Strange murders have occurred in northern Uganda. Blood is said to have been removed from the victims, and there are tales about child sacrifice and terrifying witchcraft. An ‘election’ was organised to select the culprit, known as ‘Mr Red’, and vigilante mobs have destroyed his property. This article places these events in context, and shows how understandings of the spirit world, religion, and wealth accumulation relate to local notions about egregious acts.

No conventional evidence has been found to show that the man accused is responsible for any crimes, but he has been imprisoned, and has had threats on his life. The case illustrates widespread phenomena, which are too often ignored, and draws attention to the ways in which local elites draw on strategies of moral populism to establish and maintain their public authority.