Mysterious lights spark tales in town of Bath

Published 7:14 am Thursday, October 30, 2008

By Staff
Could old Blackbeard the pirate be to blame?
Lifestyles &Features Editor
BATH — Imagine a fierce storm blowing in off the Pamlico River, bringing with it wind, rain, thunder and lightening.
Youngsters huddle on the porch of their family’s home, watching in awe as a mysterious ball of light bounces in the distant.
Sound far-fetched? Maybe not.
Just such a phenomenon has been reported for generations in the Beaufort County town of Bath, a place rich in history and in lore and legends.
The so-called “Blackbeard’s Lights” reportedly make their appearance during such storms, dancing between Plum Point, where the legendary pirate Blackbeard is said to have lived, and Archbell Point.
Latham produced an excerpt from “Historical Research Report: The Bonner House Vicinity of Bath, North Carolina — Four Hundred Years of Its History” by Wilson Angley. In that publication is an account of the lights as witnessed by young Thomas Pasteur Bonner, a son born to Joseph Bonner and his wife in 1837.
Bonner’s statement reads: “I myself, am not superstitious. … But I must admit that a feeling of awe possessed me, as with my father and a dozen other men of reputable reputation, I have stood in my father’s piazza during a violent storm, when the river and even the creek was a mass of foam, and the spume was seathed like a snow storm. A ball of fire as large or larger than a man’s head, sailed back and forth from Plum Point (location of Teach’s home) to Archbell Point all that night without any deviation from a direct line while the wind was blowing 40 miles an hour. No phosphorescent or jelly mass could have withstood the gale without being swept out of existence. There are men living today who will substantiate all I write. This occurred during any violent storm.”
This story of the ghostly phenomenon was retold by Bonner in the late 19th century, after he had become known as a university graduate, veteran of the Civil War and medical doctor.
So, it would seem, he had everything to lose and nothing to gain by fabricating such a tale.
Young Bonner grew up in the family home overlooking Back Creek, its wide front porch offering a grand place to play. From the children’s upstairs bedroom windows was an unobscured view toward Plum Point and Archbell Point, and the sight of “Blackbeard’s Lights” apparently made a lasting impression on the family.
Another eerie story which centers around the historic Bonner House, now open for public tours, is more easily explained.
But that hasn’t stopped some passers-by from thinking they are seeing something other-worldly.
The Daily News is interested in gathering lore and legends set in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties. Anyone wishing to share their stories should contact Lifestyles &Features editor Kevin Scott Cutler at
Enjoy other Inner Banks ghostly tales
Staff Reports
Interested in hearing more eerie stories? Join this weekend’s third annual Washington Haunts ghost tour.
Tours begin Friday and Saturday at the Visitor’s Center at 138 S. Market Street. There are three tours nightly at 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30. Meet 10 minutes prior to the start of the tour. The cost is $10 for adults in advance. Children 12 and under go for $5, and babies are free. Advance reservations must be made by calling the Visitor’s Center at (252) 948-9415 by 5 p.m. today.
Adult tickets purchased on the days of the tour are $15. Cash and checks will be collected at the start of each tour. No credit cards are accepted. All proceeds benefit Downtown Washington on the Waterfront.