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7 Theories About the Mysterious Vanishing Of Roanoke Colony


In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh
financed the establishment of a British colony
on Roanoke Island, just off the coast
of North Carolina. One settler he tasked
with this mission was John White, an artist and
mapmaker for the expedition. They landed in July, the
115 colonists quickly making themselves at home. While there, White’s
daughter, Eleanor Dare, gave birth to the first English
child born in the Americas. Overall, the journey
seemed like a success. But when White sailed back
to England for supplies, his return sparked one of
the oldest unsolved mysteries in the United States. For at some point in the
three years he was away, the entire colony
completely vanished. The only clue– two words. Croatoan. The name of a local island
found carved onto a post. And Cro etched into a tree. So what does this all mean? And where did the lost
people of Roanoke go? Many theories have
emerged over the years. Some perfectly logical, while
others downright insane. Guess which ones we’re
going to start with? Today we’re going to
explore the many theories about the mysterious
vanishing of Roanoke Colony. But before we get
started, subscribe to Weird History below
and leave us a comment. Now let’s get to it. If you push aside
the moral dilemma, cannibalism is probably one
of the most convenient forms of murder. Not only do you get a free
meal, but leave very little incriminating evidence
behind as well. It wouldn’t be surprising that
these early settlers would leave no trace if they met
such a fate at the hands of the native tribes. For many of these
cultures, bones were often ground up
and used for healing remedies– something
that could have easily been done in the three
years that White was gone. That said, there’s no
convincing evidence that the tribes around North
Carolina practiced cannibalism. But there’s always
the possibility that Roanoke simply went
the way of Jamestown and did the deed themselves. This could be
further corroborated by reports from
Native American tribes claiming to witness an internal
conflict among the colonists, as well as
archaeologists theorizing that a possible plague
inflicting the settlers. Such an illness could have
caused anything from paranoia to complete insanity
among those affected, causing a highly volatile
situation leading to their demise. And finally, we couldn’t have a
conversation about cannibalism and disease without
bringing up the possibility of an aggressive zombie virus,
something that if happened, would certainly explain
the lack of human remains when White returned. It’s clear that the etched
word “Croatoan” somehow relates to the neighboring
island near Roanoke. However, the word
itself has amazingly coincided with other major
disappearances and deaths over the years. In 1888, the
infamous stage coach robber Black Bart supposedly
carved the word into his jail wall right before he was
released and never seen again. Later, the horror
author, Ambrose Bierce, wrote the same word
into his bedpost before vanishing
in Mexico in 1913. It was one of the final words
in the logbook of the ghost ship Carroll A. Deering, which ran
aground sans crew in 1921. Where did it hit? Cape Hatteras, not
far from what was once known as Croatoan Island. Emilia Earhart reportedly
scribbled the word in her journal before her
disappearance in 1937. It’s even connected to the
death of Edgar Allan Poe. After disappearing on
a trip to Pennsylvania, the famed author was
found nearly unconscious in the gutters of
Baltimore, Maryland. Of the many words allegedly
babbled on his deathbed, one specific one stands out. Croatoan. To this day, Poe’s cause
of death remains a mystery. And sure, you can credit
that to less than modern medical practices at the times. Or you can believe that
the Gothic artist somehow met the same mysterious fate
as the Lost Colony before him. We know which one
he’d clearly prefer. If films and TV have
taught us anything, it’s that the 15
and 1600 settlers were perpetually battling
with the dark lord in the form of either a
smooth talking goat or a trio of charismatic
time-traveling witches. North Carolina was no
different, as many natives told tales of a sorceress
stalking the nearby woods. Could this dark magic
be what sealed the fate of the people of Roanoke? Well, if you want to
get realistic about it, it’s far more probable that
either the settlers themselves or the surrounding
natives became accused of such witchcraft,
leading to a conflict resulting in their eventual demise. According to
historians, the tribes in and around the
Croatoan islands not only believed in
witches, but would often condemn outsiders to death. Is it possible that they
interpreted a spreading disease as the work of the devil? It’s either that, or they
all danced themselves to death while enchanted by
the lyrics of Screaming Jay Hawkins. Aside from witchcraft, the
indigenous people of Roanoke had plenty of
folklore explaining dangers that could, and
perhaps did, befall the colony. For starters, the tribe
believed in greater spirits that manifested in the form
of elements, one of which took the form of a reptile. Coincidentally, the natives
reported strange phenomenon occurring at the same time
as the Roanoke vanishing, such as the sudden death of
birds and other wildlife. It was one tribal belief that
this reptilian devil attached itself to humans, causing
them to take on demonic traits and wipe each other out while
cursing the entire region. Another similar lore involves
a spirit who, if angered, will literally absorb the
offenders into the surrounding woods. So perhaps the people
of Roanoke never left, but rather became part of
the land in the form of trees. Most likely, these ideas were
laughed off as superstition. But that didn’t stop poet
Sallie Southhall Cotten from creating her own
tall tale in 1901. Titled The White Doe: The
Fate of Virginia Dare, Cotten imagined a world where
John White’s granddaughter was taken in by a local
tribe and renamed Winona Ska. After being lovingly
raised, Virginia would meet a sinister fate
by the hands of an evil witch doctor. The poem describes
a fit of jealousy turning the now tribeswoman
into a white doe. And while the story is
presented as fiction, many people have claimed to
witness a pale deer roaming around the area. One simple explanation for
the Roanoke disappearance has to do with the fact that
England and Spain were at war during the time of the colony. Among other things,
this conflict had to do with the
colonization of the Americas. Since there were Spanish
troops stationed in Florida at the time, it’s
entirely possible that they took a
trip to the north to eradicate their rivals. But that’s not the only
political explanation for the event. An anthropologist named
Lee Miller believes that the colonists were secretly
part of a plot by Sir Francis Walsingham, the Secretary of
State under Queen Elizabeth I. In his book, Roanoke: Solving
the Mystery of the Lost Colony, Lee theorizes that the colonists
were intentionally stranded in order to sabotage
Sir Walter Raleigh, who funded the entire
expedition and was granted a royal patent for
all the land he would settle. Despite the actual
fate of the settlers, this kind of top
secret double cross would certainly
explain why there were no records of
the disappearance, as that information would be
kept hidden from the crown. We know it’s not the most
glamorous of theories, but there is nothing to dispute
the idea that the Roanoke colony simply packed
up and left the area. One belief is that
the people grew tired of waiting for John White
to return with his supplies, and instead attempted to sail
back to England on their own. However, historians
believe that the colonists didn’t have a ship large enough
to carry them all, making this theory highly unlikely. And while there is no physical
evidence of a shipwreck, one substantial piece of
proof did support the theory that the colonists
simply moved on. Called the Dare stones, a
series of engraved rocks were gradually uncovered
between the years of 1937 to 1941,
the first of which was found along
the Carolina coast and believed to be written
by Eleanor Dare herself. According to this
stone, the colonists decided to move farther
away from the ocean after White embarked
for England, eventually succumbing to
illness and violent encounters with native tribes. While a good deal
of these stones eventually turned
out to be fake, the initial one
describing these events has not been debunked, making
this one of the more realistic possibilities. Along with simply
moving to a new area, it’s also likely that
the people of Roanoke were conquered by neighboring
parties in the process. The best evidence of this theory
is the carved word Croatoan, the last message of
the colony, which along with being an island
just south of Roanoke, also happens to be the name of a
tribe who lived on that island. Considering that the settlers
had a good relationship with the Croatoan
people, it’s not wild to speculate that
they moved to the island and were absorbed into their
group, or another inland tribe such as the Chowanocs
or Weapemeoc. Personal accounts also
support this theory, as many reported seeing
European-made goods in the area not long after
the disappearance. One chart of the
surrounding area in 1607 describes four men clothed
that came from [INAUDIBLE],, living with the Iroquois. Others claimed to
see stone houses at the native settlements of
[INAUDIBLE] and [INAUDIBLE].. Even contemporary archaeologists
have found such evidence, including a gold signet ring,
the partial remains of a sword, and slate and
pencil matching that belonging to Roanoke colonists. Then there is the less
than friendly possibility that the colonists were
conquered, rather than lovingly welcomed. One such account coming from
Jamestown secretary William Strachey, who
reported seeing tribes with European slaves
being forced to be copper. According to Strachey,
when they further investigated this
discovery and 1607, the Native American
chief, Powhatan, confessed to Jamestown
leader John Smith that his people, in fact,
murdered the Roanoke colony for aligning with a rival tribe. While that sounds
pretty conclusive, the story remains
highly disputed by historians on account of
it coming from a single source of William Strachey. John Smith himself
never mentioning it in his own writings. No matter which
account you believe, it certainly seems the
most likely possibility that the people of Roanoke
either traveled with or were taken over
by the native people. Well, maybe the
second is most likely. What do you think happened to
the people of Roanoke Colony? Let us know in the
comments below. And while you’re at it, check
out some of these other videos from our weird history.

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