Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Devil on the Deck

Most of our readers are probably familiar with numerous stories about Blackbeard -- the braided, ribbon-bedecked beard; the lighted fuses under his hat; his final battle (and beheading) at Ocracoke in 1718; etc. -- but I wonder if many of our readers know this story, as told by Capt. Charles Johnson in 1724:

"Those of his crew who were taken alive [after the final battle], told a story which may appear a little incredible, however we think it will not be fair to omit it since we had it from their own mouths. Once upon a cruize [sic], they found out that they had a man on board more than their crew, such a one was seen several days amongst them, sometimes below, and sometimes upon deck, yet no man in the ship could give an account of who he was, or from whence he came, but that he disappeared a little before they were cast away in their great ship; but, it seems, they verily believed it was the Devil."

Blackbeard's Flag

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.


  1. Anonymous9:19 AM

    Capt. Johnson's publishers sold a lot of books with apocryphal stories such as this one. His sources are unknown but possibly included Israel Hands who returned to London as a street beggar (and who would have said anything for a few shillings), or a few of the black men who survived the battle at Ocracoke who were held in the Williamsburg jail before their executions. The lighted fuses under his hat may have been something invented during their time at Ocracoke as a way to keep mosquitos away. What can be said for certain, however, is that the modern conception of Black Beard's flag was not his flag at all. All primary sources indicated that his vessels carried either a "Deth's head," a "black flag," or a "bloody [red] flag." Not once do the records state that his flag was the horned skeleton with a bleeding heart.

    Kevin Duffus
    author, "The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate"

    1. Kevin, I was expecting to hear from you, but I just couldn't resist publishing an image of the flag with the horned figure along with Johnson's story! Thanks for reading...and for providing a researcher's perspective. By the way, what is the origin of the image with the horned figure and the red heart? I can't remember if you addressed that in your book.

  2. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Enjoyed the post nevertheless--even if the devil did make you do it.

  3. Anonymous7:43 PM

    Philip, so you basically bated me? I'm sorry I'm so predictable! According to my research--which, I must say, is subject to revision by those who delve deeper into the original sources--the "anatomy with a bleeding heard and hourglass" was the originally claimed to be the flag of the pirate John Quelch, although even this attribution is suspect and likely to be a 20th century myth.

    I enjoy reading your journal every morning with a cup of hot black coffee.

    See you this year at the 2nd Annual Blackbeard Pirate Jamboree on Oct. 31. Maybe we'll see a honed devil or two.