The hype for the new Candyman starring Yaya Abduhl-Mateen is real, but how well do you know the original story? The tale is grisly–it centers around a Black male artist who falls in love with a rich white woman in 1870s Chicago. You can guess what happened next. When the white woman’s family learned about the forbidden interracial relationship, he was lynched, beaten, sawed to pieces, covered in honey and bees and finally burned…or so the story goes.
Creepy folk tales and ghost stories are no stranger to the black community. For as far as we can go back, griots have kept the history of the Black diaspora alive, generations of historians, storytellers, praise singers, poets, or musicians telling tales to protect, guide, warn and scare us.
Candyman is one of the many folk stories in the black community. Below are four other spooky folk stories about monsters, spirits and ghosts from Black American culture to check out–with the lights on, of course–when you’re done watching Nia DeCosta’s Candyman.
A haint is described as many things, but mostly a ghost or evil spirit sent to cause mayhem and death. Most tales of Haints are gathered from the Gullah Geechee people, proud descendants of African slaves who live predominantly in the low country and on the barrier islands off the coast of the Georgia, Carolinas, and north Florida.
According to legend, Haints enter the home through open windows, doors, small holes and cracks or keyholes. In the Hoodoo belief, a Haint is described as a witch-like monster that is out to chase their victims to death by exhaustion. The only way to protect your house is to paint the porch “Haint blue,” a special shade of light blue said to ward evil away.
Boo Hags are red, skinless monsters that hide in the skin of their victims during the day and shed it at night to go “riding,” They sneak into bedrooms at night to sit on your chest and steal your breath, leaving the victim weak, sick and scared night after night. Sound familiar to those of us with sleep paralysis? In some Gullah tellings, a Boo Hag and Haint are one in the same, so using Haint blue usually works on them too.
According to an old Maryland ghost story, Big Liz was a thick, large “powerhouse” of a slave woman who could carry two full grown pigs to slaughter by herself. The slave master was afraid of her and thought she might have been a yankee spy. He took her to the swamp and ordered her to dig a hole so he could bury some treasure. After hours of digging, when she was completely exhausted, the slave master beheaded her and left her in her own hole.
Big Liz’s spirit came back to haunt and kill him, and to this day they say on the anniversary of her death she can be seen roaming the swampy land of her old plantation.
Like Candyman, you can conjure up Big Liz. Reportedly, you have to ride into a dark and spooky Maryland swamp, honk six times, flash your headlight six times, shout her name three times and her ghost will appear, though we’re not sure why you’d want that.
The Plant-Eye is known in the Gullah community as a monster or bogeyman serving as a spooky warning to children to stay away from the woods at dark. They are shape-shifters and while in human form they only have one eye. The stories say they torment and haunt wandering victims to drive them insane and steal away misbehaving kids to eat, but sometimes seeing one means you’re close to confederate treasure. Worth the risk, or nah?
Did you know Black culture started some of the original zombie legends? The Oxford English Dictionary gives the word’s origin as West African. Hoodoo and rootwork tales speak of witches and shamans who were so strong they could kill their enemies and then resurrect them as brainless, bloodthirsty servants. One of the first books to expose Western culture to the concept of the voodoo zombie was W. B. Seabrook’s The Magic Island (1929), the account of a narrator who encounters voodoo cults in Haiti and their resurrected thralls.
Black folk stories keep us excited, intrigued and connected. As long as our stories are being told, we’ll be spooked and entertained as a culture for generations.