Monday, October 31, 2011

Mary Hallet- the Witch of Eastham

 I love Halloween. I obviously love Halloween in New England because I can’t think of a more gothic, spooky, mysterious, and haunted place. There are hundreds of great New England ghost stories that come to mind. However, the story of Goody Hallet, the pirate Sam Bellamy, and the wreck of the Whydah is local and its one of my favorites. 

I have not looked fully into this story yet, and I might do a re-post in the future when I take a trip out to Eastham and Wellfleet. So, today, I’ll give you the short and sweet in honor of Halloween. 

Mary (or Maria) “Goody” Hallet lived in Eastham in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. Records are still unclear when she was born and who her family actually was. However, at least the legend states that Mary was a very attractive blond. 

When she was just 15 or 16 she met a local pirate who often frequented Cape waters by the name of “Black Sam” Bellamy. Quickly Sam and Maria seemed to fall in love. For a time, it seemed like a classic love story, the village beauty and the local pirate. 
Sam Bellamy's wax statue at the Pirate Museum
However, as pirates do, Sam soon sailed away. He promised he would return to wed Mary once some business in the Caribbean was taken care of and he had earned his fortune as a treasure hunter. 

In just a couple months it soon became clear that Sam had left Mary with child. Mary concealed the pregnancy, and when she eventually gave birth, it is said she killed the child. When the rest of the villagers of Eastham found this out, they brought Mary to the local meetinghouse to inform her that she was no longer welcome in town. In fact, they forced her leave and move to Wellfleet. 

Mary Hallet became a recluse. She lived in a small shack in the Marconi area of Wellfleet, which still bears the nickname Goody Hallet Meadow. Some say she even sold her soul to the Devil.

At this point, the story spins into a hundred different versions, so I’ll give the one I have heard most often from books and locals. 

Mary Hallet was avoided from this point on. The villagers believed she was a witch. People were even forbidden to speak to her. Some say she was pining away for Sam Bellamy, and some say she was biding her time for revenge. 

In April 1717 Black Sam Bellamy returned to Eastham with his ship the Whydah. Unfortunately, he returned just in time to experience one of those classic Cape storms. His ship was wrecked off the coast of Wellfleet and the entire crew was lost, including Sam. 

The night of the storm the villagers said they saw Mary Hallet standing on the bluffs, waving her hands, and casting a curse into the storm. Apparently she had summoned the storm to kill Sam. 

However, Sam’s body was never recovered from the wreck, so some say the two did escape and live their lives together. Yet, many others say that Mary recovered Sam’s treasure from the wreck of the Whydah and buried it somewhere in Wellfleet, where it remains to this day. 

The legend says that the villagers were so horrified by what they had seen Mary doing that they got their torches and pitchforks and chased Mary into White Cedar Swamp, where she died. Mary Hallet’s ghost is said to still wander the land around Wellfleet known by many different names like Lucifer Land and the Devil’s Pasture. The land is currently part of the National Seashore. 

The pirate ship, the Whydah, was recovered in 1984 off the coast of Cape Cod. A life sized replica and tons more information can be seen at the Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown. 

I hope you enjoyed the story. Have a great Halloween. If you are interested in more about Mary Hallet and Sam Bellamy, just take a look at the following video. As I said, there will be further posts of the history behind this story in the future when I have the time to look at it fully.



  1. As a descendant of the Hallett family, this tale has been most intriguing. The result of years of digging resulted in my fun time-travel, House Call to the Past, Maria's side of the story. I am almost finished with the sequel, Port Call to the Future, told from Sam's point of view. Remember, he was the only body or person who was never found after the demise of the Whydah. Where did he go and what did he do? You'll have to read Port Call to the Future to find out.
    Janet Elaine (Hallett) Smith, multi-genre author

    1. I'm surprised that there is so much confusion about the basic facts surrounding the Whydah.
      On the night of 26 April 1717, Samuel Bellamy (who would not be called "Black Sam" for another hundred years) had 5 ships in his fleet - Whydah, Marianne, Mary Anne, Anne, and Fisher. Whydah and Mary Anne were destroyed after midnight in a storm. Whydah had 146 people aboard, some of which were prisoners from the Mary Anne, including its captain. Aboard Mary Anne were 3 of its original crew and 7 of Bellamy's crew. Of the Whydah's 146, only two men are known to have made it to shore and were arrested - one was a prisoner of Bellamy's and was set free by the court, the other was John Julian a Native American without right to a trial under British law and was sold into slavery. The ten who were aboard Mary Anne were caught by the sheriff, but the Mary Anne's three original crewmen were immediately released, and Bellamy's 7 where brought to Boston and stood trial for seven months. Eventually one was released (he had also been one of Bellamy's prisoners) and the remaining 6 were executed by hanging on a tiny island very near to what today is Logan Airport in Boston.
      There is enough historical, archaeological, legendary, and geological evidence to suggest that Sam Bellamy might very well have survived and escaped, and could have in fact taken Goody Hallett with him.
      Historically, the woman that Bellamy loved on the Cape was referred to as "Goody Hallett", the Witch of Wellfleet", and "the Witch of the Red Heels". The name "Maria Hallett" was invented in 1936 by Elizabeth Reynard in her book THE NARROW LAND. Since then, this name has been repeated enough to enter mainstream media (even National Geographic mistakenly refers to her as "Maria". Other others, realizing that a Puritan Protestant New England family would got give their daughter a Spanish Catholic name, have altered the already incorrect "Maria" to "Mariah" and "Mary", claiming literary license. Interestingly enough, the late pirateologist and Whydah project historian Ken Kinkor stated that historical evidence shows that her real birth name was Mehitable Brown (Mrs. Hallett)... a married woman when she met Sam Bellamy. The only "Mary" involved in this story was her husband's sister. So one can imagine how scandalous this whole story was for the well-to-do Hallett family, especially in an era when reputation was everything.

      It is fascinating to note that in several legends about Goody Hallett, she had a female friend named Mehitable who somehow was always able to bring Goody food and odd jobs to earn money while she was banished by Justice Joseph Doane to Lucifer Land (Wellfleet cliffs) while Sam was gone pirating, yet this Mehitable conveniently vanishes from the stories after Goody gives birth to a boy and it dies and she is locked up for murder. Could they be one and the same person?
      [R.I.P. Janet Elaine Smith]

  2. Your books sound great. I will definitely give them a read. I still have to do follow ups with this article because there is a whole lot more to Goody Hallett and Black Sam as well. In the spring I hope to visit the Whydah exhibit and do more research into Sam, who sounds like he was a very interesting character. Cool nickname too.

    Like you, I find that history comes alive when I research my own ancestors.

    Thanks for checking out my blog.

  3. I know this goes back a ways, so I'm not sure you will even see it. It has taken far longer to complete Port Call to the Future than I had expected, but it is finally at the publishers. Hopefully it will be out within about a month. It was great fun!
    Janet Elaine Smith, multi-genre author

  4. That's great news, congratulations! Now that the Spring has arrived I am planning a trip to the Pirate Museum for myself. Hopefully, I will be adding to what I know about Goodie Hallet and Sam Bellamy.

  5. t h e f u l l s i z e r e p l i c a i s n o t a t t h e m u s e u m i t i s i n t h e r e a l p i r a t e s t r a v e l i n g e x h i b i t o f w h y d a h a r t i f a c t s

  6. Love this story but just FYI the entire crew was not killed in the wreck. I believe 7-8 survived. I believe 5 were hanged for piracy and 3 were let go. Of the 3, one of them was a carpenter (Thomas Baker) who actually created a map which eventually helped to determine the location of the wrecked Whydah. One was a 16 year old native (John Julian) that was eventually sold into slavery. Not sure what happened to the 3rd.

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