My sleepy little town on the water is dependent on several niche industries to provide the majority of its income. At it’s core, we are an area built on commercial fishing, commercial and recreational boating, and — drumroll — tourism.
The tourism industry itself has developed several niches. We have many people visit every year to go deep sea fishing, deep sea diving, explore the nature preserve, or climb the lighthouse. We have Home and Garden tours in the downtown district, and downtown itself is a beautifully preserved thanks to the tyranny tenacity of our Hysterical Historical Association.
But one niche area of tourism has grown unto a life of its own.
As I stroll downtown on a lovely autumn night, I first encounter a man dressed as a pirate, at the corner of the Old Burying Ground, addressing a group of people as to the nature of the cemetery, the various ways the cemetery’s inhabitants came to reside there (including pirate attacks), and the spirits that still linger on this side, unable or unwilling to move on.
Next, I come to the Maritime Museum, which invariably has a banner outside revealing the latest artifacts to be brought up from the wreckage of what is presumed to be Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.
As I walk through town, just about every store front has something pirate in the window — a t-shirt, poster, sword, etc. I pass a small restaurant locals know as the QAR (short for Queen Anne’s Revenge). Great pizza there, by the way.
Strolling out of the business area, I come upon another tour group, this time guided by a female pirate, leading them to the site of Blackbeard’s house, formerly known as the Hammock house. Some say he just visited here, some claim he owned the house, and I’ve even heard more than once that the bones of an estranged wife or girlfriend still lie buried on the property.
There is only one problem. If you talk to anyone who’s family has been here multiple generations and they are not directly benefiting monetarily from Blackbeard (you may have to wait for them to clock out of work), they will tell you it’s all a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Sure, there’s a wreck near Beaufort Inlet that might be the QAR, but Blackbeard never stepped foot in Beaufort. He travelled on up to Bath, and all this is just a tourist trap dreamed up in the eighties as a boon to the local economy to offset the decline of the fish factories.
The thing is, I can’t find anything solid to say whether any of the pirate claims made by my town are true. But I can’t find definite proof they are false either. So, at the end of the day, a bunch of kids from 300 miles away are happy because they went on a “real” treasure hunt on an island they sailed to on a “real” pirate ship and my friends and neighbors can keep putting food on the table and take that vacation with their kids to hike mountains, or visit New York, or wherever they want to go.
Yeah. Sure. Blackbeard was here.