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Happy Halloween! A Spirited Story from The Shores of Cape Cod

The Legend Of “Black Sam” Bellamy and “The Witch Of Wellfleet”

There are countless stories of hauntings on Cape Cod but only one mixes both sorcery and piracy in a legend that continues to endure to this day.

Before the Disney theme ride and before the billion-dollar movie franchise starring Johnny Depp, a real life pirate captain plundered the Atlantic coast from New England to the Caribbean Sea. His name was Sam “Black Sam” Bellamy. Born in Devon, England in 1689, Bellamy left his home for a life at sea at an early age before making his way to Cape Cod in the early 1700’s. In the tiny Cape Cod village of Wellfleet, the young Bellamy met his true love, a blonde teenaged beauty named Maria “Goody” Hallett. The young couple soon became inseparable, taking long strolls across the rolling dunes where they talked about getting married and raising a family in their picturesque ocean-side community where a man with a strong knowledge of the sea could support his wife and children through fishing, which was bountiful.Portrait of Maria “Goody” Hallett

Bellamy had worked on rigged ships for several years and had strived to become a prosperous sea captain. Goody’s father however, believed that his beautiful daughter had more promising prospects for marriage and halted his ambitions. Bellamy was soon driven out of Wellfleet by the elder Hallett who told him to “leave this place and never return”.

Sam Bellamy did leave, but not before making a promise to his love that he would come back to her a wealthy man and build the life they both had dreamed of together. He sailed from Cape Cod to Florida where he tried to earn a living by salvaging treasure from the Spanish silver fleet. This proved to be hard work with little return as other treasure hunters had taken much of the booty before Bellamy had arrived. With no other options to provide him the riches he needed to marry his love, Bellamy joined a band of pirates led by the infamous buccaneer Benjamin Hornigold and his soon-to-be famous first mate, Edward “Blackbeard” Teach.

Sam Bellamy earned the nickname “Black Sam” for his refusal to wear the customarily fashionable powdered wig. Instead, he let his black hair grow long enough to tie with a satin bow. “Black Sam” soon earned the respect of his fellow pirates, who voted to depose Hornigold as their captain for his refusal to attack ships waving a British flag. The crew chose Bellamy as their new captain and they began to successfully seize ships through several epic battles on the high seas. In just over a year, “Black Sam” Bellamy and his men captured a record 53 ships. His kindness and mercy to his prisoners earned him another nickname – The Prince of Pirates. His crew compared him to Robin Hood and called themselves “Robin Hood’s Merry Men”.

In 1717, “Black Sam” Bellamy captured his biggest ship ever – The Whydah Galley, which was filled with precious coins and jewels. But “The Prince of Pirates” still longed to be a good husband and father. Two months after seizing the Whydah, he turned the ship north and set sail for Cape Cod and his one true love – Maria “Goody” Hallett.

While “Black Sam” Bellamy had been away at sea, his love, Goody, discovered that she was with child. The fact that she was not married sparked a scandal in her village. The town fathers brought Goody to the local meetinghouse where they voted to banish her from their community. Like “Black Sam” before her, Goody was forced to leave Wellfleet village in shame. She moved closer to the ocean and became a recluse as she watched the horizon day after day in hope of her lover’s return.

In April 1717, Sam Bellamy found his way home to Cape Cod. But the calm weather he and his crew had enjoyed during most of their journey, suddenly turned when they entered the waters off the Cape. Bellamy, his crew and the Whydah had found themselves caught in a violent gale just 500 feet from shore – just 500 feet from Goody. Just after the clock struck midnight on April 26th, strong winds thrust the ship onto a sandbar in only 16 feet of water – a true shallow grave for any seaman. The Whydah’s sturdy masts snapped in half at the point of impact and the heavily loaded ship capsized in the frothing surf. 143 pirates drowned in the wreck. Only two crewmen survived. The body of “Black Sam” Bellamy was never found.

On the night of the storm, villagers spotted Goody on the top of a bluff, watching in horror as the ship went down. Some later said she shouted into the wind, cursing the storm for taking her love. Others insisted that she had become a witch and created the storm herself through sorcery as an act of revenge against the man who had left her and had shamed her in the eyes of her family. Those who believe this legend also say that villagers chased Hallett, who would later become known as “The Witch of Wellfleet” with torches and pitchforks into a nearby swamp where she died. Still others claim that Hallett reached the Whydah by rowboat and searched desperately for her true love. Unable to find “Black Sam”, Goody loaded the boat with treasure and buried it deep in the dunes of Wellfleet, along the walking trails where she and Sam Bellamy had charted their future together.

The story of “Black Sam” Bellamy lay dormant for centuries beneath the icy waters off Cape Cod until the year 1984, when an American underwater explorer named Barry Clifford discovered the wreckage of the flagship “Whydah”. At the time of its capture in 1717, the Whydah carried more than 30,000 pounds of sterling and massive amounts of gold, ivory and indigo – making it the largest pirate’s booty ever collected. In 1984 a team of divers led by treasure hunter, Barry Clifford dove on the wreck – the first authenticated pirate’s shipwreck ever discovered in North America, and recovered much of its treasure and 200,000 artifacts from the ship which travel on display to museums around the United States through a sponsorship from the National Geographic Society.

The spirits of Black Sam and Goody Hallett reportedly haunt the dunes of Wellfleet to this day. To learn more about this story, visit the Whydah Pirate Museum now in West Yarmouth and the Expedition Whydah Learning Center in Provincetown.

Published October 31, 2015 in Did You Know?, Exploring Our Area