“For many years after this shipwreck, a man, of a very singular and frightful aspect, used, every spring and autumn, to be seen travelling on the Cape, who was supposed to have been one of Bellamy’s crew.” —B.A. Botkin, A Treasury of New England Folklore; Stories, Ballads, and Traditions of Yankee Folk
In April of 1717, the fleet of famed Golden Age pirate Samuel Bellamy was caught in a violent nor’easter off the coast of Cape Cod. Down went the fleet and its flagship, the Whydah Gally, into the depths of the Atlantic, along with its vast hoard of treasure, its captain, and all but a few surviving crew members. Though this intense pirate shipwreck is well documented in primary records, most notably by Cotton Mather, the sensational nature of the story of pirate captain Samuel Bellamy and the Whydah Gally eventually caused it to sink from reality into the realm of legend.
Pirate stories capture the imaginations of children and adults alike. These tales of swashbucklers, buried treasure, violence, and adventure on the open ocean are told and retold time and time again—so much so that they often exist on the margins of fact and fiction. The story of the Whydah Gally and Samuel Bellamy is no exception. In the three centuries since, folktales and ghost stories of the shipwreck have sprung up all along the New England coast. In some, the story is framed as a tragic romance—in others, a tale of revenge. Many of these stories feature a wandering ghost searching the shoreline. Continue reading How a Pirate Shipwreck Near Cape Cod Became a Local Legend