A couple of days ago, my sister, Maureen Tan, posted a story from Atlas Obscura about the color called “haint blue” on her Facebook page. If you follow the link, the subtitle reads, “In the Lowcountry, the unique shade is both protective talisman and source of unspeakable suffering.”
The word “haint” referred to evil spirits. The website Keith Dobson Photography has, along with some amazing photographs, a definition of the term haint.
“What exactly is a “haint”?
Haint is an old southern word for a specific type of ghost or evil spirit from the Carolina coast, but found in tales from various regions of the south. Belief in haints probably originated with the Gulla Geechee people, descendants of African slaves in the Carolina low country and barrier islands. In South Carolina, haints are malicious ghosts, often seeking to steal or harm naughty children (maybe used as a story to make unruly children behave?).”
According to the Atlas Obscura website, the haint blue paint was painted on the ceilings of porches to “trick haints into believing that they’ve stumbled into water (which they cannot cross) or sky (which will lead them farther from the victims they seek). Blue glass bottles were also hung in trees to trap the malevolent marauders.”
Keith Dotson’s website adds that the paint can also be found on door and window frames as well as porch ceilings and is intended to protect the homeowner from being “taken” or influenced by haints. It is said to protect the house and the occupants of the house from evil.”
Okay, I was hooked. So, I went searching for some “haint” stories and I wasn’t disappointed.
The first story is from the website, Appalachian Country Living and the article is called “Haints Roam These Mountains.”
Here’s an excerpt:
“While in the bathroom at Blue Jeans Restaurant in Blue Ridge a playful ten-year-old girl will call out your name. Back at your table, no one admits to being there. Haints. At a local law office, a doorbell rings where there is none. Secretaries’ eyes smart from cigar smoke, yet no one is smoking. Haints.
Those who study the paranormal know they are watching. Indeed, seven locations in Fannin County have had investigations that uncovered unexpected specters. What ties phantoms to this earthly realm? Every ghost has a reason. Some have unresolved anger. The woman seen near the judge’s bench at the Art Center may have been the victim of what she considered a miscarriage of justice. Disturbed by this sighting and other unexplained occurrences, a former employee asked a psychic to search the premises. She noted three female ghosts, including one who was angry and seeking revenge. Locals taking classes in the building have heard muted female conversations, only to fail when seeking the source.
Other downtown spirits are protective and even welcomed back as old friends. Since the fire station in downtown Blue Ridge opened, firefighters and emergency personnel have been hearing late-night sounds on the second floor above their beds. Scraping sounds and footsteps occur, yet no amount of investigation turns up the culprit. Some believe it is a former fire chief. He was a man with no family and a commitment to helping. Perhaps he simply wants to continue doing what he did best.
Ghosts can be found in buildings, cemeteries, and even the forest. The Crying Baby of Cashes Valley wails late at night in the dense forest of this remote section. When pursued the child is never seen, always just ahead.”
The next story is from “Tales of Southern Haints,” pretty perfect, wouldn’t you say. And here’s the story:
“Grandma’s Ghost Walking Along The Treeline At Twilight
Have you ever noticed that some places feel dark, even in daylight? That’s how it was in this part of Kentucky. Coal country. It was a place of small houses perched on cinderblock foundations, clad with asbestos siding or asphalt shingles designed to resemble bricks. It was a place where old folks sitting on front porches would wave to passers-by. The mountains and woods were always close-by.
Imagine a narrow snake of blacktop winding into the hilly, forested countryside, with sharp turns along the way — including the one known as “dead man’s curve” — the abandoned, flooded coal pits where legend says some drivers have missed the turn, plunging to their doom in the deep black waters.
My grandparent’s small house sat on such a bend in the road beneath a couple of large elm trees. Decoratively painted old tires contained flowerbeds. My grandmother once killed a snake in the yard with a garden hoe, and warned us kids not to look it in the eye because it still had hypnotic powers, even in death.
Behind the house were a couple of rolling pastures, an old wooden barn, and some assorted sheds and outbuildings. Behind the barn and back pasture was a ring of dark forests. In a clearing behind one of those woods was a small shack where my great-grandparents once lived.
One evening when my dad was about 18 years old, he walked outside from the back door of his parent’s house, heading in the direction of the old barn. On the path about half-way to the barn, he recognized in the dim light of twilight, a white apparition of a woman walking in the distance, on the far edge of the pasture along the perimeter of the woods. In an instant, he realized it was his recently deceased grandmother walking away from the vicinity of her house. He described her as all white and said seeing her gave him such a fright that he ran as fast as he could all the way to the back door of the house.
One additional curiosity about this story: my great-grandmother was completely blind at the time of her death, yet her apparition was apparently able to navigate the dusky field with no trouble.
Knowing my dad as a no-nonsense old Army sarge, I completely believe he experienced what he claimed.”
Not to be outdone, North Carolina Ghosts website has their own story about a haint.
“The Headless Haint
Some time ago, a man and his wife were walking along a big road on a cold and rainy night. They were soaked through and shivering and their shoes were sticking in the mud. They were hungry and it got dark before they got where they were going.
Then they came upon a big house with smoke coming out of the chimney and the light from a fire shining from the window. The kind of house rich folks live in. They went round the back and knocked on the door and heard somebody say “Come on in!” so they went on it, but didn’t see anyone there.
What they did see was a kitchen with skillets and pots and everything needed for cooking. There was meat and lard and flour and cornmeal. There was a pot of beans smoking on the fire and a rabbit boiling in a covered pot. And it all smelled so good.
But there was still nobody around for them to see. But everything was set and ready for somebody, and they had been told to come on in, so they decided then and there that the somebody all that good food was for might as well be them. The woman took off her muddy shoes and peeled off her wet stockings and sat down. The man took a bucket went out to the springhouse to get fresh water for the coffee. They allowed they were going to eat those brown beans and cornbread and that molly cottontail, and drink it all down with some good hot coffee.
The man was gone outside and the woman was resting her feet, when in through the door came a man with no head. He was dressed fine in a coat and vest, shoes and galoshes, britches, and a starched shirt with a high collar, but he had no head. Just raw neck and bloody stump.
“What in the name of the Lord do you want?” said the woman.
And then that man started talking with no mouth to talk. He said he was in an awful misery. He said robbers killed him for his money. He said they dug around all day in the field looking for his money but they couldn’t find it, so they took him into the cellar and buried him in two pieces. He said it’s awful miserable being buried with your head in one place and your body in another. He said he was hankering to get rid of that misery. And he said that other folks had been there asked him what he wanted, but they hadn’t asked him in the name of the Lord, but she had, and that’s why he could tell her all about his misery.
About that time, the woman’s husband came back in and near jumped out of his skin when he saw that raw neck standing there. The woman told the ghost who her husband was, and the haint told who he was, and that started the whole thing all over again about how he came to be the way he was, until that haint said if they’d come down to the cellar with him and dig up his head he’d be mighty grateful and would make them rich.
Naturally, they said they would and they said just let us get a torch.
“Don’t need no torch” said the haint, and he stuck his finger in the fire and caught fire and lit up bright enough to light the whole room.
They went down a long way of steps until they got to the cellar. The haint said “Here’s where my head’s buried and here’s where the rest of me’s buried. Y’all dig over yonder where I throw a spot of light until you touch my barrels of gold and silver money.”
And they dug up those barrels of gold and silver money buried under the cellar floor. And then they dug up the haint’s head and hoisted it up the shovel. And he reached right over and stuck it back on his neck. Then he took his burning finger off and stuck it in a candlestick, and crawled right back into the hole he had crawled out of and the man and the woman covered him up with dirt again.
And they heard him talking again from under the ground. He said he was mighty grateful to them for burying him head and body together and it sure did ease his misery. And he said they could have all of his land and all of his money and be as rich as he had been.
So they took the candlestick and went back upstairs. They washed themselves with lye soap and the woman mixed up the cornmeal and spring water and greased the skillet with lard. She put hot coals around the skillet and on top of the lid and cooked that hoecake until it was done. The man put coffee and water in the pot and set it to boil. And they ate that supper of beans and rabbit and cornbread and coffee. And they lived in that house all their lives and had barrels of money. And the haint with no head never came up those stairs to bother them again.”
Who doesn’t like a ghost (I mean haint) story with a happy ending like that?
And, just in case you were wondering, even the Sherwin-Williams Paint website has information about haint blue.
“Blue ceilings are popular and have been popular in the South for centuries. “Porch ceilings have always been blue in the South,” says Lori Sawaya, an independent Principal Color Strategist. “People continue to paint their porch ceiling blue because that’s what their grandmother did, and that’s what her grandmother did.”
But many Southerners suggest that blue porch ceilings originated out of the fear of haints. Southerners, especially in the area of South Carolina, have a name for the ceiling paint used on porches – the soft blue-green is referred to as “Haint Blue.”
“Haints are restless spirits of the dead who, for whatever reason, have not moved on from their physical world,” says Sawaya.
Haint blue, which can also be found on door and window frames as well as porch ceilings, is intended to protect the homeowner from being “taken” or influenced by haints. It is said to protect the house and the occupants of the house from evil.”
So, I’m just suggesting a color that you might want to incorporate into your outdoor living space. You know, just in case. You’re welcome.