Blackbeard set his beard on fire? The ghost of Virginia Dare. Graveyard of the Atlantic?
See more facts and folklore here.
History and legend are woven together here on the Outer Banks with stories of ship wrecks, pirates, ghost stories and legends.
The name Hatteras stems from an English rendition of a Native American word that meant “there is less vegetation”. The Croatan’s were the only Native Americans to live year round on the barrier islands and the live stock would run free, killing a lot of the vegetation.
The name of Kill Devil Hills is said to derive from the rum that was so prevalent in this area. Supposedly William Byrd of Virginia said that the rum was so bad that it could kill the devil. The rum was then named Kill Devil Rum. There is also a tale of a man who bargained to exchange his soul to the devil for a bag of gold. The night before the meeting, the man dug a deep hole in a large sand dune. The man tricked the devil into that hole on the night of the meeting and buried him. Hence, Kill Devil Hill.
The name Nags Head has an interesting story. It is told that the name came from a tale of a local marching his old nag along the shore line with a lantern tied around its neck to look like a sailing vessel. This was to trip unsuspecting boat captains into thinking it was a safe sailing area. The approaching boats would run aground and be pillaged by the “Bankers”.
Stories about Jockeys Ridge tell of the name coming from the horse track that used to be in the valley of the ridge. Others say it is named after a wealthy land owner named Jackock who owned property close to the dune. However the origin of the name developed, visiting Jockeys Ridge is a must. The view is amazing from Sound to Ocean.
The first settlers on the Outer Banks were John White and 116 colonists from England. They landed on what they called “Hattorask” in 1587 and they encountered the friendly natives known as Croatan Indians. They soon moved to Roanoke Island to set up a colony. When John White returned to the island after a visit to England three years later, he discovered that all of the colonists were gone. The only clue to their whereabouts were the carvings he found in the trees that spelled “CROATAN”. That is what the outdoor play, “The Lost Colony” is based on.
The legend of Virginia Dare who was known as the first English born child on new world soil. Legend has it that she and several of the first settlers went to Croatan, a near by island, and the name of the of the English speaking Croatan Indian named Manteo. Virginia grew to be a beautiful young woman and the target of many suitors. Two of which where the noble Okisko and a jealous sorcerer named Chico. Chico offered his hand in marriage first and she refused. In a rage, he cursed her and turned her into a snow white doe. This is one of my favorite stories. Find out more about Virginia Dare here. The doe is told to still be sadly wandering through the overgrown and decaying houses built by her people on Roanoke Island.
There is something on Cape Hatteras that lets the islanders know when a storm is coming. The Gray Man of Hatteras is an indistinct, shadowy figure who walks the beaches of Cape Hatteras as a hurricane is approaching. He appears as the first winds of the storm touch the island whenever a hurricane is a real threat to the island and it’s inhabitants.
Blackbeard the pirate would light his beard on fire? Well, sort of. Blackbeard kept his hair and beard black and long, but he never really lit it on fire. He would use little candles or fuses and light those. With his skeletal looks, the fire and smoke made him look demonic. This intimidation worked in battle. The enemies were terrified of him. Blackbeard’s flag was scary too. It held an emblem of a skeleton stabbing a red heart with a spear. This pirates terror on the water was bloody but short lived. Blackbeard was eventually tracked down to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina by the Royal Navy and killed in a brief but bloody battle on November 22, 1718. On the night before the battle, Blackbeard is rumored to have cried out “O Crow, Cock! O Crow, Cock!” in eager anticipation of the morning’s fight. This phrase eventually became the name of the neighboring island, Ocracoke. (Click to learn more about this beautiful Island) To learn more about the folklore behind Blackbeard click here.
Due to the ever changing sandbars, unpredictable currents and weather conditions off the shores of Hatteras Island, it has been dubbed the Graveyard of the Atlantic. To date, over 600 ships have found this stretch of shore their final resting place. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, is located in Hatteras village.
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