Legends of Bath Town

Teach's Light

The life of Edward Teach — better known as Blackbeard the Pirate — has spawned more legends and tall tales than that of any other rogue who sailed the Spanish Main.

The notorious pirate made his home near Bath for a brief period prior to his death in 1718. And not surprisingly, Teach's legend left its mark on the sleepy little village.

After Blackbeard was killed, the story of how he was beheaded during a battle with sailors of the Royal Navy soon passed into the folklore of North Carolina. And it was not long before weird tales of Blackbeard's ghost, in search of a head that was lost in battle, began to permeate coastal villages along the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.

Unexplained lights and other strange phenomena were quickly attributed to the pirate's ghost — especially during the strong storms that frequently batter the coast of North Carolina. "Teach's light" has been seen on both land and sea, and perhaps the most famous manifestation of this phenomenon has occurred over the years near the very place where Blackbeard once lived — Bath Town.

Dr. T. P. Bonner, son of Joseph Bonner, was a graduate of both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale University. In 1898, Dr. Bonner explained the strange phenomenon of Teach's Light:

"There have been seen many strange phenomena at the mouth of Bath Creek, incomprehensible to all who have witnessed it. I, myself, am not superstitious. I have seen the smoke of battle for four years, and my limbs bear an eternal witness to the fact; and am not frightened at a myth; but I must admit that a feeling of awe possessed me, as with my father and a dozen other men, of reputable reputation, I have stood on my father's piazza during a violent storm, when the river and the creek was a mass of foam, and the spume was seathed like a snow storm.

A ball of fire as large or larger than a man's head, sailed back and forth from Plum Point (location of Teach's home) to Archbell Point all that night without any deviation from a direct line, while the wind was blowing at the rate of 40 miles an hour. No phosphorescent or jelly mass could have withstood the gale without being swept out of existence. There are men living today who will substantiate all I write. This occurred during every violent storm."

The Rev. J. W. Sneeden, former pastor of the Bath Methodist Church, also admitted publicly that during his residence in Bath he, too, had seen the mysterious light moving across the bay.


Adapted From:

Bonner, Lottie Hale. Colonial Bath and Pamlico Section. Aurora, N.C.: n.p., 1939.

Lee, Robert E. Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 1974.