Sunday, May 22, 2022

Shiver me timbers! Some say there’s ghost pirates in Topsail Inlet

Blackbeard's flag ... does it's now ghostly form still fly over the Topsail Inlet? (Port City Daily file photo)
Blackbeard’s flag … does it’s now ghostly form still fly over the Topsail Inlet? (Port City Daily file photo)

TOPSAIL ISLAND — From the Battleship North Carolina, to haunted downtown Wilmington, the Cape Fear region is flush with ghost stories from the past. While some are skeptical as to the validity of these tales, there’s a story about spectral pirates near Topsail Island that some claim to have seen with their own eyes.

The Cape Fear has long been known as a haunt for pirates. Stede Bonnet, “the Gentleman Pirate,” was captured in the Cape Fear, and stories speak of Blackbeard using Topsail as a stopover on long trips between the Caribbean and his home waters of the Outer Banks.

Children and scary stories: What’s right, what’s wrong? This can help

Local history buff Chris Rackley, a Topsail Island native, says that even the name Topsail comes from the “top sails,” of pirate ships that merchant vessels would watch for when passing by the island.

“Legend says that merchant ships would come by, and look for the sails hidden behind the dunes,” Rackley said. “Then the pirate ships would cruise out, do their thing, pillage, plunder, and go home. That’s how the island got its name.”

TheatreNOW featured the show 'The Gentleman Pirate,' about Stede Bonnet, in 2014. But, does the real Stede Bonnet's ghost still sail the Cape Fear Coast? Some say yes. (Port City Daily photo / Cabot Basden plays the pirate Stede Bonnet / COURTESY THEATRENOW 2014)
TheatreNOW featured the show ‘The Gentleman Pirate,’ about Stede Bonnet, in 2014. But, does the real Stede Bonnet’s ghost still sail the Cape Fear Coast? Some say yes. (Port City Daily photo / Cabot Basden plays the pirate Stede Bonnet / COURTESY THEATRENOW 2014)

Although Rackley says that the name actually comes from the area around Beaufort Inlet, which was historically called Topsail Inlet, it’s fitting for the history of pirate activity in the Cape Fear.

Naturally, some of these pirates died in these sorties, leaving their plundering souls to haunt their watery graves.

“There’s an old fisherman’s tale that speaks of ghost ships just south of Topsail, in Rich’s Inlet,” Rackley says. “My father was a fisherman, so, I never really believed him. But when I was 12 or 13 I saw it with my own eyes.”

Rackley says that one day, he was out fishing the inlet, near Lea Island, with his father. As they passed through, his father pointed to the radar image, which paints a picture of things, like low clouds or ships, above the water.

Topsail does have popular Pirates. But does it have ghost pirates? Some say yes. (Port City Daily / file photo)
Topsail does have popular Pirates. But does it have ghost pirates? Some say yes. (Port City Daily / file photo)

What he saw, he’ll never forget. Their radar registered a mark, but without a soul in sight.

“It was broad daylight, and there was nothing there, but the radar sure said there was,” he said.

According to Rackley, the mark began to slowly turn out of the inlet, falling in behind their boat, almost as if in pursuit.

After picking up speed, he says the mark slowly faded away, returning to guard long lost treasure in its watery grave. Could this simply be an anomaly, or is there more at play?

Rackley says he isn’t sure, but he knows his history, and he knows what he saw that day.

Related Articles