Crossroad Demon


Story of the bluesman, the Devil, and the deal at the crossroads

In the delta of the Mississippi River, where Robert Johnson was born, they said that if an aspiring bluesman waited by the side of a deserted country crossroads in the dark of a moonless night, then Satan himself might come and tune his guitar, sealing a pact for the bluesman's soul and guaranteeing a lifetime of easy money, women, and fame. They said that Robert Johnson must have waited by the crossroads and gotten his guitar fine-tuned.

The lyrics tell of the narrator's failed attempts to hitch a ride from an intersection as night approaches. The song had frequently been linked to stories of Johnson selling his soul to the devil for the ability to play music, although nothing in the actual lyrics speaks of these events.

]Historian Leon Litwack and others state that the song refers to the common fear felt by blacks who were discovered out alone after dark; that Johnson was likely singing about the desperation of finding his way home from an unfamiliar place as quickly as possible because of a fear of lynching.

In addition, the lyrics could be allusion to the curfews that were then imposed on blacks in the South. The imagery of the singer falling to his knees and the mention of his failure to find a "sweet woman" suggests that the song is also about a deeper and more personal loneliness.

Also Known As: The crossroads demon of folklore is usually represented as a unique entity-- usually The Devil or an African/Voodoo deity like Legba, Ellugua, Elegbara, Eshu, Nbumba, Nzila, or Pomba Gira--and no doubt some crossroads demons claim to be these entities if they believe they can get away with the ruse. They are also sometimes referred to by names like The Rider, Li’l Ole Funny Boy, The Big Black Man, and The Stranger At The Crossroads, which may originate from names given to specific crossroads demons.

Description: Crossroads demons are physically indistinguishable from humans.

BMA Classification: Despite the name “demon,” these creatures have not yet been classified by the Bureau of Monster Affairs because very little is known about them and they rarely directly assault humans. They should be approached with caution, but treated according to the same procedures established for humans and other non-malicious intelligent creatures.

Powers: While crossroads demons are often portrayed as wish-granters, in most stories their abilities seem more limited, usually restricted to imbuing summoners with a particular talent (traditionally gambling or musical ability) or sharing secret information (including information about things that haven’t happened yet) with the summoner


¨ The most well-known story of a crossroads demon is that blues singer Robert Johnson sold his soul to “The Devil” at a crossroads in return for musical ability. Johnson’s death at 27 and the numerous references to The Devil and elements of the “hoodoo” magical tradition are often cited as evidence that this story is true. Others claim the story is false or that the soul-seller was actually Tommy Johnson (no relation) who, unlike Robert Johnson, made public claims about conducting such a ritual.

¨ Some accounts say that Stagger Lee obtained his magic hat from The Devil at a crossroads, but the fact that such gift-giving on the part of crossroads demons is rarely mentioned elsewhere (and the question of whether Lee ever actually existed) suggests that the detail in the Stagger Lee story was borrowed from more standard tales of crossroads demons.

¨ In 1989, a man visited the Lubbock, Texas M-Force office claiming that he had failed to keep his end of a deal with a crossroads demon and that the demon was tormenting and perhaps attempting to kill him. In the process of verifying the man’s tale, M-Forcers discovered plenty of evidence that he was either experiencing a monumental run of bad luck or being targeted by a supernatural entity. In the previous year, his home had burned down (arson was suspected), his business had been robbed and vandalized on numerous occasions (unusual for a florist shop in an upscale part of town), and his wife had left him after suspecting he was having an affair (both he and the alleged mistress denied any wrongdoing). M-Force began looking into the case, but gave up after several months with no good leads. Shortly thereafter, the man died in a rather unusual boating accident


Crossroads... The meeting and parting of ways - have long been regarded as likely places for ghosts or other spirit activity to take place. Crossroad superstitions can be found in Europe, India, Japan and among Native Americans, perhaps because in some parts of the world murderers, sorcerers and suicides were buried at crossroads with a stake or nail driven through the corpse, an act known as 'nailing down the ghost', to prevent the ghosts return. Or perhaps the cross shape of the intersection mimicked the consecrated ground of a church yard, a burial place denied to murderers. Perhaps crossroads were places where territories, routes or villiages collided, and they therefore became regarded as meeting places between the spirit realm and earth.

Crossroads are believed to be haunted by spirits who take great delight in leading travellers astray. In German folklore a ghostlt rider is believed to haunt a crossroads in Schleswig; the neck of his horse stretches across the path and prevents people from passing. In European lore the dead are said to appear at crossroads, and in Welsh legend every crossroad is thought to be inhabited by spirits of the dead on Allhallows Eve. In modern evolution of the tradition, crossroads in the rural Mississippi Delta area are reportedly frequented by either Lucifer or his minions; wandering musicians and minstrals seeking to bargain their immortal souls for success in their musical endeavours know to go to the crossroads to meet with the Devil.

The cross shape of crossroads is in some traditions protection against the spirits that are said to haunt it. For example, in Irish folklore humans who have been kidnapped by fairies are thought to be able to gain their freedom at crossroads. One German superstition holds that if you are chased by a ghost or demon, you should head to a crossroads for protection. On reaching the crossroads the spirits will vanish in an unearthly shriek