Archive for April, 2012

Our Weird World: Blackbeard and The Money Pit

Anyone who didn’t already know who Blackbeard was most likely knows now, oweing partly to the newest installment of the Pirates of the Carribbean films. I haven’t seen that one yet, but I do know that North Carolina’s favorite pirate, Blackbeard, plays a huge role as the antagonist.

While that movie was based on a novel and entirely fictional, the real Blackbeard was no less a character. The name he used more often was Edward Teach, and the man loved him some North Carolina. It has been reported that Ocracoke Island, a quiet place in NC’s Outer Banks (and quite nice if you just want a truly relaxing vacation) was a favored hangout of the famed pirate, when he wasn’t raiding things. You can read more about his life at his Wikiepedia page, though I’ll give you one spoiler. He was killed in a battle with Robert Maynard, after which his head was removed and hung from the bowsprit of Maynard’s ship. Teach was estimated to be around 35 or 40 years old

Now, Edward Teach’s life as the pirate Blackbeard certainly is interesting, but enough of pillaging and living the high life on another’s dime. What really grabs my attention are the mysteries surrounding his life. Who was he?

And where’s that treasure he talked about?

Blackbeard’s used name may have been Edward Teach, but what I didn’t know before was that it probably was not at any point his real name. That was common among pirates back then, because family names were quite important and using a false name would avoid any reputational harm to family members.

Some have suggested that his real name was Edward Drummond, but there’s not a lot of evidence to support this. The theory is that he was originally from Bristol England, but that’s just an assumption. As you probably know, no one came forward to claim the body after the death, or even inquire, as it was disposed of in the water. The true identity of Edward Teach remains a mystery to this day. He seems to have been from no place at all.

Now, what would any of this have to do with Canada, or more specifically, Nova Scotia?

I’m glad you asked.

Pirates were not generally known to have buried any treasure to come back later. Usually, what they did gain was spent on booze and women. A notable exception is William Kidd. I’ll link back to him later. Blackbeard was quoted as saying that his treasure had been hidden “where none but Satan and myself can find it.”

Oak Island, in Nova Scotia, is a quiet place, owned but basically empty because it lies so low in the water (only about 35 feet above it, actually.) There’s lots of trees there and one very interesting feature.

The Money Pit.

When he found it in 1795, Daniel McGinnis had no idea what he and his friends were beginning. He’d seen lights flickering there at night, and was drawn by his curiosity to check the place out. What they found was an apparently manmade hole, and began to dig, at first finding just markings and some flagstones. The deeper they went, the more interesting things got. Every ten feet, someone had put a layer of logs. After reaching a level of 30 feet, they stopped. Since then, people have repeatedly searched and excavated and searched the hole more. It keeps flooding and humans keep going back. They’ve found stuff, artifacts and things. But no one wants an old vase, not really.

What gets their attention is the inscription found about 90 feet down, which was supposedly translated as “forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” That was in the 1800s.

Two million pounds.

People keep going back. Maybe now they are looking for old vases. Actually, they are, some of them, because Canada’s been there longer than it was ever called that. Treasure would be nice, though.

Captain Kidd and Edward Teach are both supposed to have buried something there, according to theories. And so far no one has, as he promised, found Blackbeard’s treasure.

So what’s down there?

Did he know something we don’t?

Who was Edward Teach, and what did he hide?

I suspect the answer’s worth more than two million pounds.


More NC Coastal Weirdness: Beaufort, NC

Gah, it’s been far too long! I’ve been so busy that I’ve not been able to stop and do a little research, so today I’m just featuring an e-mail from Amanda at Southern Fried Fantasy. After a gracious thanks for a link to her Acid Park post, she shared a tale from her visit to Beaufort, NC. Please enjoy this weirdly true story.

Now, I’d like to share with you an experience that I had happen about four years ago. I was home from college for about a week (self-made spring break), and my family and I had gone down to Beaufort for the day. Beaufort’s a pretty old town, as you probably know, and the cemetery there is, at the risk of sounding morbid, a beautiful place to visit, despite the bees (which I hate.) That day, there wasn’t anything in particular that happened while we were in the actual cemetery, but we did experience a very weird occurrence right as we were entering the old gates. Here’s some background. My dog Minnie, who loved to travel, was in the backseat of the car, as usual. She’d come with us because the weather was fairly cool that day, and cracking the windows kept the car very comfortable. Minnie was very used to staying in the car when we went in anywhere, because to her, the car was a secure, familiar place. What happened next is not something I’ve been able to explain very well.

As we walked toward the gates of the cemetery and opened them to go in, Minnie started freaking out. You know, how dogs do, whining and barking. Because the windows were open, it was pretty loud, and she kept it up. It wasn’t something that ever happened before in the car, and never once happened again after that for the rest of Minnie’s life. I do have my theories. We were in a cemetery, and I know that things can and do happen there that may invite spiritual disturbances, so it’s likely Minnie sensed something that never bothered us. I’ve also heard another reason for dog’s panicking in places that appear to be spooky. Sometimes, depending on the structure of a place, environmental factors can come together to produce frequencies that are too low to audibly register in the human ear. Dogs will hear the sounds, but the only thing that humans experience is a feeling of dread or foreboding brought on, of course, by these low frequencies. If the latter is the case, then the iron fence might at least partly explain this particular happening. The next time I visited that cemetery, Minnie had stayed at home because of the summer heat. I never experienced any dread myself (except of the bees, lol.) In one of your posts you mentioned the people of Roanoke Colony and how some people think they were swallowed up into the earth. Maybe there’s one of those weird doors in the Beaufort cemetery? That might make a weird frequency. I wonder if anyone else has had something similar happen.

Anyway, thanks again!

Whoa. When I read this email…just wow.

I love that my Roanoke Island post did bring some attention to an unpopular but very interesting theory, that of what appear to be wormholes or something. But where would they go?

A Typical Haunt: The USS North Carolina

Keeping it on the coast in today’s entry, about the USS North Carolina.

The city of Wilmington sits on the water in North Carolina. It’s by no means a small town, what with its population of well over 300,000. Hollywood has chosen this city as a place to film numerous movies and television shows. Ironman 3 will be at least partially filmed there. UNC-Wilmington is just one of the colleges that makes this city its home, and its historic downtown is one you should probably visit, if you’re ever in the area.

If you go, please be sure to visit the USS North Carolina.

It sits in the water, quite close to the downtown area. It does function now as a memorial and museum, and a pretty big one at that. A few places are still closed off, but you can make your way through most of the ship unhindered, starting with the deck. You descend into the bowels of The Showboat, and see how men lived and worked during the Second World War. Make sure you go on a day when it’s not too hot, because there is no air conditioning in the ship, and it can get quite warm.

I’ve had my share of trips to the memorial, and often the school groups tend to hurry through. Whether that was a result of time or claustrophobia, I’m not sure.

I was doing some research for this blog on haunted places in North Carolina, and I was quite delighted to discover that the old lady has a few reported hauntings of her own.

The tragedy of the hauntings is the same with any. People died on this ship. Now, at least for the North Carolina, a total of ten men perished aboard her,  which is pretty good for use during WWII. But most of the men aboard were young, and it hurts a little when I realize that the men who died were quite possibly younger than me. And so things remain behind on the Showboat.

One man has been there to witness many of the haunted events that take place at night, long after the museum is closed and the tourists go home. That man is Danny Bradshaw, who serves as the night watchman on the ship, since 1976. According to him, only two of the 10 men remain behind. One walks through the hallways of the ship, about his duties forever. I imagine his gait filled with purpose. One woman has reported that this man even came up to her and her friends and asked them to be careful, some places could be dangerous. Another man’s face will often gaze at guests through the portholes. Danny Bradshaw says that he feels two different types of presences there. One good, and one bad.

I guess it’s up to you to decide.

Louisville Ghost Hunters Report

Wilmington News Article

Haunted NC Reports on the Battleship

Whirligigs in Wilson

We’ll trek back east this week to the Coastal Plains.

Recently, Artsee Magazine featured the artwork of Mr. Vollis Simpson. Locals in the Wilson, North Carolina area are familiar with Mr. Simpson’s work, because it is the very subject of some local lore.

The story of Acid Park is rather similar to other tragic tales of teenage recklessness. A popular, told from the cradle up story says that the artist’s daughter was driving one night with a group of friends. LSD, or acid of course, entered the picture and things began to spiral wildly out of control. The evening ended with the car wrapped around the tree, and the passengers dead. A tamer version has the teenagers consuming copious amounts of alcohol.

And neither are true.

But the story stuck around. College students tell out of town friends. I myself visited it a few times in college, and I heard the acid version. In fact, it seems to be a tale shared with everyone and accepted as truth. The main reason?

The car.

Now, having seen the car myself, as well as a more close-up picture of it (in Weird Carolinas, a current favorite of mine), the car is wrapped around the tree, in a way. The tree, in fact, grows through the car’s engine. The poor old car has been stripped of nearly everything to make the beautiful, jingling, sparkling art.

Mr. Simpson is said to have built a wind-powered washing machine in the Mariana Islands when he was stationed there in World War II, which to me is brilliant. The Whirligigs are a product of that genius. All of them move in the wind, if you’re lucky enough to get there on a night when the wind is blowing in. The machines have a bit of complexity to them. Other parts of the park are more stationary. One looks like a Ferris wheel, another like a Christmas tree. If I remember correctly, the Christmas tree piece has been moved to downtown Wilson, on Douglas Street, where the new workshop is. It’s nice during the day, but at night, the true grandeur of the place is obvious, as the machines reflect everything through the pitch darkness of a rural landscape.

To my sadness, I’ve recently heard that they’re moving all of the pieces to downtown Wilson, in the midst of a small, wilted city with too many lights and not enough people to see. The park proves to me that sometimes, it takes the heavy darkness to see the beautiful light.

Here’s a link to a post on Southern Fried Thinker, called The Ghostly Carnival. She’s had some pictures up of these for sometime, of the park at night. I think there’s also a link if you’d like to know more.