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Seeking Blackbeard’s Pirate Treasure

Isles of Shoals Pirate Search  (continued) 

Actress portrays Blackbeard's wife (c) J. Dennis Robinson /

Tom Jennings announced that it was time for the pretend Blackbeard to pretend to abandon his pretend bride on Lunging Island. But Mrs. Blackbeard had disappeared inside Honeymoon Cottage and was talking to Prudy Randall.

"That's okay," the director said amiably, moving on to another shot. He decided to save the ghostly wife scene until sunset to make her look spookier, and went back to the shots on the boat. Blackbeard's pirate lackeys – wearing well ironed puffy shirts -- look decidedly nonthreatening, even with their plastic cutlasses and eye patches. They look to me, less like they had been living at sea for years, and more like they were about to break into a song from "Pirates of Penzance". I mentioned this to one of the actor pirates and apparently hurt his feelings. He never spoke to me again.

The entire crew crowded into the tiny boat that looked more Viking, to me, than pirate, but having towed it for six miles and rented it for the day, the director pressed on. The sound man was forced to hide under a blanket on the ship to get the authentic pirate sounds while the cameraman barked orders from the shore using a radio phone. To get the illusion of movement, Cap'n Pete towed the pirates who pretended to row. Meanwhile, the falling tide made it possible for the geophysicists to resume their sonic treasure hunt.

In exchange for lunch and a free ride to Lunging, I promised Mindy not to reveal what the treasure hunters did or didn't find until the show aired. I kept my promise and now can say that they found nothing. There were the usual anomalies in the ground penetrating radar that allowed the narrator to offer the possibility that some cave might still exist under the rock. The drill rig seemed to prove otherwise, but people love to hope. The hour-long episode focused on finding treasure. Our segment ran less than seven minutes. I didn’t make the cut.

When it was all over I manage to get the phone number of author Robert Cahill who had just moved from Salem, MA at age 69 to a new retirement home in Florida.

"There's certainly evidence, though circumstantial, that Blackbeard went to the Isles of Shoals and spent some time there. You can count on that," Cahil told me from Florida. He said he brought enough books from New England to fill three libraries, but he's retired now from the story-telling business.

Cahill remains convinced that the Shoals was a "pirate bank", a safe location where ships could be hidden, offload their booty and entrust the locals to guard it in exchange for a cut of the action. The Shoals, he admits, is an unlikely treasure spot. There is hardly a tree or soil to hide things under. Pirate Captain Jack Quelch, Cahill says, was captured while hiding gold nuggets on Smuttynose. That, he says, is documented.

But what was his source for the Blackbeard story? It's a "very very fuzzy legend," Cahill admits.

"I got that from Prudy Randall," Cahiill explains at last. "She had told me the story because we both lived near each other in Massachusetts. I didn't bump into her again until 'Unsolved Mysteries’ came along a few years ago. I came rowing into her island one day and she recognized me and said -- 'Bob Cahill, what are you doing here?"

What goes around comes around. Bob Cahill's authorized source is none other than Prudy Randall, and her source is a childhood memory and a deep 80-year faith that her private island is home to buried treasure. The lack of any evidence seems not to have dampened her hopes. I remain 100% skeptical about Blackbeard at Lunging. But now that I have visited Prudy and her private island home, I can report with authority that her treasure is the island itself.

Copyright © 2006 by J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved. May not be used without permission. .

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