Maria Hallett, the Pirate Witch of Wellfleet (Tales of American Witches, 3)
In this series of articles, we tell our favorite, intriguing tales of American witches in the hopes that it will inspire and light a spark in the imagination. Some will be called witches, some shamans, and others midwives, grannies, and healers, but all are an integral part of American history and folklore and thus should be appreciated. The sad story of Maria Hallett, the Witch of Wellfleet is told below.
Maria Hallett: The Heart-Broken Witch of Wellfleet
Seems like so many stories of women gone rogue begin with their hearts being broken. This American witch folk tale is no exception to the rule. We travel to Cape Cod, where a woman named Maria Hallett fell in love with “Black Sam” Bellamy.
The Prince of Pirates
Black Sam was a well-known pirate in the early eighteenth century, originally born in England eventually left for the Americas. He began as a sailor, graduated to captain, then began pirating with a crew. Black Sam captured over fifty ships and it’s said he was the richest pirate in history. He also had a reputation for being kind to his captives and crew, and earned the title “Prince of Pirates”.
During his time in Cape Cod, he met a woman named Maria Hallett. Maria, also known as Goody, lived in the nearby town of Wellfleet. The two fell madly in love and before long Goody was pregnant. Unfortunately, Sam had gone off on his ship to do what he did best – scourging the waters. There was talk of a huge fortune that had washed up on the coast of Florida, so Sam was on a mission to clean up. He wasn’t aware of Goody’s condition.
When the town discovered Maria Hallett was pregnant out of wedlock, they exiled her. But she knew Sam would return for her and the baby. She moved close to the shore and watched day in and day out for her soul mate’s return. But he never came. The days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Sam didn’t return and Maria grew full of sorrow and despair. There were rumors in town Maria was a witch, and she came to be called the Witch of Wellfleet.
The Whydah’s Demise & Maria Hallett’s Loss
The Witch of Wellfleet continued to wait for Black Sam, and one fateful night in 1717, a ship known as the Whydah approached the harbor. Black Sam Bellamy had taken the ship and was bringing it home with a sizable treasure. Sadly, a storm arose and overturned the ship. Sam and the majority of his crew perished, the bodies washed to shore and the town buried them.
Maria “Goody” Hallet, the Witch of Wellfleet, was in no better shape than she had ever been before. What was left of her heart died along with Sam. Or so the legend goes. Others claim Maria had caused the storm that took Sam’s life.
Was the Maria Hallett, Pirate Witch of Wellfleet Real?
No one knows if the baby survived. No one even knows what the Witch of Wellfleet’s real name was, but it was speculated to be Goody Hallet. The name Maria was given to her by an author in the 1930’s, but there’s no documentation to support the claim. No one knows whether Maria actually existed or if she was a fairy tale. Though there are people who’ve researched the name Hallett and confirmed it a legitimate name in Cape Cod in the eighteenth century.
Maria Hallet – Another Pirate Witch
I have noticed a pattern with American witch tales…a few include pirates. It seems any woman who fell in love with a pirate was automatically accused of witchcraft. Or any woman who associated with a pirate, in the case of the Screecham Sisters (see link below to read their story). Living on the outskirts of town and away from society nearly always slapped the Colonial woman.
On the other hand, it is possible that pirates befriended known witches in hopes their magical skills would come in handy. American witches were able to locate lost items, as well as foretell the future. These are two skills pirates would have use for. Or maybe it’s just that all witches were likely to befriend outcasts and rebels, for they too were outcasts and rebels. Exiles have to stick together, after all.