It Ain’t Haint or Haint Blue

Sky Blue Piazza Ceiling
Charleston is famous for haunted places, and quite a few people I have known all my life firmly believe that they have ghosts with a variety of behaviors in their houses. On one block of Church Street there are three notable ghosts. There is “the man on the stairs” at 71 Church Street, who supposedly wanders up and down the stairs of the house and has been heard by different families who live there so many times that they actually gave him the name “Mr. Huger”. Next door at 73 Church, Dr. Thomas Dale and his children are said to reappear from time to time, which is quite a feat considering they lived in the 1750’s. And down the block at 59 Church, “the ghost of the whistling doctor” probably does cause a stir, because the Preservation Society plaque explaining the story has the name wrong. The doctor’s name was Joseph Brown Ladd, who rented a room in the house after the Revolution and was known for whistling while he walked. He was involved in a duel in 1786 and was mortally wounded and brought back to his room, where he died. The words on the plaque are copied verbatim from a newspaper story written years ago by Jack Leland, a wonderful man who did have a cocktail occasionally and may well have had his vision blurred when he typed the script, so it came out Joseph Ladd Brown. No wonder the doctor’s ghost is still whistling – he’s ticked off that they can’t get his name right!
Speaking of tales told incorrectly, the most painful to hear is the use of the word “haint” for ghosts and referring to sky-blue piazza ceilings as colors meant to ward them off. The term “hant” is an old Gullah word referring to a ghostly presence, not “haint”. And from the Gullah traditions, one of the most menacing hants was the “Plat-eye”, a ghost who entered peoples’ bodies and made them do awful things. The Plat-eye’s only weakness was that it could not cross over water, and thus, many houses in the remote areas around Charleston long featured sea-blue paint around door and window frames.
So, there may well be a number of ghosts lingering in and around old Charleston houses, but they ain’t haints, and the sky-blue ceilings are simply a pleasing color scheme that have nothing to do with haunted places.

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