Curtis Kelley wasn’t supposed to be a boxer much less a minister. His father was steeped in Voodoo, a Haitian religion, and Curtis was slated to be his successor.
But, as usual, God had other plans for Curtis, and they were better than he could have ever imagined.
A Lineage of Occult
Curtis’ great-great-grandfather, a farmer, emigrated from Ireland to Haiti, where he managed to impregnate one of the slaves. She gave birth to Curtis’ great-grandfather. At the time, Voodoo was popular in Haiti, and Curtis’ ancestors were wrapped up in the practice.
The family eventually moved to the United States, and Curtis’ father settled in Connecticut.
The practice of Voodoo had been handed down through the Kelley line for generations, and it eventually reached Curtis. He was the seventh child — the one Voodoo practitioners call the chosen vessel — and his father expected Curtis to return to Haiti to study under François Duvalier, then-president of Haiti and a Voodoo priest.
As a child, Curtis was fine with the idea. One time he saw his grandmother cast a spell on someone, and Curtis knew he wanted that same power. He repeated the same words his grandmother said and felt a dark presence sweep over him.
He thought practicing Voodoo would lead to money, power and happiness. But it didn’t.
A Hard Home Life
His home life didn’t help anything. For as long as he could remember, Curtis was abused. When his mother was pregnant with him and wouldn’t have an abortion, his father beat her, hoping to cause a miscarriage.
It didn’t work.
The abuse continued after Curtis was born. His father even used a belt buckle to hit his son in the head, and he incessantly pushed Voodoo on Curtis.
Curtis started huffing chemicals when he was 4, started smoking marijuana at age 6, and was using cocaine by the time he was 10. He even watched his brothers shoot up heroin and use cocaine.
“By the time I was 4 years old, I’d seen everything,” Curtis said. “I’d seen murders. I’d seen prostitutes and deals go down. I’d seen people hurt bad … all kinds of dead bodies. It was nothing for me at that time.”
His brothers recruited him to deal cocaine when he was 10, and Curtis often came home with more money than the adult dealers earned.
A Mother’s Prayers
Still, there was one good influence in the house — Curtis’ mother. She was a Christian, and she prayed for her son. Curtis said if his father had found out about her prayers, he would have beaten his mother.
She never gave up on Curtis, even when he was dealing drugs and practicing Voodoo.
“I can count to this day 60 of my friends who are dead or in prison, but because of my mother’s prayers, it was like there was a shield of angels around me,” Curtis said.
Interest in Voodoo
During his childhood and early teen years, Curtis started developing his Voodoo skills. He put spells on people and tried to conjure spirits because he liked the power he thought it gave him.
“It makes you feel like you’re in control because (the spirits) tell you that you’re in control, but actually you’re not,” Curtis said. “They’re manipulating you because they want to get your soul into Hell.”
A Voodoo priestess who worked for his father often came into church meetings to provide what Curtis called a quick fix if God was taking too long, he remembered. The woman even had a Voodoo doll she said would conjure up ghosts.
Curtis embraced the lifestyle and even tried to put a spell on some friends after they converted to Christianity at a revival.
Still, he had some hesitations when it came time to signing a contract that sold his soul to the devil. The contract stated he would have either 10 or 20 years of unlimited fame — at least they gave him options — but then Satan would kill him when the contract was over. Although he was still practicing Voodoo, Curtis felt a small voice inside telling him this was going too far.
To Hell and Back
One day, while his father was at work, Curtis’ mom packed up the whole family and moved to Milwaukee. He was finally free from his father’s influence but not from the drug-dealing lifestyle. Because of his childhood, Curtis had grown into an angry teenager who loved to fight.
“If you get clocked in the head with a belt buckle, you have to get that out somewhere,” Curtis explained.
On a whim, he walked into a boxing gym with a friend. He saw photos of all the major boxers and had the idea that maybe he could do that one day. The coach already knew Curtis had a reputation for fighting and told Curtis he would train him to fight for money if he wanted.
Curtis was already fighting on the streets for free, so he decided to start fighting for money. Soon enough, he was bare-knuckle fighting competitively. His nickname was Earthquake, and he went on to be a renowned heavyweight boxer.
Even though Curtis was actively involved in a sport, drugs still had a hold on him. One night, when Curtis was 15, he decided to get really, really high — just to see what it was like.
He overdosed, and he said he went to hell.
“The demons were hitting me in the head. They were pulling my tongue. They were laughing at me saying, ‘We tricked you. We fooled you. You were casting spells, and it was always just to get you to this place,’ ” Curtis told GodReports. “I knew how drugs worked. This was different. I was conscious. I saw it with my own eyes. It was beyond horror. They remind you of everything you did that was wrong. They won’t leave you alone.”
Then, in the middle of his overdose, he heard another voice saying, “Because of your mother’s prayers and because you were chosen to do a work for us, you were saved.” Then the voice pulled him out of the demons’ grip.
When he awoke, he surrendered his life to God and started living as a Christian. Since then, Curtis has worked to tell others about Jesus. He started Earthquake Kelley Ministries and tells his story so others can know for certain that no one is too far gone for Jesus to reach.