- Education and Science
Blackbeard the Pirate and his Ghost
Do you enjoy reading about pirates? If so, get comfy and enjoy this true pirate tale!
Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard,” was born in or around 1680, probably in the English port of Bristol. It’s widely believed that his father was also a sailor and privateer, so I guess the ocean was in Teach’s blood, so to speak.
Teach supposedly left home at an early age to sail the seas. During the War of the Spanish Succession, Teach served on a British ship that was involved in privateering along the coast of the Spanish Main in the Caribbean. When the war ended for the Brits, Teach turned to piracy. In fact, he became the most infamous pirate of all time.
The first ship he captained was a French slave trader, Le Concorde. The original captain of the vessel, Benjamin Hornigold, was overthrown by his crew. When Teach gained the position in 1717, he renamed the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Sometime around this period, Teach was using the last name “Thatch.” To other pirates, the military, and the general population, however, he was known simply as Blackbeard, or Blackbeard the Pirate. The moniker was appropriate – his face was almost completely covered by a long black beard.
Blackbeard was a terrifying figure. He was tall and wore a bright red coat, two swords, and pistols. To make himself appear even more formidable, he would often stick cannon fuses in his beard and pigtails and light them. Actually, he didn’t need such theatrics – the mere mention of his name struck fear into the hearts of men, women, and children alike.
He had a nasty reputation for cruelty. It’s been reported that he had fourteen wives, the last being a sixteen-year-old girl. Supposedly, after he had satisfied himself with her, he would invite his men to share in the pleasure, while he watched. Historians disagree on the veracity of this, however. Most historians believe that Blackbeard’s bloodthirsty reputation is without merit. It seems that when he overtook a ship, valuables and food stores were taken, and the crew was allowed to sail away.
Another assumption about Blackbeard is that he often buried chests of treasure on various beaches. He and one member of the crew would row ashore with the chest, but Blackbeard would always return alone. Legend has it that he always buried the corpse of the murdered sailor on top of the treasure chest in order to dissuade anyone from searching further in case they happened upon the booty.
Blackbeard’s most famous act occurred in 1718, when Queen Anne’s Revenge and three other pirate ships blockaded the Charleston harbor. Teach and his band of pirates captured five merchant ships and virtually strangled sea traffic to and from the port. He also captured several Charlestonians and held them for ransom. Instead of demanding money, Teach demanded medicinal supplies in exchange for the safe return of the Charleston citizens. The ransom was met, and the prisoners were returned unharmed – and unclothed. After the exchange was made, Blackbeard and his group of pirate ships all fled to the north.
In November of 1718, Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood offered a bounty for Blackbeard’s head. Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy set out to kill the infamous pirate. Maynard found Teach on November 21, off the coast of North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island. Blackbeard had a crew of only nineteen at the time, and they waited for Maynard to make a move. During the night, Teach and his pirates advanced toward Maynard’s ship. Maynard had anticipated this move and ordered most of his men into the ship’s hold. Teach thought Maynard’s ship was manned by a small crew, so the pirates were emboldened and boarded. A battle ensued, and Blackbeard was killed with five pistol shots and more than twenty stabbings. His head was cut off as proof of his death. Legend says that his headless body swam around Maynard’s vessel numerous times before sinking to the bottom of the sea. Teach’s head was placed on Maynard’s bowsprit and was later placed on a spike at the Hampton River in Virginia, at Hampton Road Harbor, to dissuade other pirates. Today, this location is still known as Blackbeard’s Point.
Many Outer Banks inhabitants and visitors claim to have seen Blackbeard’s ghost on moonlit nights. Some report seeing his headless body swimming around the docks as it searches for its lost head, while others swear to have seen Blackbeard’s head bobbing in the water in search of its body.
And the legend doesn’t stop there. Many people have taken the tales of the pirate’s buried treasures to heart and have spent months unearthing sections along the coast, hoping to find the stash. Another says that Blackbeard’s skull was fashioned into a wine goblet.
Yet another legend tells of the pirate's killing a young girl, either at Ocracoke or Beaufort, supposedly by hanging. He buried her there, and many have reported seeing her ghost at certain times of the year.
In 1996, a shipwreck off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina was discovered. It’s believed to be none other than Queen Anne’s Revenge.