The Boo Hag | North Carolina Ghost Stories and Legends

The Boo Hag

One there were two men who had been friends all their lives. They married two beautiful women about the same time and everything seemed fine. But one day, one of the men came to his friend and asked him "When you wake up a night, is your wife in bed with you?"

"She sure is," said his friend, "Why do you ask?"

"When I lie down in bed at night, my wife is with me. But when I wake up in the middle of the night, she's gone. But then come morning she's back in bed."

"Man," said the friend, "I think you married a boo hag!"

Now they knew this was serious. A boo hag is a kind of witch that can slip out of her skin and fly around at night and cause all kinds of trouble in the world. A boo hag can kill a man just by sucking all the blood from his body out through his nose. They'll get on a man and ride him at night so he can't move and he can't breathe. A boo hag is not something you'd ever want to meet, and sure not something you'd ever want to be married to. So the man asked his friend what he should do.

"You got to wait until she slips out of her skin in the middle of the night, and then you find that skin. Look under the stairs. That's where boo hags like to hide their skins. You take that skin and you pour salt and pepper all over it. Then she won't be able to get her skin back on."

And so that night the man went to bed with his wife and pretended to sleep. About midnight, he felt her slip out of bed beside him. He waited for her to get downstairs and then got out of bed and then quietly hid where he could see her. He saw his wife pull off all of her skin and roll it up into a ball and hide it under the stairs. Then she flew right up the chimney, going out to cause trouble in the world.

Well, that man didn't waste any time. He went and got that skin and salted it and peppered it real good, then rolled it back up into a ball and hid it put it back under the stairs where he found it. Then he went back to bed and waited until early in the morning when he heard a noise of something coming down the chimney and he heard his wife's voice speaking softly.

Skin, skin, you know me?
Skin, skin, this is me.
Skin, skin, you know me?
Skin, skin, this is me.

But he knew that with all that salt and pepper she couldn't get back into her skin. He waited and heard his wife speak again.

Skin, skin, you know me?
Skin, skin, this is me.
Skin, skin, you know me?
Skin, skin, this is me.

And he knew that she was stuck without her skin. He heard her coming up the stairs and pretended to be asleep. He felt his wife crawl into bed with him and wrap herself up tight in the sheet. But he reached his hand over and could feel something warm and raw and rubbery in the bed next to him. After that, he didn't need to pretend not to sleep.

When the morning broke, the man got up and said to his wife "Time to get up. Time for breakfast," but she said "I ain't getting up. I'm sick," and lay there wrapped up tight in that sheet, not showing one inch of herself.

The man said he'd go get the doctor, but she said the doctor cost too much money. So the man said he was going to go hoe the garden.

The man went outside and hid under the window. Sure enough, he heard his wife come down the stairs and call out again.

Skin, skin, you know me?
Skin, skin, this is me.
Skin, skin, you know me?
Skin, skin, this is me.

That was enough for the man. He went down to fetch the conjure man who would know what to do. He told the conjure man his story and the conjure man told him to go home and start a big barrel of pitch boiling and he'd be by shortly.

So the man went home and built a fire in the garden and started a big barrel of pitch boiling on it. Soon, the conjure man walked up the road and the two of them went inside and went upstairs to where the woman was back in bed, all wrapped up tight in her sheet again. The conjure man said "what ails you, woman?" and she said there was nothing wrong. But the conjure man wasn't having none of that. He ripped the sheet right off of her and there she was, lying there all raw and bloody.

"Man, you done married a hag!" said the conjure man, and they grabbed her and carried her out to the garden where they threw her in that big barrel of boiling pitch and burned that hag alive.

What else could they do?

More About This Story

Boo hags are part of the African-American tradition from the coasts of North and South Carolina. According to tradition, one of the best ways to keep a hag out of your house is to lay a broom across the front of your door. A boo hag can slip into a house through the keyhole, but if she sees a broom she has to stop and count every straw on that broom. By the time she's done the dawn will have come and she has to return to her skin.

A conjure man, sometimes called a conjure doctor or a root worker, is someone experienced in the art of hoodoo, the African-American magical and spiritual tradition. Conjure men can help not only with dealing with hags and other supernatural entities, but a good conjure man is knowledgable in spells to help with such mundane matters as finding love, a good job, or winning in a court case. Hoodoo is a living tradition and there are root workers practicing in North Carolina to this day.

The Boo Hag

The Boo Hag took off her skin and flew up the chimney, going out to cause trouble in the world.

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