The BOO Hags by Lisa Marie

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I’m Savannah-born, Savannah bred, and one day I’ll be Savannah dead.
– Lisa Marie

This article originally appeared in the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of SOUTH Magazine and has been lovingly edited where needed but have maintained the original vignette flavor.

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

Lisa Marie knows the ins and outs of Savannah history. Walking through Columbia Square, she pointed out building after building, all rich with history. “The Kehoe House is haunted by twins. That house over there with the white trim? Its haunted by a cat.” There’s little paranormal activity around here that Lisa doesn’t 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 ironwork back into town to decorate and fence their houses. Lisa Marie is so in touch, she can identify where in the cemetery some of the pieces originated.

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 and on the inside ceilings. So what is it about this blue paint? Ever heard the phrase “Boo Hag” thrown around? Maybe not, but it was once word with real weight.

The neighborhood near Price Street that was once an Irish ghetto still has a prime example of just what the phrase Boo Hag 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? I bet you’re having some bad dreams? Have you been losing a lot of people? Sounds like you got a Boo Hag.”

A Boo Hag is an evil spirit that comes out of a voodoo doll that hangs on your back. The legend goes that if you have a Boo Hag, at night, it picks your skin and hangs it up in your closet while you sleep. Taking your muscle body out into the city, it collects all of the evil and bad luck and brings it back before slipping back into your skin in the morning. This was considered to be the cause for lack of work, sickness and death. Of course the people were afraid, so the Gullah people would sell the cure. First, to rid yourself of the spirit and if you see skin in your closet, sprinkle salt on it. When the Boo Hag slips on your skin, the salt will make the spirit itch and burn. Second, to get the spirit out of the house, you need a broomstick. Once the spirit jumps out of the victim, it’ll attach to the broom and you can sweep it but in the morning when you’re sweeping away the dust. But still, the Boo Hag 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 family’s life? On your own future? These people couldn’t. They Gullah people made paint out of cemetery dirt, indigo, and, what Lisa Marie says, “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 an evil spirit. The Gullah people walked with away with extremely full pockets after every house they stopped to offer their services.

Lisa Marie is a highly rated storyteller at Shannon Scott Tours/Bonaventure Cemetery Journeys and gives both public tours and private tours. Lisa is an immensely talented portrait artist, writer and has worked as a fashion model and actress (X-MEN: FIrst Class) 

My Huckleberry Friend…

By Shannon Scott

Some of my fans and friends out there have already read this but wanted to add it to my blog as its been a popular request. Really looking forward to the expanded version of this story one day so people can really appreciate what a great friendship I shared with Paul Blatner and what a great man he was to this life!

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So I have a theory on why I saw the ghosts two days ago. It was today that I learned that on the same day, one of my very good friends, mentors, teachers, Paul Blatner died. He was an amazing man who I will never in my life forget and he was just 58. He was one of the most amazing collectors I have ever met and very distinguished in his accomplishments. He started The Savannah History Museum, was an archivist at The Smithsonian and some of the objects on permanent loan there in the black studies collection, are considered priceless and the most valuable in the museum itself. He was funny, like a brother and I just talked to him less than two weeks ago for the last time and we shared some laughs. I am currently writing a story to honor his memory and our friendship and will be sharing it with everyone soon. A funny moment occurred this morning. I did not know his funeral was in Bonaventure at 10:30am but as I walked my tour to the map board there, I see the red funeral arrow bearing his name. I briefly mentioned him to my crowd, and first person to drive in and up to me was Professor John Duncan (Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil character) and naturally he asks me for directions. So for about 5 minutes I stood there and directed everyone towards Paul’s plot. I believe this was the universe operating yet again and Paul was smiling on this. Our friendship was about stories and ribald and while he was being sent to the Great Beyond, I was peppering the grounds shaman style with the energy of my storytelling. Naturally I intend to make him a stop on my tours in the future. Yes, later I went back to have a word with him and wanted to take him something personal that was “of me” and “of us.” As he was one of the great bottle colllector’s of Savannah, and almost literally, “The Father Of,” I placed a broken 19th century Savannah made Ginger Beer bottle at his grave as a flower vase. I found this in Bonaventure awhile ago and to me, the broken aspect, symbolic of the end of our earthly friendship and that yes, an earthly gesture that there will never be another like him. Bottles can be seen as the foundation collection of real collectors and shows humbleness and the ability to see beauty in simple things, which too are often very valuable as objects. At core bottles show others that you’re willing to really get dirty and dig to find something great and that you’re more than high brow academic or snooty antiques’ dealer. I kid the reader not, but I could bring Paul a pile of mixed glass out of a hole in the ground and Paul could tell me where and when every piece if it was made! The other object is a miniature of the statue to the Unknown Confederate Dead that you find in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Paul was a Reb through an’ through and had one of the most amazing Confederate collections in America, including the rifle surrendered to Sherman by the Savannah Mayor. Interestingly, Paul was also buried with his father today. Howard Lee Blatner who died in 2009. I also knew him and he was a great man who grew up in the orphanage, Bethesda, America’s oldest orphanage begun by Ben Franklin in 1740. His father had been cremated and Paul had his ashes in a closet the whole time so Paul’s sister interred both of them together and as they were really a team for so many years in so many things, it was only right. I am grateful that Paul doted some amazing story objects on me as collector and that these things are now part of my storytelling. I consider it a blessing that I will always be evoking his name with the ways that I continue to inspire people. In that sense, we too will always be a team. And to some degree, this is why I believe I saw the two children spirits with their Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn hats. We were two friends that like children, delighted in the world around us and made one another giddy without any thought paid to who was watching. Long live Paul Blatner. The South mourns you fine sir.

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My Song Dedication To My Friend Paul Blatner

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