Margaret Eaton was born in the late 1800s in Rockland, Maine. Ocracoke native John Simon Howard (John Sime) was captain of a schooner that plied the waters off the eastern seaboard, and he was at anchor in the Rockland harbor when Margaret was only fifteen years old. By all accounts Margaret was beautiful, talented, and exceptionally intelligent. John Sime, who was about two decades older than Margaret, found himself immediately attracted to her.
No one alive remembers the exact circumstances of their encounter, but some stories suggest that John Sime carried Margaret back to Ocracoke against her will. Along the way they were married, and Margaret remained on Ocracoke. In her later years Margaret became increasingly peculiar. Stories survive of some of her antics. It is said that she chopped off one of her own toes with a meat cleaver. Others tell of the time she branded her forehead with a hot iron. My father remembered her standing alone and silent, in a long white dress, late at night in graveyards near her house. It has even been reported that she cooked a cat for dinner one night.
After John died, island neighbors came together to build a little house for "Mad Mag" on a small sand hill in Paddy's Holler. I've heard that the house was so close to the foot path that folks passing by often walked up on her porch as they went by. Mischievous children would sometimes bang on the side of her house which would bring her out yelling invectives. This only served to encourage her reputation for craziness.
Still today, folks walking late at night past family cemeteries along some of the sandy lanes on Ocracoke will catch a glimpse of an unusual apparition in the far corner of the graveyard. Not infrequently the image is of a woman with long gray hair, dressed in an antique white dress. "Mad Mag," you might hear the passers-by whisper, as they hurry down the lane.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter celebrates the majestic live oaks on Ocracoke Island. You can read it here.
To read about Philip's new book, Digging up Uncle Evans, History, Ghost Tales, & Stories from Ocracoke Island, please click here.