Continuing the Beach Book Grab Bag series that began last week, this week’s picks are all about things that go splash in the night. North Carolina’s coastline slips into some treacherous waters — making them a perfect hunting spot for the pirates of yore who preyed on stranded ships. Six books with some spine-tingling tales of coastal haunts after the jump…
- Let’s start with the true stories. Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast, by Lindley S. Butler, covers 150 years of piracy and sea warfare in Carolina waters. Butler introduces us to some of America’s most famous sea raiders. Meet the pirate Blackbeard and his contemporary Stede Bonnet; privateer Otway Burns and naval raider Johnston Blakeley; and Confederate raiders James Cooke, John Maffitt, John Taylor Wood, and James Waddell.
- Graveyard of the Atlantic: Shipwrecks of the North Carolina Coast, by David Stick – I’d have to agree, the site of 600 wrecked ships = “graveyard.” True stories that read like fiction: valuable cargoes lost beyond recovery, the dog that rescued a crew, the horse that waded ashore, the willful wrecking of a ship in good weather, even cannibalism at sea!
Now we begin to add a little more embellishment to history. In Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals: The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering, Bland Simpson assembles known facts to create a nonfiction novel about one of the great mysteries of maritime history. The extraordinary wreck of a majestic ship, a mysteriously missing crew, a message in a bottle, the lost captain’s determined daughter — these elements come together in Simpson’s reconstruction of the Deering’s final voyage in 1921 and its baffling aftermath.
- Another nonfiction novel from Simpson, eastern North Carolina’s beloved truth teller and tale weaver. The award-winning The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey relates the story of the vanishing of 19-year-old Nell Cropsey from her Elizabeth City home in 1901. Simpson reconstructs the story from interviews, court records, and newspaper articles, presenting a colorful nonfiction account told from the points of view of Nell’s sister, newspaper editor W. O. Saunders (who covered the case as a young reporter), and Jim Wilcox, Nell’s beau, who was implicated in the case.
The Devil’s Tramping Ground and Other North Carolina Mystery Stories, by John Harden – Although some of the stories in this book take place further inland, there’s enough here from the coast to earn a spot in our beach book bag. Harden’s collection includes tales of the Lost Colony at Roanoke Island as well as legends from Bath, Wilmington, Ocracoke, and Nags Head.
- Nancy Roberts has written more than two dozen books of ghost stories, so she knows how to tell a good tale. Ghosts from the Coast: A Ghostly Tour of Coastal North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia collects 33 stories, including 11 from each of the three states, so this book is for your beach bag if you’re heading to a neighboring state, too. Roberts’s stories are more land-based, and some include landmarks to visit if you’re inclined to go ghost-hunting yourself. You may encounter a spirit at the Black Pelican Restaurant in Kitty Hawk. Visit Blackbeard’s house in Beaufort and you may (or may not) see blood stains on the stairs. And no one has yet to spend an entire night in the North Room of the keeper’s house at the Currituck Lighthouse!