I haint afraid of no ghost!
June 16, 2017 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Haint blue is a shade of blue popular for keeping spirits away in the South. The shade itself is a faint robin's egg blue, and it's used to simulate the water that spirits called haints, hate. A haint can't cross water, just like the headless horseman, so you paint your porch to look like water, and you have no problems with haintings!
posted by HakaiMagazine (35 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
oh my God thank you for this. I have never heard anybody but a few family members talk about this, even in Mississippi. But as soon my parents owned their own home, my mother had the porch ceiling painted haint blue, and I am still very fond of that color. There was a ghost (we always said), but it being his house in the first place, he was not likely to have crossed the porch anyway.

I wonder if there was once some kind of poison in a certain pigment that made people believe that the color would repel bugs.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:11 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]

In researching this post I read that the green paint that was used in the early 1900s was mixed with lime. Insects don't like lime, so there may have been some slight repellant, but I'd guess it was more psychological than anything.
posted by HakaiMagazine at 9:15 AM on June 16

The third link says that evil spirits would perceive the blue color as the sky, and therefore just fly up and away. Maybe the idea is that insects would also confuse the color with the sky, and just not want anything to do with the porch/housetrim/sky situation?
posted by Secretariat at 9:22 AM on June 16

A haint can't cross water
I'm fine with that logic, but why the ceiling? Why not the floor? (or both)

I'm pretty sure we had a light blue porch ceiling once. I know we like that.
I think my wife's idea was it was like the sky.
posted by MtDewd at 9:25 AM on June 16

oh interesting. I had only ever heard the keeping bugs away theory as the explanation for light blue ceilings in the south. Eh, bugs, restless spirits, same thing.
posted by aka burlap at 9:34 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]

I am a bit surprised there hasn't been a mention of haint blue on the, well, Blue before! This was a colour I explained to my Canadian husband on our last trip to the South. At some point we will get our house re-sided and that is the hue I think I'd like, a weird reminder of my childhood in the Great White North.
posted by Kitteh at 9:35 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]

I just found out about haint blue a few days ago.

If you don't mind me asking, where did you find the link to that particular shade (#BAE3E7)? Is there a definitive "haint blue"?
posted by sutt at 9:36 AM on June 16

I honestly didn't realize it was limited to porches...we have plenty of houses around here where everything is done in haint blue, perhaps for better protection!
posted by mittens at 9:37 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Oh hey that's the color of "the blue room" in my grandparent's house where I used to sleep when visiting and where they always put the youngest or most troubled guest. It was also where they kept all the stuffed animals.
posted by Mizu at 9:39 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]

I learned at the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum that the Dutch painted the interior of their farm houses blue to reduce flies.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:48 AM on June 16

I never heard of this color being called "haint blue" but my husband and I did paint our porch ceiling this color. Because our house is supposed to look sorta old fashioned. I believe the paint store called it "celestial blue".
posted by elizilla at 9:51 AM on June 16

This is a great entry point into the whole subject of the Gullah folks and culture in South Carolina, even aside from the issue of the spirit-repelling color. Fascinating!
posted by uberchet at 10:04 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]

I saw this blue many times in the Keys, and it was always explained as cooling or anti-insect.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:38 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Better than its northern equivalent, taint taupe.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:56 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]

My porch ceiling is painted blue, but not for haints, my previous house had pea green ceilings on the porches, which my grandmother had done to keep away bugs. I don't know if it worked, but it sure was nice to sit under and sip a cool drink on a hot day, so I did it on my current house. Because: hot weather, cold drinks. I had never heard the haints theory until my wife's relatives from the Carolina Coast came and visited and told me. I guess folks in the Peidmont were just more worried about flies and weather than ghosts.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:58 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

The paint was mixed with lye not lime.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:26 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Anecdata time! My inlaws heard of this, and they had a back porch roof, painted medium brown on the inside, that was constantly overrun with spiders and spiderwebs. They painted it haint blue. Hardly a spider to be seen. It's been several years now. My assumption is that bugs look for camouflage and light blue is terrible for that. You do have to refresh it now and then because it gets dirty.

House was never haunted to anyone's knowledge so can't speak to that aspect.
posted by emjaybee at 11:58 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]

Pfft! Utter poppycock. Erryone knows blue porch ceilings are to keep evil red wasps and spee-yiders from building nests. Blue bottles on the windowsills or tires painted white in the yard, those are the only REAL way to keep out the haints...
posted by SinAesthetic at 12:15 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]

I painted my porch ceiling this color a few months ago (I wanted our house to have that old-Southern vibe). One thing I will say, I had to knock wasps' nests from the crooks of our ceiling before I painted, and they (without using any sort of insecticide) have not returned. I knew about the haint-repelling lore prior to painting, but not the insect-repelling lore. I would say the latter is proven (in my estimation).
posted by dearwassily at 12:28 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Hehehe...my room when I was a young girl was that shade of blue, my favorite color, and I found it comforting and free of haints. I now keep blue glass things in my kitchen window. However I am far from the South and never heard those folk tales. Maybe it is instinctive. Wish I had a lovely porch to paint that color too.
posted by mermayd at 1:43 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Yes, my 1935 Austin bungalow has the blue porch ceiling. I always heard it was to keep wasps away. It does make the porch seem cooler when sitting out on the porch swing. Got no haints neither.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:19 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Better than its northern equivalent, taint taupe.

Well, 'taint really brown, and 'taint really gray...
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:27 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]

Repels wasps, you say? BRB, I've gotta figure out what it would cost to just coat my whole house in this stuff.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:37 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]

Just carry a blue marker with you and draw a circle around the ghost and then you can keep it as a pet.
posted by ian1977 at 3:02 PM on June 16 [21 favorites]

I had a very small bedroom (now a study). It was painted a similar blue not to keep away haints or bugs but just to open up the space a little.

Now we need to know the color of your digital wallpaper that will keep away malware and internet trolls.
posted by bad grammar at 4:59 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]

interesting about the association to bugs - reminds me of this also-Southern method reputed to keep flies away. The association to water in the haint paint is what put me in mind of it and I was surprised to see bugs cited here.
posted by mwhybark at 5:35 PM on June 16

My neighbor does the plastic bag fly repellent and swears it works. It's centered on the door head at his outbuilding.

My grandmother always called them haints, and lore was that painting the exterior window trim blue worked (not everyone had porches.)
posted by mightshould at 6:38 PM on June 16

So... what do European people think when they hear "robin's egg blue"?
posted by elsietheeel at 12:55 AM on June 17

One theory holds that wasps, hornets, and dirt daubers will not nest under an open sky, and the blue looks like sky to them.

Female mosquitos must go and hang upside down on a vertical surface after a blood meal, and they won't do that under an open sky, either.

Regardless of motivation, it seems to work on those two categories.

No-see-ums, however, just laugh and burrow into your nerve endings.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:44 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]

So... what do European people think when they hear "robin's egg blue"?

Haint what you think.
posted by y2karl at 10:29 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]

Reporting in from New Orleans: this morning on our walk back from the grocery store I pointed one out to my wife, who is a born-and-raised New Orleanian and who had never heard of this before. In one stretch we counted 5 out of 8 houses that haint blue porch ceilings. Then we got four blocks away to our neighborhood where the houses are just as old but apparently no one follows that convention.
posted by komara at 5:51 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]

Wow! That was the exact color of my Nana's porch. Neat!
posted by pattern juggler at 3:01 AM on June 18

Huh. I was born in NOLA and spent the first twenty-five years of my life there, and I've never heard of "haint blue".

The things you miss.
posted by egypturnash at 11:09 PM on June 18

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