Good piece by Alec Wilkinson from last week’s New Yorker.
“When I was a child, the story my mother always told to scare me was ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ ” he said. The story concerns a man and woman who get three wishes that turn out badly. “Around Mali there were women who sold lizard heads and rooster feet and powders,” Elfman said. “They were the ones who sold the materials for casting spells. The hardest thing to find, and the rarest, would be the mummified monkey’s paw. A tiny hand. Each finger would be used for a different spell. A few times, I saw one, and it was withdrawn immediately. ‘It’s not for you,’ she’d say. ‘Too much power.’ One day in the Bamako market, I saw one, and the woman offered it to me and said, ‘For you?’ I put it in a box and wrote, ‘Do not open under any circumstances until I return,’ and sent it to my mother. Of course I knew she wouldn’t be able to not open it. She told me that she waited three months but confirmed later that she only waited about five minutes, and screamed so loud that it was like Krakatoa—the whole neighborhood heard it. Those objects kind of set my path for the next forty-four years.”