One of America’s oldest ghost stories began when Sir Walter Raleigh founded the colony in 1584. Queen Elizabeth I granted Raleigh the right to establish a colony in North America and they decided the venture would “discover, search, find out, and view such remote heathen and barbarous Lands, Countries, and territories … to have, hold, occupy, and enjoy.”
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Raleigh set off on an expedition to explore the eastern coast of North America and he arrived on Roanoke Island on July 4th – quickly he formed relationships with the native Americans who inhabited the island – the Secotans and the Croatoans.
Raleigh began establishing the colony that would go on to be named “The New World” but things took a turn for the worse when the Secotans were blamed for stealing a silver cup. In an act of barbaric revenge, they burned the natives’ village down to the ground. A year later, the natives retaliated and attacked the forts built by the settlers. A series of ongoing battles and territory wars had begun.
In 1957, when a new group of colonists – led by Governor John White – arrived at Roanoke Island everyone from the original colony had disappeared – only the skeletal remains of one English man were found. Although nobody knew of his motive, the fleet’s commander Simon Fernandez made the decision not to let the colonists back on the boat but instead, he insisted a whole new colony was built on Roanoke Island.
For a while, the new colonists and the natives managed to re-establish relationships. That was until a native killed a colonist named George Howe while walking alone looking for crabs. The colonists feared for their lives and they pleaded with Governor White to return to England and send for help. More than 100 colonists were left behind as White sailed across the Atlantic. Crossing the Atlantic late in the year was a huge risk but White knew the situation was now desperate.
Finally in 1590, White was able to return with a large enough ship and supplies to help the remaining colonists. However, it was too late – not one of his men on the rescue mission could find any trace of the 90 men, 17 women, and 11 children. There were no signs of a struggle or battle – instead just the word “CROATOAN” carved into a fence post.
What happened to the lost colony? Despite years of scientific research and expeditions from archeologists – that question still remains unanswered. The fate of those who disappeared is left now to the imagination of conspiracists and mystery fans.