Reclusive voodoo priestess of 'Midnight' fame dies

  • Follow Latest News

SAVANNAH, Ga. --Valerie Fennel Aiken Boles rarely allowed people to take her picture or touch her.

She believed doing so put her at risk of being hexed, according to writer John Berendt.

"When you gave her money, she didn't want you to hand it to her," Berendt said by telephone Friday. "You had to put it down on a table or on the floor, because that way you can't 'work' with her hands. If you touch her, you're 'working her hand.' "

Boles died early Friday morning at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. Her age was undetermined.

She was better known as the mysterious voodoo priestess "Minerva" in Berendt's novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," which is set in Savannah. She was played by actress Irma P. Hall in the 1997 movie of the same name, starring John Cusack, Kevin Spacey and directed by Clint Eastwood.

Beaufort County Coronor Ed Allen said family members had not finalized arrangements and did not wish to speak publicly as of late Friday.

Berendt described Boles' in his 1993 book as the character "Minerva," who was befriended by Savannah antiques dealer Jim Williams. Minerva leads Williams and a New York writer to a nearby graveyard to cast a spell on former Chatham County District Attorney Spencer Lawton, who had filed murder charges against Williams in the fatal shooting of friend Danny Hansford.

Other than the name change, the story about Boles in the novel is true, Berendt said.

"There's nothing I can add to that evening. It's verbatim what she said and what he said and what we did," he said.

According to the book, Minerva is the common-law wife of the late Dr. Buzzard, "the last great voodoo practitioner in Beaufort County." "When Dr. Buzzard died," Berendt wrote, "Minerva put on his purple glasses and set herself up as a root doctor. She uses some of his techniques and some of her own, too."

To the people who came to know her through Williams, Boles showed an aversion to public attention and an intense suspicion of strangers.

Berendt said he knew of only two occasions she allowed herself to be photographed: once for a national morning show shortly after the release of the 1997 movie, and once in 2004 for Life Magazine.

Williams' attorney, Sonny Seiler, recalled visits with her on a bench outdoors in Monterey Square. "We'd sit out there a few minutes, but she'd never say anything. She didn't trust me," Seiler said.

Later in 2002, Seiler accompanied friends on a visit to Boles' Beaufort home.

"The house reeked of some strange incense," he said. "I gave her some money, and she smiled. I asked her if she ever got back to Savannah, and she said she didn't. She said she couldn't travel."

John Duncan, owner of V&J Duncan Antique Maps, Prints and Books, said Savannah tour guide Martha Hicks Ellzey later became a close friend to Boles and used to take her to his shop.

"Martha brought her by several times to see us," Duncan said. "I must say, (Boles) was very strong-willed, with a foul mouth, and refused to have pictures taken."

Ellzey, owner of Southern Hospitality Tours, declined to confirm Boles' death when reached Friday.

"I was not going to call the media until I talked to the family because it has not gotten around to all the family yet," she said. "This is very private, and I don't want anything (reported) at this point."

Berendt said Boles once claimed to be "in communication" with Williams after his death in 1990.

"She said she was in contact, but she didn't say what he was doing or saying," he said.

Comments (14) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 05/09/09 - 07:42 am
0
0
Another democrat dies. Dog

Another democrat dies. Dog bites man.

pantherluvcik
628
Points
pantherluvcik 05/09/09 - 07:57 am
0
0
You're so ignorant patricia

You're so ignorant patricia thomas, I wonder when we'll have the pleasure of mourning your absence from this site. Condolences to the family.

Lobosolo
5
Points
Lobosolo 05/09/09 - 08:35 am
0
0
PettyT, you show your [filtered word]

PettyT, you show your [filtered word] again. Another juvenile comment from a small-minded putz obviously devoid of creativity. The sad part is, you think you're really funny. You're still part of that dying breed of Rove-suckers. Get a life, Boy.

marien
28
Points
marien 05/09/09 - 09:20 am
0
0
I think Pat is searching for

I think Pat is searching for attention, she is always saying someting negative. sad, soooooooo sad...

Tots
25853
Points
Tots 05/09/09 - 09:20 am
0
0
Pt-Did you really need to say

Pt-Did you really need to say that? Now the sh--t will start.

mieshel
3
Points
mieshel 05/09/09 - 09:44 am
0
0
better hope a spell isnt

better hope a spell isnt casted on you pt....dont play with people like that

SCGAL53
0
Points
SCGAL53 05/09/09 - 10:26 am
0
0
Rest In Peace, Ms. Boles

Rest In Peace, Ms. Boles

LadyCisback
4
Points
LadyCisback 05/09/09 - 11:19 am
0
0
she will come back to life..

she will come back to life.. they always do..

willistontownsc
55
Points
willistontownsc 05/09/09 - 01:55 pm
0
0
How come they don't know how

How come they don't know how old she was when she passed away? Was she born on February 29 of some leap year? Anyways, RIP. :(

anotherday
46
Points
anotherday 05/09/09 - 02:17 pm
0
0
It was and is a wonderful

It was and is a wonderful story, made even more richer because of her. R.I.P.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 05/09/09 - 02:46 pm
0
0
ah-h-h, I see a "afro" is on

ah-h-h, I see a "afro" is on the web watch for today and tried to put a boogaloo on the voodoo. And so goes the 1st amendment. How Obama. I guess I'll have to get used to it for the next 3 1/2 years.

Tujeez1
0
Points
Tujeez1 05/10/09 - 09:37 am
0
0
The world is full of

The world is full of Interesting People, and it just lost one. Rest In Peace Ms. Boles. Condolences to her family. Please Be Careful with those Purple Glasses.

BarstoolDreamer
19
Points
BarstoolDreamer 05/10/09 - 10:41 am
0
0
Purple glasses, chicken feet,

Purple glasses, chicken feet, turkey wings, or an invisable man in the sky, virgin births and all the animals in the world living in walking distance of one mans house..... someone should sell tickets

dhd1108
1
Points
dhd1108 05/10/09 - 12:02 pm
0
0
wonder whats going to be on

wonder whats going to be on her tombstone

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs