I got my powers? Well, Neptune came to me in the form of a fishhook in June and May of 1937. I was reading my Bible at the time. Oh, yes, I'm a Baptist man, but I believe in the Divine, too. Neptune told me to walk straight ahead, that I would find two-headed man stranded on a rock. I found him but he disappeared. Then I knew I had the power. I went to fourth grade in school. I ain't no amnesia victim, but I don't remember anything about my people or anything else about myself. Tonight I'm going to divide myself with Neptune and maybe when you come back I will be able to tell you more. But, please tell everybody that I'm not going to hurt anyone, my spirit is just passing around New Orleans and Algiers like a bird because I have been mistreated by the police.
Depending on the version of the story, Clark, the Devil Man, whoever he really was, either one day vanished from jail for good or left when he was given money to get out of town. Either way, after this the reports stopped just as suddenly as they had begun. What was going on here? Who was this character and who was this Carleton Clark? Was there anything to any of this or is it just another cool little urban legend? There is no way to really know, and we are left to wonder what went on here.