Let me start off by saying, these stories are either first hand recounts or stories that have been told to others. My father’s family may or may not be of Indigenous descent, through my grandmother who had “Spanish eyes”: a cover up term from the 30s for being of Indigenous descent. We’re still unsure, but we hope to find out soon.
Now, onto the stories. Let’s take it back to the 90s; my father had finished his law degree, gotten out of working in the court system, and had started working out at Maclean. Most days he would go to the Maclean courthouse and pass half a dozen Indigenous fellas sitting under the mango tree that sat out front of the court.
“G’day,” he would wave, and continue into the courthouse for his work.
Mind you, this is a man who weighs about 100 kilos, is bald, big and has a business suit on. He looks tough, you know? But these men out the front would still talk to my dad. He got to know them.
One day, sitting in his office, he gets a phone call.
“Hello, this is Mansell Laidler,” he speaks into the old landline phone (man, remember those?).
On the other end, a voice responds and tells him he has a “matter charged by police with respect to his manner of driving a motor vehicle,” and needs legal representation.
“I said to him, ‘where are you today? The matter’s on tomorrow.’ He responded that he was at Kempsey, and I told him, ‘Mate you better get on a train or bus, that’s a far fucking step from Kempsey to bloody Maclean”.
This man seemed odd–very odd–as he said, “it’ll be alright, I’ll walk,” in a very calm, matter of fact tone.
Mansell thought that it was a bit weird, but said “just as long as you get here and have all your dollars and cents.” And with that, the phone call ended.
Then came the next day: it was court day for the person he had spoken to on the phone. Getting his baxters shoes on, and tie, Mansell was ready for the day. At precisely 9 o’clock, a tall, thin, Indigenous dude, “probably wearing one of the best suits I’d ever seen, and handmade moccasins–around 500, 600 worth of shoes back then. I took him into the office and asked him about his travels and he produced to me some documentation that proved that this case wasn’t his problem–wasn’t down to him.”
In plain terms, that means the charges should no longer be a worry for this man.
Mansell said, “I’ll show the prosecutors, and that’ll be good.”
So, off these gentlemen went to court. Mansell starts to walk past the usual mango tree and thinks, fuck, that’s unusual, as he notices none of the usual Indigenous fellas are near the mango tree. But he can’t think about it too much, he’s got a case to deal with! After showing the documentation, the charges were then withdrawn.
“We walked out of the court together and I said to him, I’ll get ya a cup of coffee.”
There was a stall of Salvo ladies who sold coffee and cakes, so he turned his back and got the coffee, but when he turned around, the man wasn’t there.
“He was gone. I was no more than 5 yards away from him. I walked around the corner to the mango tree; I didn’t even hear his shoes on the pavement. He was gone.”
Mansell, clearly shocked and a bit confused, didn’t know what to think.
“I saw some Aboriginal folk coming towards the mango tree.” He started up some conversation, still confused why there was no one there when he walked past earlier and asked, “there was no one here today?”
One of the folks responded, “we didn’t want to come down, the cadiche man was here.”
Mansell, the non-indigenous man that he is, said, “what the bloody hell is the cadiche man?”
The next thing this man said started to scare him: “he’s a bad bloke, Black fellas will die tonight, if he’s town.”
Damn, that even gives me chills hearing this for the thousandth time.
Mansell recalls the conversation as kind of surreal, and really interesting.
“The cadiche man?” Mansell repeated. “Why? What will he do?” he asked this fella. Going through his head: is he going to track these guys down and kill them? Have I got a potential murder happening soon?
“Did he say anything to you that struck you as odd?” they asked.
Then something clicked… “I said, well yeah, he said that he was going to walk here.”
“Well, he would of, they all on feathery feet,” answered the fella, using his palms face down to show the movement: kind of flat hands, but shaking. That was the feathery foot. Mansell recalled thinking, what in the world? Maybe in more profanities, but you get the drift. This was weird, really weird.
“Suit and everything?” Mansell questioned further.
“You have no idea Manse, he walks on feathery foot**, walks that far above the ground,” gesturing around 15cm above the ground. Then the fella said something even more odd: “if he points at you, Black fellas will die.”
Mansell, thinking that this couldn’t be true, went home and didn’t think much of it.
“The next morning, I became aware that there was a motor vehicle accident in the Aboriginal settlement in Yamba, that three young Aboriginal men had died. In strange circumstances, in that it was single vehicle accident, where there was little vehicular traffic at any time. Ran off road, no reason for their car to end up where it did. Speed wasn’t an issue, nothing seemed to be. I found it odd and unsettling.”
So, Mansell did the next rational thing, and looked up what the cadiche man was.
“On my readings of things, they appeared to be assassins, and they would pin prick their feet, so they would bleed and put downy feathers on their feet. Which explained the feathery feet. I was more than a little bit disconcerted by that.”
He remembered seeing they were also called witch doctors, who held a bone*** which, when pointed at people, became a death sentence… that concerned him even more.
And that was it. The cadiche man was no more… so Mansell thought. Some years later, he was at a pub, walking up to the door, when he heard a voice behind him say, “I knew you would be here.”
He remembered the voice, turning around to see none other than the mysteriously disappearing man known as the cadiche man, standing behind him. Keep in mind that my father, outside of work without his suit and tie on, looks like a completely different person. Sometimes he does have to re-introduce himself because he just looks so casual, and so not-court-like.
“G’day mate, how-ya-going?” Mansell recalls talking to him, and asking him how he was going, to which he responded well. He didn’t question him much on the past and just asked him, “Come on, I’ll buy you a beer?” He starts to walk towards the bar, turning his back once again to the cadiche man. He quickly turned around because he wanted to check the beer the man liked and, just like that, Mansell snapped his fingers and “he was gone. I looked for him, but he was completely gone.”
And now, that was truly it. The end of the cadiche man.
*Also known as the kuradaitcha, gadaidja, kadaitcha, karadji, or kaditcha, the cadiche man is seen as a witch doctor, Shaman, or assassin figure within Indigenous Australian communities. The pronunciation “ga-die-chi” comes from the pronunciation of the Bunjalung people in the 1990s.
**Feathery foot can mean one of two things in Indigenous Australian culture. Some believe that it describes the process of pin-pricking one’s feet with a tiny needle and sticking downy feathers to the skin. For others, feathery foot might refer to a sandal-like shoe, made from emu feathers and animal skin, which leave no track. There is some evidence of these shoes in the Australian Aboriginal Studies journal of the Australian Institute of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2005.
***Common in the beliefs of the Bunjalung people and concerning the Cadiche man, bone pointing is a bad omen. Within a week, someone who has been pointed with a bone is said to die. It is a very powerful sentence.
Hey! My name is Ivy-Rose! I’m the student life columnist and contributor for the Opus mag! I love writing about life as a student, the societal expectations, and experiences that help us grow and shape us to who we are today – as individuals and a collective! When I’m not contributing to Opus, I’m helping out local charity organisations SHIBUI Services and What Were You Wearing as well as creating content!