Who is the Shoals Pirate Bride Ghost?

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.

TRIP: What?

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.)

What Was John Smith Doing At the Isles of Shoals?

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the John Smith associated with Smith Monument on Star Island?

Our intern, Garrett Hastings, tells the story:

After the video on the bear, I wanted to take things back a bit, time-wise, in order to discuss the Shoals as a whole and its earlier beginnings. One of the first things I remember seeing when visiting Star Island that stood out in my head was the John Smith memorial. I was rather confused as to what he was doing all the way up here, as people usually associate him with Jamestown and acts we would consider to be villany in present society. However, he was an adventurous character that was also a product of society back in the day. So, it’s only fair to look things over in an unbiased light, and I wanted to give a general history of the man, highlighting the Shoals. It’s interesting to see how a character from history changes over time, especially in Rutledge’s book where he said how “no breath of scandal ever touched” him. Years later, people seem to associate him with controversy and hatred. But, he was here in the Shoals, and I wanted to give what he was doing here. He may have had questionable motives by today’s standards, but he was still highly regarded back in the day. As for those of you who may not get the John joke, there are many Johns (sometimes with different spellings) working out on Star Island.
As a short synopsis of the video: John Smith was baptized in 1580, and by the time he was 16 or 17, he had an itch for adventure. He fought abroad in Spain and Hungry before making his way back to England to enlist in the efforts to colonize the New World of the Virginia colony. However, he had to return back to England in 1609 due to a gunpowder accident. After recovering, John Smith was recruited by Sir Ferdinando Gorge to survey what they called North Virginia. On the expedition, John found the Shoals and decided to call them Smyth’s Isles. After returning to England, he tried to make it back to the Shoals but failed due to shipwrecks, pirates, and uncooperating winds. John’s map was used by geographers for many years and helped the New Plymouth settlers. The name Smyth’s Isles never stuck because of unnamed fishermen that came out to fish and had already named the place the Shoals. They had also already named the isles, such as Smuttynose, Hog (now Appledore), and Star Island. In 1864, a monument was erected, but storms blew it down. So, in 1914, a smaller granite one was erected. In 1631, John Smith died and is buried in the St. Sepulchre’s Church in London. I hope you enjoy the video!

Here’s the Script:

TRIP: Good morrow, and welcome to Trip Tips. (Trip Tips intro.) Well, today we’re talking about a character, as described by Lyman Rutledge in The Isles of Shoals in Lore and Legend from 1965, who “no breath of scandal ever touched.”

VALENTINE: (Laughs.) Yes! Mislead them! Nothing ever changes over time, right? (Laughs.)

TRIP: Well, maybe people don’t see him like they used to.

VALENTINE: (Laughs.) Yes! Now tell these poor morsels who you’re talking about!

TRIP: (Sighs.) Okay. Well, today I’m talking about…

VALENTINE: John Smith! Mwahahahahahahahahaha!!

TRIP: (Eyes Valentine.) Yes, today the question: What was John Smith doing at the Isles of Shoals? Meet John Smith. No, the other John. No, the other John. Jeez, how many Johns are there on the Isles? Okay, yes, meet John Smith. John was baptized on January 6th, 1580 and grew up on a farm until he was 16 or 17. His zest for adventure coaxed him to enlist in battle abroad. He fought for the Netherlands in their independence war against Spain. By 1601, he was reassigned to fight as a mercenary alongside Austrian forces against Hungarian Turks. The following year, he was captured by the enemy but fought his way out to Englanf via traversing Russia by 1604 or 1605. By 1607, John was ready to travel again. He helped lead an effort to colonize a little unknown area called the United States of America. But, we’re not here to talk about that voyage. Besides, we’d have to be some crazy romance show to talk about that.

VALENTINE: Are you seriously basing your history off of Disney movies now?

TRIP: When has Disney fabricated anything?

VALENTINE: You’re kidding, right?

TRIP: Birds. John Smith arrived in 1607 to start Jamestown, and he led as “president” until 1609 when there was an incident with his powder bag that forced him to return to England. This endeavor became the source of controversy in one of his writings that we will not be diving into. After he recovered, John was commissioned by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, well at least the ladies thought so. Come on! Hi five, err wing. (Valentine slap!) Anyway, John’s mission was to collect whales, fish, furs, silver, gold, and any goods as he surveyed North Virginia, or Norumbega. However, New England was already claimed by France and called New France, but England could care less. In 1614, John Smith made it to these Isles, instantly deciding to call them his own: Smyth’s Isles. In his various works from 1616 to 1622, he described them. “The remarkeablest Isles and mountains for Landmarks are these… Smyth’s Isles are a heape together, none neere them, against Accominiticus… a many of barren rocks, the most overgrowne with such shrubs and sharpe whins you can hardly passe them; without either grasse or wood but there or foure short shrubby old Cedars… And of all foure parts of the world that I have yet seene not inhabited, could I have but meanes to transport a Colonie, I would rather live here then any where; and if it did not maintain it selfe, were wee but once indifferently well fitted, let us starve… By that acquaintance I have of them, I may call them my children; for they have bin my wife, my hounds, my cards, my dice, and in totall my best content.” I particularly like where John says that if they can’t sustain themselves, they’ll just starve. Historians believe that John Smith landed, and made his observations from, the summit of Hog Island, now Appledore. The now entranced John attempted to return to New England in years to follow but was constantly stopped by either shipwrecks, pirates, or uncooperating winds. (Stop sign holder improvises.) He managed to publish his map, and it was to be used by the New Plymouth settlers. John Smith was the first European to indicate the Shoals on a map, and it was accepted by geographers for many years. Well, then why are they the Isles of Shoals, not Smyth’s Isles. Well, that’s because John Smith was the first to map them, not the first to use them. Around 4000BCE, Native Americans used the Shoals to fish until the water gap became too great. And, some time after Lief Erickson in 1000CE, unnamed European fishermen came down to the Shoals and named it for themselves. The Shoals, named for the enormous schools of fish found there, was already named by those fishermen. These islands were already named too. For example, Smuttynose was from a smutch of dark seaweed on the nose of an extending rock. Malaga was in reference to Spanish vineyards remembered by Spanish sailors. Duck had a freshwater pond in its center where ducks rest during migration. Hog Island resembled a fat hog wallowing in brine. I mean, if you squint, I guess. Star Island was so named for the “broken crags” that extended in all directions like the spangles of a star. Although, I don’t know if I could see that even if I squinted. Old fishermen are notorious drunks, folks. Don’t let your drunk uncle name your islands next time. It looks more like an Africa to me anyway. Well, this area was called the Isles of Shoals by these fishermen years before John Smith dropped by, so Smyth’s Isles never caught on. He obviously was not thinking of the people, as he never mentions them in his documents. I mean, he said, “Not inhabited.” In 1864, 250 years after John had arrived, Reverend Daniel Austin erected a monument with a triangular base that rose to three effigies of the heads of Turks he beheaded in Transylvania. However, the monument was destroyed in a storm, and fifty years later in 1914, the New Hampshire Society of Colonial Wars restored it with a smaller granite block and no Turks’ heads? Ha, yeah. That was a sad day. The monument still lies on Star Island to this day. John Smith sadly died on June 21st, 1631, and his tomb is in the St. Sepulchre’s Church in London with an inscription that reads, “Here lies one conquered who has conquered kings.”

VALENTINE: Too bad he couldn’t conquer nine islands. He would have had to deal with me.

TRIP: Of course. Now, can I pick the next topic?

VALENTINE: You’ve done well, Trip. Yes.

TRIP: How about some lore?

VALENTINE: I’d be flattered.

TRIP: Okay, next time, some lore.

VALENTINE: Yes, watch for the sharp…

TRIP: He will come again!

VALENTINE: (A beat.) Really?

TRIP: Thanks for joining me on Trip Tips. Good e’en. (Roll credits.)

The Bear on Appledore Island

Did you know that there was once a bear that lived on Appledore Island?

Our intern, Garrett Hastings, tells the story:

This is my fourth time out to the Shoals, and along the way I have read many a detail about the history and culture of these beautiful isles. I came across one story that stood out in particular in Celia Thaxter’s Stories and Poems for Children from 1895: the brown bear. I don’t know what it is exactly that’s so striking; perhaps it’s the fact that having a bear at a supposedly relaxing resort, one which is aimed at making the guests feel at peace with nature, is out of character. So I dove further into the subject to learn more about it, and the video before you is what I learned.


As a short synopsis of the video: in 1873, a relative of Celia Thaxter gifted her a brown bear cub from Georgia. It then lived on the island for a summer before breaking free during a storm in September. After Celia came across it briefly, it disappeared for about seven months before getting caught disappearing over the wall to the Appledore House. They managed to catch it, and it had some peace before the summer months, but it disappeared before the season started. It hid away during the summer, and they caught it again when it emerged the following spring. Celia then sold the bear to a man on Londoner’s Island and forgot about it for the summer. She found it again when she was out wandering on Londoner’s. It was a wild and crazed beast that the family was paying five cents to see. In September of 1875, they took it back, but it escaped again. After it scared two women and ate a stockpile of food, they decided it was too dangerous and killed the bear. I hope you enjoy the video!

Here’s the script —

TRIP: Good morrow, and welcome to Trip Tips! (Trip Tips intro plays.) Hey, guess what? We’re back to the Shoals, and you know what that means. Lots of… (VALENTINE flies and hits Trip.) Ah! (Trip falls, sits up, and sees Valentine landing on the couch.) Please don’t hurt me, Mr. Gull.

VALENTINE: Get up Trip. And, it’s Valentine to you. (Valentine flies back to sit higher on the couch, and Trip sits back up.)

TRIP: What do you want?

VALENTINE: I see what you’re doing here: capturing these poor souls and forcing them to learn. Well, I say I’m in charge now, and you will do exactly as I say. The Shoals are my territory.

TRIP: Then, what do you want me to talk about?

VALENTINE: (Evil laugh.) Yes, it shall be truly terrifying. (Bigger laugh.) Yes! Right from 1873!

TRIP: Wait. I already covered the axe murders.

VALENTINE: No, you fool! (Valentine slaps Trip.) The bear!

TRIP: The bear! Oh, that’s not scary. (A beat.)

VALENTINE: What?

TRIP: So, today’s topic is: There was a bear on Appledore Island?

VALENTINE: Stop wasting time, puppet.

TRIP: Before the summer season on Appledore Island, and after the tragedy on Smuttynose in 1873, the Appledore House on, well, Appledore Island received a gift from one of Celia Thaxter’s relatives. Now, this wasn’t a puppy, or a kitten, or a lifetime supply of chocolate. It was a brown bear cub all the way from the wilds of Georgia. Because that’s what every child-friendly, relaxing resort needs. However, life was surely less relaxing for the bear then the guests, as it spent its existence tethered to a pole on the front lawn. On top of that, the children would harass it and poke it with sticks, only some showing it kindness. The bear was tormented until September 8, 1873 when a storm hit that shattered windows and ripped shingles off of roofs. The next morning, the bear was gone. In fear, it had found the strength to break its bonds and run to freedom. Celia Thaxter managed to find it by accidentally kicking rocks on its head from a cliff above. By the time she returned with sweets for the bear, it was gone once more. The bear then disappeared for nearly seven months, and everyone, except for Celia, thought it was dead. But, one evening in April 1874, the bear was spotted escaping over the wall. The men gave chase to find its lair littered with bird bones and feathers. After dragging the bear back the next morning, the bear had some peace before the summer season. Celia took it on walks to make it feel better, but it had tasted real freedom and despised captivity once more. Just before the summer, he broke free again and disappeared into the night. By day, he hid. By night, he gorged. This terrified the mothers, and they kept their children under close watch. The bear managed to evade the people of the Appledore House until 1875 when it emerged in the spring. With some difficulty, they dragged it out and struck a deal with the man living on Londoner’s Island (now Lunging) to care for it since the people of Appledore believed it had gotten too wild for them. By August, Celia and the others somehow forgot about their gracious gift, and Celia found the bear chained on Londoner’s, a wild and crazed beast, that the family was charging five cents to see. In September, for whatever reason, Celia took the bear back. Maybe the bear was too much or gave the man on Londoner’s nightmares. Either way, the bear was back on Appledore, and you’ll never guess what. Yeah, it broke free and ran away. Again, it looked for food at night, climaxing one evening in the store room below two terrified women. While the women were trying not to have a heart attack, the bear might have had one with the fat it was swimming in. It devoured beef, pork, lard, and molasses, half eating it, half bathing in it. It then carried off a barrel of pork to continue dining. By morning, it was decided that the bear was too dangerous. It was hunted and shot, unaware of its hunter’s malicious intents. That was the first and only time a poor bear was brought to the Shoals.

VALENTINE: Haha! Good. Good.

TRIP: You know, I recognize you somehow.

VALENTINE: I’m a gull, you fool. Now, I think I’ll give you a more controversial character next time.

TRIP: Oh great. (Valentine throws his head back and laughs heartily.) Thanks for joining me on Trip Tips. Good e’en. (Roll Credits.)