Boo hag

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A boo hag is a mythical creature in the folklore of the Gullah culture. It is a locally created unique contribution to the worldwide hag folklore based on the syncretic belief system of Gullah culture.[1]

The legend[edit]

According to the legend, boo hags are similar to vampires. Unlike vampires, they gain sustenance from a person's breath, as opposed to their blood, by riding their victims.[2][3][4]

They have no skin and are red. In order to be less conspicuous, they steal a victim's skin and use it for as long as it holds out, wearing it as one might wear clothing. They remove and hide this skin before going riding.

When a hag determines a victim is suitable for riding, the hag generally gains access to the home through a small crack, crevices, or hole. Then hags itself over the sleeping/dazing victim, sucking in their breath. This act renders the victim helpless and induces a deep dream-filled sleep. The hag tends to leave the victim alive, so as to use them again for their energy. However, if the victim struggles, the hag may take their skin, leaving the victim to suffer. After taking the victim's energy, the hag flies off, as they must be in their skin by dawn or be forever trapped without skin. When the victim awakes, they may feel short of breath, sick and very dizzy but generally the victim only feels tired.

An expression sometimes used in South Carolina is "don't let the hag ride ya." This expression may come from the boo hag legend.[5]

Boo hags outside of Gullah culture[edit]

While boo hags are a product of Gullah culture, the legend has become known on a wider scale. The legend has been used as an object lesson in stranger danger.[6][7] The legend has also been the subject of song,[8] and poetry.[9]

In 2005, a boo hag became a character in a children's book called Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack and Onawumi Jean Moss. In the story, the boo hag is said to be strange and tricky, and it does anything to get into the house. Precious, the main character, is told by her brother that the boo hag also "...tries to make you disobey yo' mama!"[10]

In Black Wings, Grey Skies by Hailey Edwards, a boo hag has gone rogue and starts killing children and the occasional adult. A group of boo hags decides to help the main character bring the villain down.

Lady Night, a kind boo hag, appears as a character in Tristan Strong Destroys the World, the second book in the Tristan Strong series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore, vol 1, p. 148
  2. ^ Eric Wright. "Charleston South Carolina Ghosts - Boo Hag Legend". Archived from the original on 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  3. ^ "Charleston Ghosts". Archived from the original on 2007-02-25. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  4. ^ Jones, Mark R. (2005). Wicked Charleston: The Dark Side of the Holy City. The History Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-59629-076-1. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  5. ^ "Charleston Boo Hags". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
  6. ^ McKissack, Patricia; Onawumi Jean Moss (2005). Precious and the Boo Hag. Atheneum (Anne Schwartz Books). p. 40. ISBN 978-0-689-85194-0. Now remember, don't let nothing and nobody in this house—not even me, 'cause I got a key.
  7. ^ Louisiana State Library (2007-04-27). "Precious and the Boo Hag" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  8. ^ "Ballad of the Boo Hag by David Bowles". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  9. ^ "Poetry From The Starlite Cafe: The Legend of the Boo Hag". Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  10. ^ "Booktalks Quick and Simple". Retrieved 2011-10-31.

External links[edit]