The Creepy Reason So Many Southern Porches Are Painted Blue

It's not just pretty—there's a creepy legend behind the paint choice.

Chasecom Media/ShutterstockImagine yourself sitting on a wraparound porch drinking a glass of sweet tea. Could there be anything more Southern? Well, there could be, if the porch ceiling is painted blue in this little daydream.

At first glance, light blue seems like a surprising choice for a porch ceiling. Why not white or gray—or even another fun color like yellow? (Check out these other cool colors to paint your ceiling instead of white.) In Southern tradition, the popular soft green-blue has its own name: haint blue. And theories behind the popularity of blue ceilings have nothing to do with how pretty it looks.

African slaves brought the color to the United States in the early 1800s, according to the Museum of the City. The largest group of slaves, West Africans known as the Gullah people, called spirits of the dead “haints.” But they figured blue could protect them from those evil spirits. “It is a color they believed defended the home from troubled spirits: a bright, Caribbean blue,” National Park Service community specialist Michael Allen tells Garden & Gun.

The idea was that spirits would confuse “haint blue” ceilings, doors, shutters, and window frames for the sky, according to Museum of the City. Because the ghosts would aim up for the ceiling and into the sky, they’d stay away from anyone inside the home. Before you roll your eyes, these real-life ghost stories could make you believe.

Some people also swear the blue paint keeps wasps and birds away, but there haven’t been studies to back up those claims, according to NPR. Others claim the milk paint people used to use for their blue porches contained lye, which worked as an insect repellent. Because the paint wouldn’t last long, homeowners would add a new coat of paint every year or two, keeping the lye fresh, too. But there don’t seem to be any studies linking that chemical to wasps either. Anecdotally, people say it helps, but we recommend stocking up on Raid and memorizing these tricks for getting rid of wasps instead.

A better reason for a sky blue ceiling? It makes you feel like you’re looking up at the sky, even though you get to stay in the shade. “The color seems to emulate the natural sky and makes the daylight hours feel as though they last just a little longer,” Sherwin-Williams color marketing director Sue Wadden tells Real Simple. Learn more tricks for to create the perfect color scheme for your home.

Plus, a soft blue is a great way to use color psychology in your home to make it feel just plain inviting. “I like them because they add softness and interest,” Virginia interior designer Suellen Gregory tells the Washington Post. We can’t imagine anything better when curling up on a porch swing.

Need more convincing? Find out how a blue paint could make your house sell for thousands of dollars more.

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Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.