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Why So Blue? Color Graces Many a Porch Ceiling

From periwinkle and turquoise to more mellow shades the color of the sky, the paint of choice for many porches across the country is blue. Is it just trendy? Or a talisman of some sort?

Carl Langhorne, assistant manager at Strosnider's Hardware store in Bethesda, Md., says that some customers say they want a color that reminds them of the sky, others like blue because it's a calming color.

Still others believe that blue chases away evil spirits.

In the South Carolina Lowcountry, there's a name for the blue of porch ceiling: haint blue.

Alphonso Brown, a guide with Gullah Tours in Charleston, S.C., explains that a haint is a spirit or a ghost, and in Charleston, many people also paint the trim on their houses blue to ward off evil spirits.

Other theories also exist. Some say blue helps extend daylight as dusk begins to fall, and many, including Brown, believe that it helps keep bugs away.

Nathan Erwin, director of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian Institution, says he was unaware of the theory that blue was meant to banish bugs. He says he and his colleagues found no scientific research on the subject.

But that's not to say it isn't true.

"I think it's certainly an interesting study to pursue since there seems to be some anecdotal information," Erwin says. "Maybe it would be a good project for a college student or a graduate student."

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