In Episode 136, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger walk the beaches of Wellfleet on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in search of the ghost of Goody Hallett. In 1717, the pirate ship Whydah sank in a rough storm off the coast of Wellfleet. Some say the ship was sunk as a result of a curse aimed toward the captain, Black Sam Bellamy, by the Witch Goody Hallett.
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JEFF: It’s a fine day for a walk on the beach here on Cape Cod, Ray.
RAY: It is, but look out there on the horizon. Those clouds look pretty dark. And the ocean, it looks a little angry here off the coast of Wellfleet.
JEFF: It does. It’s a reminder that the sea is always changing. And when the waters turn rough, it can take lives.
RAY: That’s true today and it was true centuries ago.
JEFF: What do you think is causing these rough waters today?
RAY: Usually it’s a low-pressure weather system where winds create choppy water, and press down on the ocean creating big waves far offshore that move inland with a larger-than-normal force.
JEFF: Well, yeah, it could be that… or maybe it’s Goody Hallett, the Witch of Wellfleet taking out her wrath on helpless sailors.
JEFF: Hi, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Welcome to Episode 136 of the New England Legends Podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
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JEFF: So maybe low pressure storm systems, and moon phases explain some rough waves. But every once in a while a storm surge comes along that seems downright angry. Maybe even vengeful. How do you explain how some ships weather the storm while others are destroyed? Sometimes it feels like it’s beyond random chance. As if some preternatural power might really have it in for you.
RAY: Like a witch?
JEFF: Like a witch. Let’s head back to the year 1712 and set this up.
JEFF: It’s spring of 1712 here in Wellfleet. Though colonists have been slowly but steadily settling here since 1650 because of the great fishing in Wellfleet Harbor, it’s still pretty sparsely populated. Still, there are sailors and fishermen looking for work. And there are local families. Families like the Halletts.
RAY: Let’s meet young Maria Hallett.
MARIA: How do you do?
RAY: She’s a beautiful girl who loves to take strolls by the docks and watch the boats coming and going. And that’s when one young, strapping sailor catches Maria’s eye. His name is Sam Bellamy.
JEFF: Soon some coy glances turn into lingering stares. Those linger stares soon turn to smiles. (PAUSE) And the next thing you know, the two are talking and holding hands.
RAY: Maria is young, and her family would not approve of her mixing it up with a common sailor like she is, so the romance is kept a secret. But still, Maria is falling head over heels for Bellamy.
JEFF: The couple continue their courtship in secret. Stealing time with each other whenever they can. They can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other.
RAY: And there’s the problem. You’ve got young people who are meeting in secret, un-chaperoned, and the next thing you know…
RAY: Maria Hallett is pregnant.
JEFF: This is one of those secrets one can only keep for so long. Now, Sam Bellamy promises he’s going to do right by Maria. But first, he’s got a tip he simply must follow. There’s talk of sunken treasure in the Caribbean. With that money he can come back to Wellfleet and provide a proper life for Maria and their unborn child.
MARIA: Oh Samuel, you do promise you’ll come back to me, don’t you?
JEFF: He gives his word, and sets off to find his fortune.
JEFF: As Sam Bellamy sails south to find his fortune, he also finds something else.
[WHISTLING A PIRATES LIFE FOR ME]
JEFF: Bellamy finds himself in the company of pirates. Because if you can’t find sunken treasure, you can always go plunder it from ships still afloat.
RAY: Bellamy takes to piracy pretty quick. His crew call him “Black Sam.” He loves the freedom, seeing new places, and the plunder. Pretty soon, he forgets all about the girl in Wellfleet.
JEFF: Back in Wellfleet, Maria Hallett does NOT forget about Sam Bellamy. As the weeks turn to months, the baby growing in her belly serves as a daily reminder of the man who promised to return. When she can no longer hide her pregnancy, Maria’s family turns on her.
RAY: It’s not terribly uncommon for a pregnancy out of wedlock during these times. It usually means a quick trip to the church to make things proper. But if the father is thousands of miles away, that poses a problem.
JEFF: A roughly eight pound, ten ounce problem. After being shunned by her family, Maria Hallett is tossed out on her own. She lives in a small hut in the woods where she’s forced to deliver her baby on her own.
JEFF: And all the while, there’s no word or sign from Sam Bellamy.
RAY: So there’s Maria Hallett on her own, and now raising a child with very few resources at her disposal. Living in a sea-faring town like Wellfleet, she does catch word that Sam Bellamy is still out there on the seas sailing aboard a ship call the Whydah (WIDDAH) living the life of a pirate, and making his way back north. And that makes Maria mad. REALLY mad.
JEFF: Maria is seething at Sam Bellamy. She’s furious at her current lot in life, so she turns to the one person you can always turn to when you’re raging with hatred and have nowhere left to go.
RAY: Who’s that?
JEFF: The Devil. Maria meets Old Scratch in the woods one night and agrees to sell him her soul and exchange her child’s life, if he will make her a witch.
JEFF: The deal is done. Maria Hallett sign’s the devil’s book, and she leaves the woods that night with powers a mere mortals can only imagine.
RAY: And all the while, Bellamy’s ship, the Whydah is sailing toward Wellfleet on the hunt for more treasure and more ships to plunder.
JEFF: But Maria, she can feel Bellamy getting closer by the hour, and soon, she makes her way to the dunes by the ocean. It’s the morning of April 26, 1717 when Maria spots a tiny dot far out on the horizon. It’s a ship, and her witchy sense tells her it’s the Whydah. Maria smirks just for a moment before her brows sink, and her eyes focus on the dot on the horizon as if she were a rifle ready to fire. She calls out to the sea.
[STORM / THUNDER WIND BUILDING]
MARIA: Seas boil, and wind will whip, feel my rage, and sink that ship!
JEFF: Almost out of nowhere the skies turn black as nature unleashes all fury upon the helpless Whydah.
RAY: The ship is tossed and churned in the ocean like a child’s toy. As the waves break over the bow, and water slips below deck, the wooden planks groan and then break until the Whydah is splinters, and the sailors flounder in the angry sea.
JEFF: With the deed done, the storm subsides, as the Witch Maria Hallett is left panting on the dunes. She sits down exhausted, but avenged.
RAY: Maria doesn’t enjoy the satisfaction of destroying Sam Bellamy for very long, because soon wreckage and bodies start washing ashore. Staring down at some much carnage, death, and destruction, it suddenly breaks her just like the storm broke the ship.
JEFF: Maria walks the shores completely distraught at what she had just done. The sailors she never knew wash up at her feet, and then suddenly there’s a body she does recognize. It’s Sam Bellamy. Maria should feel vindicated. She should feel happy, but she’s not. She’s broken. Completely broken seeing the man she loved and the father of her child lying dead because of the evil spell she just cast. It’s right here and right now that Maria Hallett snaps.
MARIA: (ANGUISHED CRIES)
RAY: No one ever sees Maria again. Well, not alive anyway… and that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Maria Hallett’s ghost has haunted the shores of Wellfleet ever since. They say you can still hear her whaling cries in the wind. Other see her distraught apparition walking the beach and looking forlorn.
RAY: Okay, hold on. In the beginning of this adventure, you called her Goody Hallett.
RAY: And Goody is short for Good Wife. It was a term used to describe any married woman in good standing in her community.
JEFF: That’s true.
RAY: But it looks like Maria Hallett was never married.
JEFF: There’s a few versions of this story floating out there. In some versions, Maria and Sam Bellamy did get married and Goody Hallett stayed true to her man. When she saw his broken ship and body washed up on shore, that’s when she broke. Or maybe she called herself Goody Hallett in an effort to hide the fact she wasn’t married. We’re never going to know.
RAY: We also know the Whydah Galley was a pirate ship captured by Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy that did indeed sink in a violent storm off the coast of Cape Cod on April 26, 1717. Only two of the crew survived the wreck along with seven others who were piloting a sloop captured by Bellamy earlier in the day. Six of the nine hanged for piracy.
JEFF: An interesting side note on the Whydah, its wreckage was finally discovered in 1985.
RAY: We also know the whereabouts of those dunes of Wellfleet, and they have a pretty ominous nickname.
JEFF: What’s that?
RAY: Locals sometimes call them Satan’s Harvest, based on the witchy legend.
JEFF: I like it. It’s also a pretty good name for a band.
RAY: And here we are still talking about the Witch Goody Hallett.
JEFF: And still wondering how some storms seem to rise out of nowhere and unleash fury on those unlucky enough to be in the way.
RAY: Man, New England is full of witch stories, Jeff. It’s definitely not just Salem.
JEFF: No, we’ve covered stories about witches in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and all over Massachusetts. We have no shortage here in New England.
RAY: If you enjoy what we do, be sure to subscribe to our podcast. It’s free wherever you listen to your podcasts.
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RAY: A reminder that the discussion about these episodes continues in our New England Legends Extra episodes. If you go to patreon.com/newenglandlegends for just $3 bucks per month you’ll get access to all the extras we’re posting over there.
JEFF: We’d like to thank Lorna Nougeria for lending her voice acting talents this week, and our theme music is by John Judd.
VOICEMAIL: This is Jared from Stoneham, Massachusetts. And until the next time remember, the bizarre is closer than you think.
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