The tools of Dr. Buzzard's trade are not pretty: shark teeth, hair from a black cat's tail, bones from a black cat's skeleton, fried earthworms.
Yet Dr. Buzzard claims these odd, often smelly items from the animal kingdom can do wonders for his patients.
Dr. Buzzard, whose real name is Earnest Bratton and who is formally referred to a doctor of roots, says he can use the stuff to invoke spells that will bring home a wayward husband or pick a winning number in the Maryland lottery.
Dr. Buzzard of Alexandria, who is licensed in that city to sell "potions, roots and herbs," is a massive man who chews Juicy Fruit gum, drives a big car and makes a living in the magic medicine business.
His business -- which folklore experts call root medicine -- descended over the 200 years in the South as a mix of legitimate herbal medicine, African tribal beliefs and the imaginings of black slaves hungry for some kind of power.
While Buzzard's business methods -- such as poking a needle into graveyard dirt for spell-casting purposes -- are tradition-bound, his prices show a keen awareness of inflation.
He'll turn, his attention to a "love problem" for no less than $600. A good luck voodoo bag, which comes with "extremely concentrated" good luck, goes for $250. Guaranteed success in marital endeavors forever costs $600.
One of Buzzard's best bargains is guaranteed victory in an election. Considering the high cost of campaign consultants, polling experts and advertising advisers, Buzzard's flat fee of $3,500 for election victory is a steal.
The doctor of roots does not take credit cards or checks. "It's gotta be cash," he said recently in an inview at his Hunting Towers apartment, which is near two graveyards.
Law enforcement authorities in Alexandria are familiar with Buzzard. Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Rawles Jones said yesterday that Buzzard would be violating the law if he tried to practice medicine without a license.
"We don't have any information that he is doing anything that approaches the practice of medicine" Jones said.
While doctors from medical schools remove gall bladders and set broken bones, Buzzard said he is concerned with weightier matters -- the soul, the future of marriage in this country, winning football lotteries.
At the Smithsonian Institution, folklore expert Jack Santino says that Dr. Buzzard's claim to power over people's fortunes are similar to claims of root doctors across the South.
The root doctor's professed ability to help men and women sell their souls, bring back faithless lovers or make big money derive from a primitive belief that spirits control everything people do, Santino said.
The root doctors of the South, Santino said, combined this supposed power to influence the spirits with a good working knowledge of effective home remedies to common ailments. The result, Santino argues, is a man of uncommon influence, usually upon rural people, who believe in the root doctor tradition.
"Root doctors can work for good of for bad, but among those who grew up in the Southern tradition the figures are powerful and sometimes dangerous," Santino said.
Buzzard, who stands six-feet, four-inches tall, weighs 290 pounds dresses in formal black suits and has a deep mesmerizing voice, says he works for good. i
He says he developed his $600 marriage blessing out of his concern for the high divorce rate in the United States, a problem that he terms an "evil trend."
Buzzard describes his "lifetime blessing" for newlyweds as both good and simple.
"All they have to do is bring me a marriage license and $600 to guarantee marital success for the rest of their lives," Buzzard said.
Buzzard says he's been helping careers and saving marriages for 20 years in Alexandria. He operates out of a run-down house where men often are seen drinking wine. He claims to have about 150 customers a year.
There are two services that Buzzard says he's able to perform, but which he always advises against. One is killing. "I usually tell the people that want me to kill somebody that they should think about it for three days and come back," he says.
The other service is soul selling. If a patient insists on selling his soul to attain success. Buzzard says he tells him to catch a black cat, boil it, and stick one of its bones in his mouth.
"There are 21 people I've sold out successfully since I been in the business," Buzzard says. Some of these people, he says, have gone on to successful careers as night club owners, horse farmers and businessmen.
Buzzard, citing the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, does not release the names of those who've sold out.
Buzzard, who plans to remain in Alexandria practicing roots, warns those interested in his business to avoid "film flam" men who charge big prices and then leave town.