Boo Hags


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Savannah is considered one of the most haunted cities in the states, attracting millions of of curious and inquisitive folks from all over. South reveals the inside scoop on the blue painted houses seen throughout the city.

“I always say I’m Savannah born, Savannah bred, and one day I’ll be Savannah dead.” Lisa Prentiss knows the ins and outs of Savannah’s history. Walking through Columbia Square she pointed out building after building, all rich with history. “The Kehoe house is haunted by twins, that house with the white trim? That’s haunted by a cat.” There is little paranormal activity going on here that Prentiss does not know about. Pointing out some of the ironwork on historical buildings, she divulges that after The Great Depression families would steal from their plots in Bonaventure cemetery and bring the  ironworks back into town to decorate and fence their houses. Prentiss is so in touch, she can identify exactly where in the cemetery some of the pieces came from. 

The quick relaying of facts didn’t stop there. We passed the oldest slave quarters still intact, and she shared that Miss Margaret’s place, too had the mysterious blue paint we see on the outside of houses on the inside ceiling. So what is it about this blue paint? 

Ever heard the word BooHag thrown around? Maybe not, but it was once a word with real weight.

The neighborhood near Price Street that was once an Irish ghetto still has a prime example of just what the word BooHag meant. At the end of the Civil War, the Gullah people would knock on every door in the area. 

“They would come up to the door and they would say, ‘You got a lot of sick people in there? You got a job? I bet you’re having some bad dreams? Have you been losing a lot of people? Sounds like you got a BooHag.’” A BooHag is an evil spirit that came out of a voodoo doll that hangs on your back. The legend goes that if you have a BooHag, at night, it picks your skin and hangs it up in your closet while you sleep.

Taking your muscle-y body out into the city, it collects all of the evil and bad luck and brings it back before slipping back into your skin before morning. This was considered to be the cause for lack of work, for sickness and death. Of course the people were afraid, so the Gullah people would sell the cure. First, to rid of the spirit, if you see skin in your closet, sprinkle sea salt on it.

When the BooHag slips your skin on the salt will make the spirit itch and burn. Secondly, to get the spirit out of the house you need a broomstick. Once the spirit jumps out of victim it’ll attach to the broom and you can sweep it out in the morning when you’re sweeping away the dust. But still, the BooHag can always come back into your house, right? You need this special paint to keep the evil away. This sounds expensive, but can you put a price on your families life? On your own future?

These people couldn’t. The Gullah people made paint out of cemetery dirt, Indigo and according to prentiss, “a sacrificed cat,” which most likely means the bones, considering the Gullah people’s ties to voodoo practices. This paint was called the haint blue paint because it kept the haints away. A haint was another name for evil spirit. The Gullah people walked away with extremely full pockets after every house they stopped at. 

Prentiss is a tour guide for America’s Most Haunted City Tour, and works with Bonaventure Cemetery Journeys. She lives and breathes the old world culture. Without missing a beat she told me the Gullah people are still in Savannah, still practicing, and of course, if you still see the haint blue paint around town, it must mean it’s doing something, right? 

To read the full article, subscribe now or pick up the January/February issue of South Magazine.

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