A Boo Hag is an evil creature from the folklore of the Carolinas.
There was a young man named John who lived in a small town in South Carolina. He was a popular fellow and he was known throughout the area for being honest and hardworking. Although he wasn’t wealthy, he made a good living doing odd jobs for the local townspeople.
John was the most eligable bachelor in town and every woman was jumping at the chance to be his wife. However, John had his eyes set on a beautifully mysterious young woman who lived alone in a small cabin deep in the woods. She was incredibly beautiful, with long dark hair, smooth pale skin and piercing green eyes. Whenever she came to town, she turned the heads of all the men as she walked past.
But word around town was that she was a little strange, and it was best to stay away from her. However, John couldn’t get the mysterious woman out of his mind.
One night, there was a dance held in town and all the locals attended it. The moment John walked through the door, he noticed the beautiful woman from the woods was there. He worked up the courage to speak to her and before he knew it, they were dancing the night away.
By the next evening they were wed, and John brought his pretty bride to the nice little cottage he rented just down the road from the family grocery. It had a nice front porch with a swing, a big bedroom on the second floor and a big attic with a window that could be made up into a second guestroom should his new mother-in-law care to visit from her home in the swamp.
After fixing him a nice dinner, John’s new bride sat awhile in the rocking chair near their bed while John yawned and watched her fondly. She cuddled under the blanket and knitted and hummed, and John’s eyes grew heavy. He didn’t wake up until early morning, when his new bride crept into bed all hot and sweaty and fell asleep at once. When he asked her where she’d been, she wouldn’t answer him. John was mighty sore that his bride had snuck out on him on their wedding night, but when she got snappish and her eyes blazed like they did when he questioned her, he grew frightened and backed down.
Life took on an odd pattern for John. During the day, everything was perfect. His wife was sweet and pretty and loving. She kept the house sparkling clean and cooked him wonderful meals. But each night she refused to come to bed after supper. Like their wedding night, she sat up singing and rocking and knitting until he was asleep and did not come to bed til just afore dawn. She was always sweaty and cranky when she came to bed, and went to sleep before John could question her.
John was very confused and upset by this behavior, and finally confided in his Pa one morning after opening up the grocery store. John’s Pa was awful worried. The visiting priest had gone on to his next parish, and there was no one they could consult but the local conjure woman. So he sent John to her with a couple of chickens as a gift.
The conjure woman knew all about hoodoo magic and was an excellent herbalist. Local folks went to her when they were sick, on account of the doctor lived nigh on twenty miles away. When she heard John’s story, she told him to pretend to go to sleep that night and watch what his new bride did. Then he was to come back and tell her everything. John agreed.
The next evening, after supper, John yawned and pretended he was very tired. He went to bed and pretended to fall asleep. His wife was rocking back and forth in her chair, but when she thought he was sound asleep, she got up and tip-toed upstairs.
John followed her and saw her going up to the attic. He watched through a crack in the door as she took off her clothes and sat naked at her spinning wheel. She put her foot on the pedal and pumped it up and down. The wheel began to spin and the spindle began to turn. His wife pulled on one of her fingers and the skin came off her hand, just like a glove. She pressed her hand to the spindle and her skin began to wrap around it like yarn.
“Spin! Spin! Reel off skin!” she cried.
As he watched in horror, she spun off all her skin. It wrapped around the spindle like a bloody blob, leaving his wife a red, fleshless thing with pulsing red muscle and sinew. Her eyes had no lids and they stared like the eyes of a skinned pig’s head in a butcher shop window. She was a terrifying sight and she sprang through the window and flew away into the night. John ran out to the privy and was sick after he saw her. Who, what was this monster he had married? He was still trembling and in shock when his bride, looking like a normal person again, crept into bed at dawn, and he had trouble behaving normally at breakfast.
As soon as he could get away, John ran to the home of the conjure woman and told her about the spinning wheel and the terrible skinless creature who flew away from his attic.
“A Boo Hag,” the conjure woman said at once. “You’ve married a Boo Hag.”
“What’s a Boo Hag?” asked John.
“A Boo Hag is a witch and a shape-shifter,” said the conjure woman. “She lures men into her trap and then delivers them to her Boo-Daddy, who eats their flesh and gnaws their bones. And that’s what she’ll do to you if you don’t get rid of her first.”
The conjure woman told John to get himself some blue paint. As soon as the Boo Hag left the house that night, he was to spread blue paint on every window frame and every door frame and make sure it was two coats thick. A Boo Hag couldn’t fly through a window or door that was painted blue. And if she didn’t get back into her skin before dawn, she would be trapped without it, and be revealed for the monster she was. So he was to leave one tiny window unpainted, and keep it open a sliver so the Boo Hag could squeeze through. Then he was to fill up her skin with salt and pepper, which would burn her up from the inside out. And John promised to do exactly as the conjure woman said.
That night, John lingered over his dinner, looking with sad eyes at the pretty woman sitting opposite him. He knew she was really a monster inside, but it was so nice to have a little wife in his home. He hated like anything to see her go. But he didn’t want to get eaten by a Boo-Daddy, and that was his fate if she stayed. So he went up to their bedroom and pretended to fall asleep while she rocked and sang and knitted. Then he followed her quietly upstairs and put salt and pepper into her skin after her ugly red-muscled blue-veined figure had flown out the window to her Boo-Daddy. He spent the rest of the night painting over every door and window frame with blue paint, leaving only one small unpainted window open in the cellar. He nailed it up so that it would open no further than a crack, just as the conjure woman instructed him. Then he hid himself behind a large chest of drawers up in the attic to wait for the Boo Hag.
Just before dawn, the Boo Hag came flying up to the attic window. As soon as she touched the blue frame, she gave a shriek of pain and rage. John listened as she flew around the house, testing each window and door and howling like a banshee when it burned her skinless hands. Then she found the little window in the cellar, and he heard the thump as she landed beside it, followed by a painful whimpering sound as she squeezed and squeezed herself through the narrow opening, her skinless red muscles and blue veins tearing painfully against the rough wood.
The Boo Hag ran up three flights of stairs into the attic and squeezed and squeezed into her skin as fast as she could. She just barely got it on when the first light of dawn shone over the horizon. And that was when the salt and pepper did their work, burning the Boo Hags body from the inside out. With a scream of agony, she flung herself out the attic window. The glass shattered everywhere as she tried to fly away, tearing at the skin to get it off. But it was too late. She exploded into tiny pieces right over the swamp, and the alligators had them a mighty feast of cooked Boo Hag for breakfast that morning.
So John was once again without a wife. But bachelorhood looked much better to him after that, and he never went looking for a wife again. ‘Course, after he made a pile of money in oil, the girls started chasing him. But that’s another story!