Beware the Boo Hags of South Carolina

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Have you ever woken up in the morning completely exhausted even though you thought you got a full night’s sleep? You’re bleary-eyed and achy all over, but you’re not sure why. Perhaps you remember vivid dreams and a sense of restlessness that you couldn’t escape. Or worse yet, have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and been unable to move? Sleep paralysis affects a number of people, but what if the cause is something more sinister? Let me introduce the Boo Hag.

In the southern part of South Carolina, specifically the Lowcountry and Sea Island regions, there lives a group of people known as the Gullah. This community of Africans are descendants of the West African slave trade, brought to the area in the 1700s. Over the centuries they’ve formed their own unique culture that still thrives to this day. There are many iconic ghost stories and legends that come from the Lowcountry, but one of the most famous is the Gullah “Boo Hag”. 

Characteristics of the Boo Hag

In Gullah culture, a person has both a soul and spirit. When one dies their soul departs and their spirit remains. If they were good in life, then their spirit resides to guide and protect the friends and families they’ve left behind. But if they were wicked in life, then their spirit morphs into a terrifying entity known as a Boo Hag. Boo Hags are skinless, red-muscled creatures with blue veins and large reflective eyes. In some legends they have long gray hair as well.

Boo Hag sleep paralysis bed

These dark spirits are believed to creep into houses at night, slithering through exterior cracks and holes, and sit on the chests of their sleeping victims, sucking their breath out of their bodies. Sometimes they return to the same body to drain its energy over and over again. If you wake up in the morning feeling tired and short of breath, it may be because you were visited by a Boo Hag in the night. If you’re unfortunate enough to wake while the Hag is still “riding” you, then it may steal your skin to wear as its own (though some stories say it will rip off your skin and wear it like a coat just because). 

How to Avoid the Hag

There are some signs that a Boo Hag is near, including the smell of something rotting and air that suddenly becomes very humid. If you’re wanting to avoid a run in with the Boo Hag, there are a few things you can do. Taking a note from popular voodoo culture these rituals might help. One option is to paint your door and window frames in indigo blue (or “Haint Blue”), a color that the Gullah people believe has supernatural protective properties. Another option is to leave a broom, hairbrush, or even a colander near your bed as it is believed the Boo Hag is obsessive and will get distracted trying to count the individual bristles/holes. If it’s distracted long enough then daylight will come and it will have to depart or risk being burned alive by the sun. 

Window painted in indigo blue or Haint Blue
Window painted in “Haint Blue”

The Boo Hag has some similarities to other paranormal folklore, including various other hag myths, boogeyman legends, and sleep paralysis demons. They also have been compared to vampires, sucking breath rather than blood. Of course science will direct readers to hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations to explain such phenomena, but there’s always the possibility that it’s something the rational mind can’t comprehend. So if you’re visiting the Lowcountry, it’s best to play it safe; get out your brooms and don’t let de hag ride ya!

Sources

https://charlestonterrors.com/boo-hags-haint-blue-vampires-of-the-lowcountry-the-paint-that-stops-them/

https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-boo-hags-of-gullah-culture/

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/south-carolina/gullah-culture-boo-hags-sc/

Best Found Footage Horror Movies

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

What makes a horror movie scary? The answer to that question is fairly subjective, but there are likely some commonalities across the board.. And while intense action sequences, shocking twists, chilling imagery, and startling jump scares all deserve a place on that list, one of the most important factors (in our opinion) is realism. The more believable a horror film is, the more genuinely terrifying it will be. This suspension of disbelief, the thing that pulls audiences into the story and envelops them in its horror, is a contributing factor to some of the scariest films ever made. The best found footage horror movies exemplify this.

This is why the found footage horror genre works so well in horror. Found footage movies are presumed to be recovered recordings of actual events. They’re shot with low quality cameras, cast with no name actors, and often created on a tight budget. And yet this obvious lack of “quality” is exactly what makes these films succeed. The handheld cameras and documentary-style narratives help shape movies that seem incredibly realistic – and when they’re in the horror genre this also makes them incredibly frightening. To give you a taste of what this wide-ranging sub genre has to offer, we’ve explored the history of found footage horror to give you some of the best found footage horror films!

Host (2020)

Host found footage horror movie poster

It’s July of 2020, and the United Kingdom is in the middle of a lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus. A group of friends have decided to use weekly Zoom calls as a way to stay connected, and in this latest call they have invited a medium to host a seance. Things start off innocently enough, but when one of the friends feels the presence of their dead friend Zack, things start to go off the rails. It’s a frighteningly good time, blending real world circumstances with supernatural scares. The entire movie was shot on Zoom during Covid, so it works as effective found footage horror movie as well as a marker of life during the pandemic. In the realm of “movies shot on the Internet” this stands out above the rest.

Creep (2014)

Creep found footage horror movie poster

A young, burgeoning filmmaker named Aaron has found a new gig: recording a video diary for a new client. Josef, who wants to film his final moments for his family, invites Aaron to his cabin in the woods. But Josef’s behavior is increasingly erratic and strange, and by the time Aaron realizes the truth of what’s going on it may be too late. This psychological horror film has the found footage horror movie genre hallmarks of a low budget and stripped down story, but it goes a step further by removing many of the obvious horrors. Instead it’s a case study of two men – one whose madness is slowly revealed and the other whose life is in danger because of it. It’s a risky choice for the genre, but it’s pulled off incredibly well thanks to the magnetic energy and chemistry of its leads Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice.

What We Do In the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows found footage horror movie poster

It may not be as scary or disturbing as the other entries on this list, but as a horror comedy hybrid What We Do in the Shadows excels. The movie fits into another sub genre known as mockumentary, and the premise concerns a documentary crew who are filming a group of vampires who share a flat in a suburb of New Zealand. These vampires have varying powers and personalities, and much of the film follows their nightly exploits as they search for humans to kill and live their best undead lives. Comedic duo Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement wrote, directed, and starred in the film that has also launched a television show and a cult following of loyal fans.

Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

Frankenstein's Army found footage horror movie poster

It’s towards the end of World War II and a Red Army team on the Eastern Front has received a Soviet distress call. The company traces the call to a seemingly abandoned church where one of their members is suddenly attacked and disembowled by a zombot – a murderous half man/half robot creation. It turns out that the church, as well as the catacombs beneath it, are teeming with zombots created by a mad scientist descended from Victor Frankenstein. The movie has its gory moments and the plot takes some interesting twists and turns, but the standout stars by far are the uncanny and unsettling monster designs and grisly practical effects. Altogether the film is a fun mix of grindhouse, sci-fi, and body horror.

The Conspiracy (2012)

The Conspiracy found footage horror movie poster

Two young documentary movie makers, Aaron and Jim, have decided to make a film about a local conspiracy theorist named Terrance. During the course of their movie, Terrance suddenly disappears, leading them further down the rabbit hole. Their search reveals a secret organization named the Tarsus Club, and soon they are wrapped up in its strange rituals and shadowy machinations. The film does a good job of striking a mysterious tone early on before shifting to mounting dread as the plot goes from faux documentary into straight horror. The final scenes are shocking, particularly one involving a bull’s head, and they will stay with you long after the movie ends.

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters found footage horror movie poster

Grave Encounters is about a reality tv show that focuses on the paranormal. Its crew consists of ghost hunters, occult specialists, and mediums who journey to various haunted locales. Each episode features a different spot, and their latest is an abandoned and presumably haunted insane asylum known as the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital. Part of the hospital’s sordid history involves a mad doctor who conducted ghastly experiments on the residents. The crew decides to spend the night in the hospital and becomes inexplicably trapped inside, filming what may be their last episode. Not only is this movie a humorous parody of actual paranormal reality shows, but it is also one of the more genuinely frightening found footage horror movies.

Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo found footage horror movie poster

The Palmer family is grieving the loss of their sixteen-year-old daughter, Alice, after she drowns while swimming in a dam. Her younger brother, Mathew, sets up video cameras around their house to record what appear to be images of her ghost as more dark secrets begin to unravel. The film is shot in a docufiction/mockumentary style, where the main story is communicated through a series of interviews with the family and found footage. More than just a supernatural thriller, the movie is a tense and mournful exploration of grief and how families cope with loss. There was no dialogue written into the script, and the ad-libbing of lines lends to the “real” feel of the movie. Overall, it’s a masterclass in making a powerful movie on a shoestring budget.

Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield found footage horror movie poster

Unlike most found footage horror movies, Cloverfield was created by a big name creator, backed by big name production companies, and funded with a moderate budget. J.J. Abrams was able to get the project secretly greenlit and utilized a viral marketing campaign of trailers, posters, websites, and merch tie-ins to build hype before the film’s release. The movie is about an enormous monster attacking New York City, and it’s all filmed cinema verite style through the camcorder of a character named Rob. The chaotic scenes of destruction, the incredible design of the creature, and the realistic shaky home video quality (which caused some moviegoers to fall ill) all work in tandem to create a tense and highly enjoyable found footage movie.

REC (2007)

Rec found footage horror movie poster

A reporter and her cameraman are covering the night shift of a local fire station for the television program While You’re Sleeping. A fire station gets a distress call from a nearby apartment building, and after they arrive the building ends up being sealed off due to the outbreak of a deadly virus. The virus, which presents like rabies, is causing the residents to attack and subsequently infect each other, spreading quickly throughout the building. Those who haven’t been infected, including the camera crew, must find a way to escape and survive. The Spanish film was an immediate critical and commercial success, even spawning a less-than-stellar American remake (Quarantine). 

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity found footage horror movie poster

Not many movies (except the next one on our list) are as closely associated with the found footage movement as the Paranormal Activity franchise. The first film centers on a couple named Katie and Micah who are trying to capture evidence of and communicate with the increasingly angry demon that haunts their house. The creation of one-man show Oren Peli, who did pretty much everything but act in the movie, Paranormal Activity was an unexpectedly massive success. It’s one of the most profitable films ever made and, because Peli decided to focus on believability instead of gore and action, it’s also one of the most genuinely terrifying films in the found footage horror movie genre. 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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Paranormal Activity may have generated more sequels, prequels, and video game adaptations, but its success owes thanks to one of the first found footage horror films that pioneered the genre in America: The Blair Witch Project. The film, which follows doomed student filmmakers as they attempt to investigate and document the local legend of the Blair Witch, has all the classic tropes and markings of the found footage genre. It’s shot mockumentary style on handheld cameras, it features no name actors ad-libbing the script, it utilized a viral marketing campaign, and it grossed many times over its miniscule budget. It may not be the best found footage movie ever made, but it will always hold a special place in our hearts thanks to the groundbreaking work that paved the way for future films and enabled the genre to become a mainstay in pop culture.

Honorable Mentions

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
Unfriended (2015)
Hell House LLC (2015)
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
As Above, So Below (2014)
Afflicted (2013)
The Borderlands (2013)
Trollhunter (2010)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

A History of Found Footage in Horror

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Featured Scary Movies and Series

Found footage is a horror film subgenre that posits what the audience is watching is a “true” story that was filmed by “real” people. The recordings have been “discovered” and are presented as either the raw uncut movie, or they’re woven into a particular narrative that acts as an overarching story framework for the footage. Because the fictional crews are usually amateur filmmakers, the camera work is often shaky and unprofessional, the scenes tend to cut away during the action, the acting is very naturalistic, and commentary may be provided in real time during the filming. 

Though it often crosses over into the domain of pseudo-documentaries or mockumentaries, this subgenre is set apart by its insistence on suspension of disbelief – the filming, the marketing, and the viewing experience all push the notion that what you’re seeing really happened. This is a subgenre that resides largely within the broader genre of horror as its techniques and tropes lend themselves well to horror. Indeed the “realness” of found footage films makes them that much scarier. Of course there are examples of found footage in other genres (Project X, Chronicle, District 9, Zero Day, and Earth to Echo to name a few), but the fact remains that the genre has been popularized by and largely populated with horror films.

It’s also interesting to note that there is a literary precursor to found footage in the form of epistolary literature and texts from the early 20th century. Both Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are written as a series of letters and journal entries that have been discovered by a third party. Many of HP Lovecraft’s tales, such as The Call of Cthulhu, are also written as though they are real first-hand accounts being recounted in found documents and manuscripts. 

Found Footage Horror Through the Decades

Cannibal Holocaust found footage horror movie poster
Cannibal Holocaust poster

The origins of the found footage horror film can be traced back to a single, viscous little movie from the eighties that shocked the world, almost ruined the director, and gained a cult following. Cannibal Holocaust is about a rescue team who goes into the Amazon rainforest to search for a missing documentary crew. The lost crew was there to film the local cannibal tribes, and the rescue team comes across their film cans and the horrors that are recorded therein. Real indigenous tribes, a cast of amatuer actors, and actual animal deaths on screen, all added to the realism of the found footage style, making many audiences believe the events in the movie actually happened. The director was arrested on multiple obscenity and murder charges (the cast had to vouch for him in court) and the movie was banned in multiple countries.

The intense brutality, sexual violence, real animal killings, and grimy realism of Cannibal Holocaust almost sent the film to obscurity, but in the decades since its release it has become an icon of sorts in grindhouse and cannibal cinema, and its found footage style has influenced numerous directors and later movies. However, because of the movie’s general lack of appeal to mass audiences, its legacy as a pioneer in found footage filmmaking is often overshadowed by the more popular movies that came in later decades.

The Blair Witch Project found footage horror movie poster
The Blair Witch Project poster

Though there are other examples of found footage movies from the eighties, the genre really exploded in popularity during the early 21st century. This resurgence is unequivocally thanks to the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, which managed to break into the mainstream and pop culture in ways that were impossible for Cannibal Holocaust. Arriving in a sweet spot of amateur camcorder enthusiasts and the rise of the Internet, The Blair Witch Project capitalized on both of these aspects to immense success. The filmmakers recorded the film to look like a home movie and also incorporated a marketing campaign that included missing persons posters and a website detailing investigations into the case. All of this combined led to many people believing the movie was true found footage, and the film also became a landmark example of how financially lucrative a shoe-string budget movie could be. 

Golden Era of Found Footage Horror Films

Woman on bed in Paranormal Activity found footage horror movie

The early 2000s into the 2010s became the Golden Era of the genre as a slew of found footage films were released, many of them achieving both critical and financial success. The 2007 Spanish film REC received numerous awards and spawned several sequels. Another 2007 film, Paranormal Activity, broke box office records, stunning audiences, angering studio executives, and opening the gates wide for independent filmmakers to throw their hats in the ring. Cloverfield was released in 2008 and was praised for its viral marketing campaign and cinéma vérité style. Other popular films during this era include Lake Mungo (2010), Grave Encounters (2011), The Devil Inside (2012), V/H/S (2012), Creep (2014), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), and many more (plus all the sequels you could ever want). 

Though the output of found footage movies has slowed down some in recent years, it’s clear that the genre still has some gas in the tank. For example, recent entries – such as Unfriended (2014), Unfriended: Dark Web (2018), and Host (2020) – are getting creative with technology to showcase their scares, utilizing elements like web chats and video calls. New means of storytelling mixed with the time-tested tropes of the genre leave us excited for the future of found footage in horror. 

13 Horsemen – Biker Gang vs Demons

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books

In the world of horror we’ve seen a lot of demon slayers: strong-willed priests, determined brothers, unassuming youngsters, and so on. But in terms of general concept, 13 Horsemen may be the first “biker gang versus demons” pitch I’ve ever come across. Take John Constantine, Sam and Dean Winchester, Ash Williams, and all your other favorite demon hunters and bedeck them in tattoos and leather. Then throw in a horde of blood-thirsty demons and a narrative jam-packed with action and suspense, and out comes this gloriously gory story of war between humans and the forces of Hell.

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13 Horsemen Horror Comic Book Cover
13 Horsemen Horror Comic Book Cover

Readers are immediately thrown into the action with the biker gang (The 13 Horsemen) riding into a trailer park in pursuit of a demon leader named Corbin. It’s clear the bikers have done this before, as they begin systemically blowing demons apart with guns and searching the trailers. The violence is relentless, brutal, and bloody. This opening scene also gives fair warning to the reader that though the Horsemen are a tough group, they aren’t impervious to injury and death. It’s a wonderfully chaotic start and really helps set the tone for the series as a whole.

As the story progresses it begins to fall into a rotating wheel of plot points: traps are sprung, our heroes are taken prisoner, a miraculous escape happens, and the cycle continues again. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with a predictable set of events, and many TV shows and comics in this genre follow similar paths, but there aren’t many major twists or surprises. Still, the stakes continue to rise and there is a forward momentum that keeps things tense and entertaining. Each rotation of the plot wheel brings James (leader of the gang) one step closer to finding the demon that killed his wife and child so many years ago. There’s also plenty of great cliffhangers, both at the end of each issue and during the stories from one page to the next.

biker gang art from 13 Horsemen horror comic
The 13 Horsemen prepare for danger

With thirteen-plus characters to focus on, it’s no surprise that we don’t get a lot of depth and background for our demon slayers. However, there are moments sprinkled throughout that help define their personalities and several hints at larger backstories. So even though you don’t know their life histories, you still have a good sense of their relationships and motivations. The scarred and mysterious character they refer to as Father is particularly intriguing, and I’m very interested to see what his connection is to the demon army and story at large.

The demons themselves are quite the terrifying bunch: glowing red eyes, ghostly pale skin, and viciously sharp fangs. Most of the ones harassing our heroes are foot soldiers, though there are a few climactic moments where larger beasts are unleashed upon the group for epic battles. My only small complaint is that the demons are extremely similar in appearance and mannerisms to vampires. If I were shown images from this and 30 Days of Night I would have a hard time telling the difference. There’s even a moment where a frightened police officer refers to them as vampires, so maybe it’s intentional? Not a deal breaker by any means, just an element that was a little distracting. 

demon army art from 13 Horsemen horror comic
The 13 Horsemen facing a demon army

Not only has author Nat Jones written a riveting and action packed story, but he’s filled it with perfectly detailed illustrations and compelling colors. The art style is heavy on the sketching and light on the shading, enabling the coloring to play a major role. The extensive presence and multi varied shades of reds, oranges, and yellows do a good job of complimenting the action and drawing you into the fiery hell that has been unleashed upon the earth. Also the lettering by Janice Chiang functions as an exemplary model of how to weave onomatopoeia into tense fight scenes for dramatic effect. 

13 Horsemen strikes just the right balance between dramatic tension and over-the-top bombastic violence. It’s exactly the right tone needed for a story about warring bikers and demons, and it matches well with the frenetic pacing and gripping visuals. Despite a few shortcomings in plot repetition and conveniences, the reading experience was one of unbridled enthusiasm. There’s plenty to relish here, and, as the ending would suggest, there may be plenty more demon fighting fun on its way. So grab your holy gun, hop on your Harley, and let’s ride!

13 Horsemen is available now from Storm King Comics.

The Worm and his Kings: New Cosmic Horror

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Reviews

I am unabashedly a huge fan of the weird and wonderful genre of cosmic horror. The ambiguity and dread of unimaginable terror is something that strangely fascinates me, regardless of how much I understand when I read it. Plus cosmic horror stories typically involve cults, so that’s another win in my book. And while I appreciate the godfathers of the genre, such as HP Lovecraft cosmic horror movie The Color Out of Space and Robert Chambers, what has been really exciting is seeing all the new blood coming on the scene in the past decade or so. Whether it’s Victor LaValle updating a classic with The Ballad of Black Tom (2016), or Lonnie Nadler writing an original tale with Black Stars Above (2020), or season 1 of True Detective (2014) bringing the weirdness to the masses – it’s clear that cosmic horror is in good hands. And now The Worm and His Kings has entered the genre.

What I also love about more recent cosmic horror stories is that they are bringing much needed humanity and depth to their characters, in an often esoteric genre with flat characters and dense writing. Gone are the interchangeable and one-sided professors or explorers who narrate their descent into madness. Instead we now have a wide range of dynamic and diverse characters; still finding themselves trapped in the supernatural but with emotional arcs and personalities that are much more relatable and realistic for modern audiences.

And that brings me to Hailey Piper’s latest novella The Worm and His Kings (2020). Set in 1990s New York City, it’s about a young woman named Monique who is down on her luck and living in an abandoned freight train tunnel. Her partner Donna has recently been taken by a taloned monster that stalks the city’s underground tunnel system. One night Monique works up the nerve to follow the monster in a half-planned rescue mission that quickly turns sideways. As she descends deeper into the earth’s depths, Monique will encounter a variety of creatures and mind-boggling horrors in her desperate bid to save the woman she loves.

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The Worm and His Kings horror book cover
The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper

Oh man, where to start on this one? Spoiler alert: I absolutely loved it! Monique is a great protagonist and one whose struggles I immediately sympathized with. While she is somewhat at the mercy of the cosmic forces seeking to ensnare her, she’s not going to give up without a fight. I desperately wanted her to win, but I was constantly afraid that she would not. She’s up against some formidable foes, including the deranged cultists who sing (and kill) in preparation for the Third Coming of the Worm as well as other shadowy, scaly creatures. The Gray Maiden, the giant lizard-like monster who stole Donna, is like something out of a Dark Souls game and particularly terrifying. 

The lore that underpins the story is fascinating and manages to feel hauntingly familiar yet also stand on its own. The history of the Worm and the Kings, the emphasis on alternate dimensions and timelines, the enigmatic practices of the cult – all of it is very compelling. And not only does Hailey Piper write an engaging story, but the way she writes it is beautifully evocative. I loved the vivid details, descriptive imagery, and the constant atmosphere of unease. I really felt Monique’s fear and like I was right there with her in the story, whether in the glaring halls of the cult base or the wet, cold, creeping horror of the Sunless Palace far below ground. Piper also does a good job of balancing clear language with frightening ambiguity, giving me a story that felt grounded but that also threw me off-kilter in an apprehensive way. 

The Worm and His Kings is the best cosmic horror story I’ve read all year, and easily takes a place amongst my all-time favorites. It has a protagonist you really root for, creepy monsters, a fantastic backstory, lots of twists and turns, and plenty of unsettling and mind-bending scenes. It also has an ending that surprised me, but also makes perfect sense with the story. This is my first book from Hailey Piper, and I can’t wait to read what else she has written!


The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper is distributed by Off Limits Press.

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