Key West porches – are they simply charming or can some actually provide protection from evil spirits? Well, many will tell you that they may be both. You may have already noticed that so many of the enchanting homes in Key West have porch ceilings painted light blue. If you ask some homeowners “why the blue paint?” they may just tell you it is the color for porch ceilings – it is simply the “right” color. The color as often referred to as haint blue and this is a tradition that has been passed on for centuries. A haint is actually not necessarily a shade of blue, but is a term used for ghosts or spirits. Many people will tell you this soft blue color actually is intended to protect the owners and guests from being haunted or influenced by haints. It is said the blue paint will protect the house and the occupants of the house from evil. How can a simple paint color provide this sort of supernatural protection? According to folklore, the haints are not able to cross water and the blue ceiling on a porch will confuse them and keep them from entering the home. (Nobody said haints are particularly smart.) The record of this tradition is a little unclear and there are a few versions of the history on the subject, but as I understand it, this tradition originated in the south, perhaps in South Carolina, and was a custom passed on by African descendants.
Another theory about the blue porch ceiling is that the color repels insects and will help keep your porch bug free. Many people believe this is because they think that the bugs are tricked into thinking that the blue color is the sky and so they don’t attempt to nest there. I am not sure that bugs are being fooled away from the blue ceilings, but there actually may be a bit of truth to the history of this notion. Back in the day when blue paints were first used on the porches, they most likely were milk paints. At that time milk paints often had lye mixed in which worked as an insect repellent simply from the composition of the paint. Milk paints were not very durable so they had to be repainted often so the lye in the paint mixture stayed pretty fresh and continued to keep the bugs at bay. It is of course possible that many people paint their porches ceilings blue simply because it is a calming lovely color that reminds us of the blue skies and ocean waters that surround us year round. Most Key Westers are not spending too much time worrying about haints and lucky for us, bugs in the evening don’t pose a great problem. Ultimately, our lovely porches are a place where we can cozy up with a cup of coffee in the morning, a good book on a leisurely afternoon, or enjoy glass of wine at the end of the day. The quaint space outside our front doors is a big part of what defines the charm of our Key West Old Town neighborhoods, so don’t be scared.