March 10, 2003
Legend of the Boo Hag ...
The former sea island slave culture, known as Gullah, left a lasting impression on the folk stories of South Carolina's Lowcountry. Many Gullah superstitions have continued on, if not as practiced beliefs, at least as colorful stories which sometime, also contain fantastic stories of horror. During the early part of this century Charleston writer John Bennett compiled and skillfully retold many of the Lowcountry's best Gullah stories in a captivatingly titled work, Doctor to the Dead. However, there is one recurring Gullah story that Mr. Bennett's book does not touch on - the story of Boo hags. According to legend, Boo hags are similar to vampires, except they do not suck your blood and they are much more frightening. Instead of sucking a person's blood, a boo hag steals energy by sucking their victims breath, just as a cat supposedly steals a baby's breath. This stealing of energy happens through a process known as "riding." A common expression heard among many in the Lowcountry is "don't let de hag ride ya'", which refers to the avoidance of boo hags. Avoidance of boo hags is especially important and something worth staying contientious of because they have a uniquely frightful nature.
Boo hags have no skin and are blood red. It is said they have a flaxen-like quality that makes them appear "raw" as well as hard to hold on to.Boo hags also feel warm to the touch, just as warm raw meat might feel. As a result of their grotesque appearance, boo hags often choose to disguise themselves inside of another person's skin, which they have "borrowed" for as long as the skin holds out. (The former owner of the skin is left out of luck.) Boo hags can then wear the full skin like a suit of clothes. Thus disguised, boo hags can freely go about their affairs and selectively choose potential candidates for ridin'.
In order to ride someone, boo hags must first get out of their stolen skin and hide it for the return. Afterwards, boo hags will fly off to go do some ridin'. Once a potential victim has been chosen, the boo hag will enter that person's home, normally, through some type of crack or crevass like a large keyhole. Inside of the home, boo hags will go for the bedroom where the unsuspecting victim soundly sleeps. The boo hag will then stealthily position themselves over the sleeping victim and begin sucking their breath.
As the boo hag rides, the victim will slip into a dreamlike state rendering them helpless. Occasionally, someone might struggle and awaken, but, doing so is risky since the boo hag may decide to take more than just your breath and leave you skinless. If the victim allows (uncontiously or not) the boo hag to finish, there will be little to show for the incident. The next morning a victim of boo hag riding may feel very tired or haggard, however, they will not have been killed. The boo hag will save you in case they ever want to come back and ride you again.