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Southern Bottle Trees

If you have been to the south there is no doubt that you have encountered a bottle tree. According to the legend, spirits are attracted to the blue bottles; as they go into the bottle to investigate they cannot find their way out and are trapped. At night when you hear the moaning of these bottles, it notifies you that you have trapped spirits in these bottles. As the sun comes up in the morning the spirits are burned up by the sun’s rays. If a bottle breaks the spirit is set free to roam or enter your home.

As early as the ninth century, Central African people started putting out bottles to capture roaming spirits. In the morning they would either cork the bottle and throw it in the river or let the sun burn up the usually evil spirit. As Africans were captured and brought to the south so did their superstitions and traditions. You can find these bottle trees anywhere nowadays, but they were once only found near the slave quarters of Southern Plantations.

You may see bottles of all different colors; but “Haint Blue” is the color of choice for these bottles as spirits are more attracted to the blue color. Many southerners paint their porches and trim around their windows and doorways haint blue. The word haint has morphed over the years and once was haunt blue, which makes more sense. No matter the color of these bottles tread lightly when you see them hanging from trees or perched on branches as you would hate to break one of these bottles and let out the spirit.

Linda Moffitt is the author of Washington's Haunted Hotspots and the forthcoming Haunts of the Southwest. Find her online at

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8 thoughts on “Southern Bottle Trees

  1. Linda, WOW! What an excellent post. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bottle tree. Bottle brush, but not a bottle tree. What’s even crazier is I just read about the Thai tradition of spirit houses yesterday too. Now you posted this. Fascinating! (And a really great picture of a bottle tree. Very cool! Keeping my eyes peeled for them from here on out on my jaunts! 😉

  2. What a marvelous article, Linda, and timely for me. My mother wants a bottle tree for the yard and I was wondering what the purpose was. I’ll be sure to make sure that she gets some blue bottles for it.

  3. Plan to do one for my “fairy garden”-why not?

    Not ghostly, but how about houses made out of bottles? There’s one in Virginia:
    Doc Hope’s Bottle House:
    From Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales:
    Somewhere in the southern part of Virginia is a house made up of all things, bottles. Mentioned in Weird Virginia, this interesting place started life in 1941 when pharmacist John “Doc” hope commissioned a builder to build for his daughter a playhouse made out of bottles. Glass containers from castor oil ones to soda pop were used in construction of this place. Unlike most children’s playhouses, this one stretched from fifteen to twenty-five feet.
    Nicknamed the “House of a Thousand Headaches” due to the wine bottles also used in its construction, unlike many homes today this one has stood the test of time. It is said that unlike other homes made of bottles in the world, this one had all its bottles arranged backwards, making the inner walls green.

  4. A fairy garden? How delightful!!! And what a neat share from your book about the bottle house. I can see why it’s maybe not ghostly. Maybe that’s why he built it out of that. 😉

  5. There is an Native American Indian legend that if you hang bottles (upright) from the trees, that the evil spirits would go into them and not be able to every come out again. I saw a picture of an old Indian dwelling and they had the tree covered with all sorts of bottles. It was a wonderful sight and a great legend!

  6. I had an dead tree that my husband wanted to cut completely down. I talked him into leaving the limbs for my “bottle tree”. I devised a way so they would NOT hang crooked, since I wanted them to hang up-right and swing in the wind. “the legend…”the evil spiirit will go into the bottle and not be able to come out”. I have multicolored bottles on my tree w/as many cobalt blue as possible.
    Don’t know how they will with-stand in a hail storm, but we shall see.
    Is there a way for me to send a picture of my tree>

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