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The Disappearance of the Roanoke Colony: A TRUE, Unsolved Mystery

The early American settlers battled disease, starvation, and environmental hazards on their long journey across the Atlantic to the New World. But they didn’t know their hardships would continue. What riches and abundance awaited them on the other side of the vast ocean? What monsters and cannibals lay in waiting? Would they thrive or barely survive? This is the frightening, TRUE unsolved mystery of the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony in Dare County, North Carolina.

A New and Mysterious World

When the settlers first began coming to the New World, they had no idea what to expect. Sailors and merchants told stories about mutant creatures, giant-sized animals, and even unicorns. These tall tales frightened the pious colonists. Can you imagine leaving your home behind to make a new one somewhere you’ve never been? Never seen pictures of? Somewhere that barely had a name, much less established towns for you to integrate into?

Old world map.

The Establishment of Roanoke Colony

In 1585, the colony of Roanoke was established in what we know today as Dare County, NC. Sir Walter Raleigh was commissioned by the Queen to set up a colony in the New World. Raleigh named a friend and confidant, John White, to lead a group of one hundred fifteen colonists to the small island of Roanoke off the coast of North Carolina. Surrounded by new wildlife, water, and natives, the colonists had no idea what they were about to experience.

The Disappearance of the Roanoke Colony

After settling and trying to adjust to a world unlike their own, the colonists said goodbye to their fearless leader – John White. White returned to the sea in 1587 on a voyage to England to ask for help for the colony. They had endured hardships including one of their leaders being killed by a local native. Unfortunately, the Anglo-Spanish war ensued and White made it back to England only to have his ship confiscated to be used in the war. So White was unable to return to Roanoke until 1590, after a few failed attempts.

A Whole Colony Is Gone

On what would have been his granddaughter’s third birthday, White landed on Roanoke Island to find it completely deserted. An entire colony had gone missing, including his granddaughter, Virginia Dare. White was shocked. Mortified. And utterly confused as to what had happened to the ninety men, seventeen women, and eleven children he had left behind. He couldn’t find any sign of a battle, and the only hint he found as to what had happened was the word “Croatoan” scratched into a fencepost and the letters C-R-O carved into a tree trunk. White believed the colonists had migrated to Hatteras Island, at the time known as Croatoan island, and couldn’t conduct a search at the time due to conflict among his men.

Following the disturbing disappearance of the Roanoke colony, there were several attempts from various English settlers to find out what happened to the colonists. In 1607, men from the Jamestown settlement made contact with the Powhatan tribe in hopes of acquiring information on the disappearance of the Roanoke colony. Powhatan claimed he had killed the colonists after they’d begun living with a tribe the Powhatans hated – the Chesepians. Strangely, there’s no solid evidence of his claim through archaeology or DNA. Because of the lack of evidence, many people believe Powhatan told this story to scare the settlers.

So if the Roanoke colonists couldn’t be found living with a local tribe and the Powhatans didn’t kill them, where did they go? They couldn’t have disappeared into thin air, could they? Did something more sinister or strange happen to them?

The men find “Croatoan” carved into the trees.

Are Spirits to Blame for the Disappearance of the Roanoke Colony?

There was no sign of a struggle on Roanoke Island – which leads us to believe the colonists left peacefully and at will, which goes against the next logical theory that they were killed off by a local tribe. This could seem likely in that a local war-chief Powhatan boasted of this exact event; however, his claims were discredited in numerous ways (no sign of struggle, etc) as mentioned previously. No DNA or archaeological evidence to back up either of these logical theories. So we may assume something supernatural might have happened…

Malevolent Nature Spirits?

The natives believed that everything in nature had consciousness and a soul. And when things in nature have a soul, sometimes the forest gets scary. Beliefs in guardian nature spirits abounded in the ancient world. An old Croatoan legend told of malevolent spirits living in the trees on Roanoke Island, which gives rise to the theory the colonists were killed by the spirits or absorbed into the landscape itself. Could the carving in the tree and fencepost be pointing to the old Croatoan legend as the reason for the disappearance of the Roanoke colony?

The disappearance of the Roanoke Colony is a story that haunts Americans to this day.
Map of Roanoke Island.

Virginia Dare

A particularly haunting tale of the first English child born in the New World backs up this animistic native theory. Virginia Dare, the granddaughter of John White, was born on Roanoke island on August 18, 1587, and was named for the state of Virginia. Three years later, on the exact day of Virginia’s birthday, her grandfather would return to the island to find her and all of the colonists missing. The alignment of dates is something to be pondered. Ever since, Virginia’s name has been a part of American culture and history, in particular the story of a mysterious white doe.

The White Doe

A mysterious white doe was seen on the Island after the disappearance of the Roanoke colony, and was thought to have been the ghost of Virginia Dare. Old native stories tell of Virginia being captured by local natives and being turned into a white doe by an evil witch doctor of whom she had refused a hand in marriage. Hunters in the area have seen a white doe as recent as the last century. And there’s a story about the white doe whispering the name Virginia Dare. Is this white doe the spirit of Virginia Dare, absorbed into the landscape along with the other missing Roanoke colonists? Other legends of white animals describe these elusive creatures as being shapeshifting witches.

Was Virginia Dare turned into a white doe?
White deer are rare.

The Search Continues…

There have been dozens of scholars, historians and paranormal enthusiasts over the years that have gone searching for evidence of the Roanoke Colony. People want to know why the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony happened. Was it the local natives protecting their people from the mysterious white man? Was it disease or bad weather that killed off the colony? Or did the colonists simply move or adapt with a local tribe as some legends claim? Over the centuries since the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony, more colonists and settlers came to claim seeing “blue-eyed” and “blonde-haired” natives in the area close to Roanoke Island. This could lead to evidence the colonists simply adapted to life with the indigenous tribes. But again, there is no DNA evidence to support this theory.

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    July 9, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    […] The Disappearance of Roanoke Colony: A TRUE, Unsolved Mystery […]

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