New England Pirate Tales


New England with its Atlantic coasts and multiple waterways has always been full of legends of pirates. Below are five interesting tales that survive today from the days of Pirates



Thrice Cursed island

Charles Island, also known as Thrice Cursed Island, is a 14 mile stretch of land off the Connecticut Coast and is part of Silver Sands State Park. According to legend the famous pirate, Captain Kidd, visited nearby Milford on his final voyage in 1699. Although he buried treasure at Gardiners Island just off of Long Island it is said he also buried a portion of his treasure on Charles Island, possibly beneath a giant boulder known as Hog Rock.

Like any good pirate Kidd cursed anyone who would look for the treasure.  He was not the only one who cursed this island. The Paugussett tribe believed spirits lived on the island. When the land was taken from the tribe and given to the settlers, the Paugussett cursed the island and any building erected there. A third legend says that another group of pirates who tried to bury their treasure on the island met a bad end and damned anyone who would come after them. No treasure has yet been found on the island.



Dixie Bull and the attack on Pemaquid, Maine

Dixie Bull, the first pirate known to prey on ships off of the New England Coast, was known as the Dread Pirate. This name came from a 1632 attack on Pemaquid, Maine, which was then the fur trading center of the state. Few pirates had the boldness to attack a defended town like Pemaquid was.

According to legend Bull sailed into the harbor with three ships and opened fire on the stockade and sacked the town. It is said that Bull escaped the town with between 55 pounds or $2,500.

Pemaquid was immortalized in a ballad about a duel between Dixie Bull and a fisherman from Pemaquid, Daniel Curtis, on an island near town. In the ballad, ‘The Slaying of Dixie Bull’, Curtis kills the pirate, saving the town.


The Whydah

The legend of Black Sam Bellamy and his ship the Whydah began when Bellamy in 1714 when the pirate sailed off of the coast of cape Cod Arriving possibly in Eastham he fell in love and had an affair with Maria Hallett. With Maria pregnant Bellamy sailed to Florida. He and his crew soon had captured the Whydah which became his flagship. Over the next year he and his crew raided 54 ships along the eastern coast capturing a treasure today worth $120 million.

Bellamy and his ship the Whydah along with Williams and his ship the Maryanne headed back to New England. The Maryanne headed toward Rhode Island where Williams planned to visit his family. Bellamy’s plans were to sail on to possibly Eastham to once again visit Maria.

On April 26, 1717, a nor’easter blew into the Massachusetts coast and the Whydah was caught in it and shipwrecked. Black Sam Bellamy and all but two, of the 142-man crew, drowned. Eventually 102 of the bodies were buried in a mass grave.

In 1984 the Whydah was discovered by Barry Clifford in 14 feet of water and five feet of sand. The artifacts of the Whydah can be seen at the Whydah Museum in Provincetown, Ma. In Feb 2018 a bone fragment recovered was DNA tested as it was believed to possibly have belonged to the pirate, it was later determined not to be.

Ocean Born Mary

The tale of Ocean Born Mary begins on the day she was born, on a voyage from Ulster to Boston. Pirates overtook the ship, planning on robbing and killing those on board. The pirate captain went below deck after hearing a baby cry. His heart was softened at the sight of the infant.  The pirate made a deal with Mary’s mother Elizabeth, saying he would spare the lives of the passengers if she was willing to name the new baby Mary, the name of either his mother or wife, it is believed. Additionally, the pirate gifted the mother with a bolt of green silk cloth for Mary to wear at her wedding.

Mary’s father died soon after the trio emigrated to New England. Elizabeth soon remarried and the family settled into a home in Londonderry, N.H. And yes, when Mary grew up, she married wearing a dress made from the light green silk the pirate had given her on the day she was born.


A Bad Day for Pirates

July 19, 1723 was not a good day for Pirates in Newport. Twenty-six were hung that day and it is believed to be the largest public mass execution in U.S. History. The pirates were capture by the warship the HMS Greyhound.

On June 10, 1723, English Pirate Edward Low while raiding ships along the trade route between the Caribbean and New England, spotted the warship Greyhound. The pirates demanded that the warship surrender which they refused to do. Soon a battle ensued. Eventually the Greyhound captured the pirate ship, however Low managed to escape.

The surviving pirates were brought to Newport, tried and convicted, except for two whom it was deemed were forced into piracy. They were hung at Gravelly Point. Their captured flag was attached to the gallows.




The Retired Captain Mallett

According to Vermont Legend, Captain Mallet, a bona fide swashbuckling pirate chose Colchester, Vermont as his retirement home. Somewhere along what is now known as Mallets Bay, the former pirate erected a cabin and rough tavern. Legend has it that Mallett would welcome smugglers and spies at his tavern, though his motive was unclear. Some people surmised that he sympathized with those in the American Revolution.

Of course, with the legend of a pirate comes legend of treasure, which it is said he buried on Coates Island. William Coates who lived on the island once found brass buttons he believed belonged to the captain, although they were never linked to the captain.