The Pirate Blackbeard’s Ghost
His legend lives on well beyond his earthly time, and now, with the resurgence of pirate literature, pirate movies and a general fascination with all things pirate, it seems only fitting we introduce the legend of Blackbeard’s ghost.
Edward Teach is thought to have been an educated Englishman, though debate will always rage over his actual origins (and even his last name—Teach, Thatch, Tash?). What is known of Edward Teach is that while he generally tolerated people who cooperated with him, he was a fearsome pirate figure during the two years he ruled the southeastern coast of what would eventually become the United States. Teach was interested in loot, not vengeance, not bloodshed. He was just in it for the money. One of Blackbeard’s best-remembered adventures was the blockade of Charleston harbor when his men desperately needed medicine. Blackbeard held a few people (a councilman and his young son among them) for ransom until a fully equipped medicine chest was delivered.
But beyond the blockade and the parties Blackbeard and his men participated in around the Carolina coast, Blackbeard is most well remembered for his stunning appearance. Tall and with long dark hair and a bushy black beard, he loved to scare sailors on ships he was attacking, and so, to make his appearance even more powerful, he wove fuses of slow burning hemp into his hair and beard and hung some around his shoulders so he was nearly enveloped in an otherworldly smoke. He was always heavily armed—several pistols and knives were always at his waist. Looking like the Devil himself, the pirate Blackbeard would attack and many sailors surrendered at the site of him.
In 1717 Blackbeard obtained a British ship called the Concorde. Outfitting her with 40 cannons (feeling 26 was simply too modest) Blackbeard renamed her The Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Although fearsome in battle, some claim Blackbeard was a lover at heart. He supposedly took more than a dozen wives and treated each one like a doting lover might—making each feel as if she was his first and only love—until he spotted the next one.
Blackbeard briefly retired, married his last wife, and lived a comfortable life until the ways of pirating lured him back into action. While partying in pirate camp near Ocracoke, North Carolina with Charles Vane’s crew (including Jack Rackham—later Calico Jack), Blackbeard and the pirates caused enough of a disturbance that the nearby citizens of Virginia demanded something be done. The governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, hired Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the ship “Jane” to capture Blackbeard.
On November 22, 1718 a fierce battle began between Maynard and Blackbeard. While Blackbeard fired his cannons, Maynard supposedly ordered many of his so-far-unseen men below decks and amid a damaged and nearly deserted ship, enticed the pirates to board. As they did British sailors swarmed out of the hold and into the bloody fray. Maynard and Blackbeard fought each other—Blackbeard suffering approximately twenty stab wounds and cuts and 5 gunshots before collapsing on the deck in his own slick blood. The pirate succumbed due to blood loss.
Blackbeard’s head was cut off and hung from the Jane’s bowsprit—his body thrown overboard.
And this was when the weirdness began. According to legend, Blackbeard’s headless corpse swam around the Jane three times while his suspended head shrieked. Since that time, Blackbeard’s ghost has been spotted in the cove at Ocracoke Island (Teach’s Hole).
Locals claim to have seen Blackbeard’s headless body floating on the waves and occasionally swimming in circles while glowing with a phosphorescent light. Some claim to have seen the body even rise up out of the water, holding a lantern, and come ashore to search for its head. Where Blackbeard’s ghost walks his boots leave no footprints and now any strange light on or near the beach is commonly called “Teach’s Light” in reference to the ghostly search Blackbeard’s headless ghost still makes.