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)