The Witch and the Pirate

The Tragic Love Story of Maria “Goody” Hallett and “Black Sam” Bellamy

(Image Credit: Greg Manchess/National Geographic)

In the wake of the War of the Spanish Succession, after the Peace of Utrecht, countless privateers and veterans of the Royal Navy became unemployed sailors. Some of those desperate jobseekers then headed from England to New England to make a fresh start in life. Among them was a good-looking, charismatic Cornishman from England’s West Country, named Samuel Bellamy. He arrived in East Ham Harbor in the summer of 1715, probably in late July. Then, not long after he set foot on the shores of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sam awoke one morning with a particularly nagging hangover. So, he decided to take a walk and clear his head a bit before really getting the day started. Little did he know that this would lead to a chance encounter with someone that would change his fate forever.

As if drawn by destiny, he wandered into the scrub pines and heard the voice of a young girl, who was singing a siren song on a swing. Maria was an innocent yet alluring blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 15-year-old virgin, and Sam was a dashing and daring, tall, dark, and handsome 25-year-old sailor. None-the-less, as if they were soulmates reunited across time and space, the moment Sam and Maria saw each other it was love at first sight. Their lingering stare immediately gave way to an erotic embrace, which gave way to a brief love affair. The problem was that she came from the well-to-do Puritanical Hallett’s of Yarmouth, so her parents wholly disapproved of the footloose out-of-work seaman who seemed to be trying to take advantage of their naive young daughter. They even made it quite clear to Sam that he would not become their son-in-law.

Still, wanting nothing more than to have her hand in marriage, like a proper gentleman, Sam Bellamy vowed to set sail and return a wealthy man who would be far more deserving of her as his wife. He had lofty ambitions of becoming a treasure hunter and headed down to the coast of Florida to find sunken Spanish ships filled with riches beyond his wildest dreams. However, when that plan soon failed, Sam did what most down-on-their-luck sailors did back then and became a pirate. Samuel Bellamy joined a brutal band of buccaneers and soon ousted Captain Benjamin Hornigold in a bloodless coup, in which Ben was deposed by the crew, making Sam the appointed commander of his very own vessel, in virtually no time at all. Bellamy was now well on his way to becoming one of the infamous “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Black Sam Bellamy, Maria Hallett had become pregnant during their forbidden rendevous, so by the time he became a cutthroat captain, she really began to show. To make matters worse for her, Maria defiantly refused to identify who the father was, although everyone in town suspected that it was Sam. This made the highly devout townspeople of Eastham Village quite nervous in the heyday of witch-hunting, so, in the end, they accused her of having sex with the Devil. After all, she could be seen at night all by herself bathed in moonlight on the cliffs that overlook the beach, and no self-respecting Christian woman would have done such a thing back then. In the early 18th-century, it was improper for a God-fearing lady to be out unaccompanied after dark.

With that being said, Maria Hallett’s premarital pregnancy scandal eventually brought so much shame on her fine upstanding family, and their local community, that the expectant mother was inevitably put in the Eastham jail. There, one day in a damp dark cell, she gave birth to a stillborn son. This just made things worse for the poor girl, because after accusing her of anything and everything that they could think of, the townspeople drove the so-called witch out of town, forcing her to go build a hut in the wilderness of what is now Wellfleet. Luckily, the native Wampanoag took pity on her and taught Maria about what was edible, and what was medicinal, versus what was poisonous. Otherwise, she would have surely died. Thus, in time, a few of the villagers of Eastham even came to rely on “Goody” for some of her herbal remedies.

Regardless, as Maria Hallett tragically transformed from maiden to mother to crone in only a few short months, eventually all she had left in this world was the hope that her lost love would return to her, just as he had promised, so long ago. Hanging on to that hope, she never stopped looking for him, in spite of the weather, or anything else. The condemned and exiled teenager kept a near-constant vigil as a lonely sentinel on the bluffs above the beach. Day and night she would walk through the windswept dunes of the barren moors, desperately scanning the horizon in search of Sam’s ship. Somehow, Maria just knew that Sam was out there, somewhere, doing what he had set out to do. More importantly, one day he would return for her just as he had vowed when he declared his undying love to her before setting sail as a treasure hunter.

Little did she know, at the height of his career as a captain, in the midst of the “Golden Age of Piracy”, having plundered more than fifty ships, Sam Bellamy finally decided that it was time to reclaim his beloved bride-to-be with his bountiful booty, as the highest-earning pirate in history. However, being blinded by love, Captain Bellamy foolishly began to steer due north, parallel to the shoreline along the coast of Cape Cod, as his heartstrings inexorably pulled him toward her. Unfortunately for everyone involved, this also drew his fleet into the eye of an extremely severe seven-day storm, ultimately causing the three-masted, twenty-six gun galley to capsize and the ballast canons to come crashing down through the decks, pinning the men and their treasure to the seafloor with the full force of nature’s fury. So, when it was all said and done, only two of the one-hundred-forty-four men on board managed to live to tell the tale.

In the end, as a result of a noreaster, on April 26th of 1717, Captain Bellamy went down with his ship and crew in the crashing breakers of the surf. The reality was that he had lived for loot and he had died for love. Then, each day after that, Goody grew wearier and wearier from the sight of the shipwreck as parts of it washed ashore and the rest sank beneath the waves. Eventually, she just died of a broken heart, and as a result of that poignant end to their tragic tale, sometimes when the gale winds blow into the harbor, you can still hear the ghost of Goody Hallett shrieking out like a wailing banshee. As the couple endlessly longs for a second chance at their ill-fated romance, the “Witch of Wellfleet” continues to haunt the bluffs, while the poltergeist of the “Prince of Pirates” haunts the beaches. To this very day, his tortured soul is still trying to make it ashore as she yearns for him atop the cliffs overlooking the cape.

An Eclectic Autodidact Polymath Writer and Researcher

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