He will come back! He will come back! He will come back! Let’s dig deeper into this classic Isles of Shoals pirate and ghost story with Garrett Hastings, the Vaughn Cottage Intern. Here’s what he has to say:
When I first came to the Isles of Shoals, I became entranced with the lore. Admittedly, ghost stories are an interest of mine, and I enjoy hearing the different ones. Probably the most prominent tale here is of the one of the lady with the sea cloak looking for Blackbeard, her lover. That’s how I was introduced to the story from my time on Appledore Island. I even went searching for her on the rocks of Devil’s Glen, where she is positioned on an older map with lore characters scattered around it. However, I didn’t find anyone from the search. Coming out to Star Island, I realize that they call her the Lady in White, or the White Lady, so I decided to research further to find more about her. I figured, as a tribute to the lore of the Shoals, I’d leave on a tale that represents these isles and one that has caught my eye since the beginning. As I do this, I add my own lore story of Veyman with the shapeshifting monster with sharp teeth to further hold the theme. Veyman is a character from my own stories who is as old as time and a mistake from the original creators. Since I created him my first summer out here, much like I heard of Blackbeard’s Bride my first summer, I found it only fitting that he make an appearance in this last video of this Shoals sequence.
As a short synopsis of the video: Lore is everywhere, and to understand a place is to understand their lore. Most places have a weeping woman story looking for a lost lover, and the Shoals is no exception. Here there is the pirate bride ghost, or Blackbeard’s Bride. The oldest written account, and only ghost story I could find, was Celia Thaxter’s story from Among the Isles of Shoals from 1873. According to Celia, the story is from a newspaper forty years prior from a man who stayed with a fisherman’s family on Star Island. One day, he wandered on Appledore Island, probably around Devil’s Glen, and stumbled across a woman in a sea cloak waiting for someone, maybe a lover. She calmly said, “He will come again,” before disappearing. The man returned to Star to find that no one matched her description, so he was determined to find her again. He visited her upon multiple occasions but one day felt a feeling of dread and vowed never to return. Upon getting back to Star, his fisherman friend told him her origin, which is something that constantly changes in accounts over time. That’s the beauty of lore, and since it was an oral tradition before being written down, each account has as much reliability as someone playing a game of telephone. A summary of her origin is that around 1720, a pirate, maybe Blackbeard, buried immense treasure on one, most, or all of these islands and left his thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth wife to guard it, most likely in a sea cloak for warmth or in white. She maybe Martha Herring or something like Annie, died in 1735, and she looks out for her missing pirate lover saying, “He will come again,” to this very day. At the end of the video, my own character in lore makes an appearance as well to drive the theme home. I hope you enjoy the video!
Here’s the Script:
TRIP: Good morrow, and welcome to Trip Tips. (Trip Tips intro.) Who is she? To really understand a place, one should really look at a place’s lore. It’s the stories children grew up with and shaped. You can find lore anywhere you go, and most places have a weeping woman story, someone looking for a lost lover. The Shoals is no exception. So, today we’re talking about-
VALENTINE: The sharp teeth!
TRIP: Let it go, Valentine.
VALENTINE: It’s really Vey-
TRIP: Let it go, okay? I’ll let you choose the next one.
VALENTINE: Let me choose? Why you-
TRIP: So, today is: Who is the Shoals Pirate-Bride Ghost? Now, before I begin, I want to point out that lore is very fluid. It ebbs and flows, has currents and tides, and its origins are usually impossible to trace. I will relate the versions I have come across, but there sure are more. So, if you know an unrepresented version, comment and let me know. To begin, I’ll introduce the story as it was introduced to me, the oldest written version from Among the Isles of Shoals by Celia Thaxter in 1873. Celia found an article in the newspaper forty years before the book was written about a man who went to live with a fisherman’s family on Star Island in 1826. His health was failing, and he figured Star would help him, as people believed the sea air was a cure from the bustling main. On one still morning, the man traveled to the cliffs of Appledore Island, presumably Devil’s Glen, and he stared into the water when he was aware “of a figure standing near him.” He turned to see a woman wrapped in a dark sea-cloak and light hair flowing loosely down her shoulders. “Fair as a lily” the man called her, staring unmoving into the ocean. The man assumed she was a nearby inhabitant, waiting for a lover or fishing boat, so he asked her, “Well my pretty maiden, do you see anything of him?” The woman turned to the man with melancholy eyes and said quietly, “He will come again.” She then disappeared over a jutting rock. The man returned to Star to find that no one matched the woman’s description. So, he was determined to find her again. The wind was blowing hard, but he heard her voice in the wind. “He will come again.” The man returned many times to see the woman, watching her wait in the winds and storm, all weather moving around her, her footprints making no noise. The man got closer to the woman with every visit, and one day he probably grew rather close or realized the humanity of who she used to be. Either way, a sudden feeling of fear overcame him, and he vowed never to return. He returned to Star to tell his fisherman friend about the woman, but he seemed to already know since he had seen her too. He said that at the time of the first settlement, these islands were infested by pirates, Blackbeard being the most notorious. One of Blackbeard’s men, Captain Scot, buried immense treasure out on the Shoals, his separate from the others. He also left something else: a maiden. She was forced to swear to guard the treasure “with horrible rites that until his return, if it were not till the day of judgement, she would guard it from the search of all mortals.” So, she still paces the Shoals today. Celia also mentions how she screams like a banshee during storms.
VALENTINE: That’s it, right? End of story?
TRIP: Haha. Silly Valentine. Far from it actually. This story was passed via mouth far before it was written, as mentioned by the man in the story. I started with this one since it’s the only ghost story I know of her in lore. There are many different versions of her origin and description. For the sake of organization, let’s go in order of accounts. Other islands are involved, such as White Island. In one version from 1911, the pirate Quelch leaves a maiden in a sea cloak to look after his treasure. In 1904, another account says she was Blackbeard’s bride and repeated, “He will come back” instead of “come again.” Fast forward to 1951, referencing a source from twenty years prior, where Blackbeard is again mentioned to have left his gold. However, names are in this account. It’s said that Blackbeard’s lieutenant, Sandy Gordon, left his treasure and wife, Martha, on White Island. What also distinguishes this? She is mentioned to be in “white” and not a sea cloak. The earlier ones mention Blackbeard, but later accounts change to Captain Scot, one of Blackbeard’s men. The burials change too. It changes from Smuttynose to a honeymoon on Smuttynose and treasure on Smuttynose and Londoners. Also, she is mentioned again on White. Even Celia mentioned that someone might have seen her or some ancient spirit on Duck Island. What these stories agree on is that she was left on the Shoals around 1720, as Blackbeard died in 1718. And she died in 1735. Stories about who is referred to as Blackbeard’s bride developed, and a children’s book was written in 1992, reinforcing Celia’s descriptions. However, the spirit was on Smuttynose in the book, as described by Rutledge. In a Haunted New Hampshire book from 2006, “He will come back,” is the chant again, and the story happens on Lunging Island. The island family also resurfaced an old name, Martha, with the last name of Herring. This woman was also Blackbeard’s thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth wife. Two other written accounts refer to her as the lady ghost from Lunging saying “He will return” and Blackbeard’s wife on White Island, looking for her baby. So why all these changes? Well, have you ever played telephone? The 2019 Star Island Historian, Ann Beattie, gives some explanations. Apparently, early versions of the story have her as Captain Kidd’s wife, which changed to Blackbeard, Captain Scot, either, and just Blackbeard once more. “He will come again” had already been used in the form of “He will come back” by the staff of the Appledore House before moving to Star and in use by 1915 as a chant by the people of Star Island. Another possibility is that in early versions of the story, Blackbeard was the one who said, “I will come back.” So, the story moderated in suite. Maybe even “back” was used first, but going off of records, this seems to be possible. As for the pirate, Beattie believes that it changed to Blackbeard because he’s a “juicier pirate,” if you will. Now, the Quelch story on White and Blackbeard’s wife were separate stories, but time seemed to combine them. The lady in white on White Island and sea cloak became the same. Beattie says this is because of misinformation on cruise boats, which is one possible solution. Another is people confusing the similar stories on their own. Or, it’s the same story that separated and is reforming again. Oooo! I love this! Maybe her name is Martha, Martha Herring, or something like Annie or Annabel. We’ll never know for sure, but that’s the beauty of it. What came first, the sea cloak or the lady in white? Blackbeard or Captain Kidd? Back or come again? But here’s a short summary: around 1720, a pirate, maybe Blackbeard, buried immense treasure on one, most, or all of these islands and left his thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth wife to guard it, most likely in a sea cloak for warmth or in white. She maybe Martha Herring or something like Annie, died in 1735, and she looks out for her missing pirate lover saying, “He will come again,” to this very day. Or does she? We’ll never know. Our game of telephone will prevent us. Today, she is referred to as the white lady by conferees and Pelicans on Star. I think we can all agree to at least call her Blackbeard’s bride, just another step in our game of telephone.
VALENTINE: Okay, Trip. I’m done with this! You’ve had your fun!
TRIP: I said you can choose the next one.
VALENTINE: No! I let you choose! (Valentine hits Trip but in the side, as Trip dodges it.) That’s it. (Valentine transforms into a fish with sharp teeth.) Whoops. Just a second. (Valentine transforms into a figurine of Sir William Pepperell.) That’s a tiny man. (Valentine transforms back into a gull.) That’s a gull again. (Valentine turns into human form.) There we go. (Valentine pulls down his bandana to smile and reveal sharp teeth. He fakes out Trip, and Trip shoots. It doesn’t affect Valentine. Valentine smiles.)
TRIP: What are you?
VALENTINE: (Laughs.) I am Veyman, shapeshifter, old as time. This is my domain, and I’ve had about enough of you. (Trip shoots again.) And you can’t kill me save for one thing.
VALENTINE: Now, why would I tell you that? (Valentine lunges, and Trip runs.) Get back here! I’m not that hungry! (Trip dashes from Vaughn to the beach and into the water. Valentine’s voice comes from somewhere.) Run then. I’ll be here. I can wait. (Valentine is a gull again behind the rocks. Valentine watches and chuckles.)
TRIP: Thanks for joining me on Trip Tips. Good e’en. (Trip swims off. Roll Credits.)