Roanoke Colony Disappearance

The News About Season 6 had me Buzzing

We’d seen set photos and teasers and cast updates. And it looks exciting! But I read this article and realized I didn’t know too much about the Roanoke Colony. So I made a coffee, got up early, and got to work.

What we learnt in the run up to American Horror Story S6

  • Lady Gaga was definitely back
  • Fully furnished set of a functional colony was unearthed in California – the whole thing took 4 months of hard work to construct. Including the main house for the series.
  • It was to be set in the present but show echos of the past – so we knew it wasn’t going to be entirely set during the Roanoke Colony period.
  • The Roanoke Colony was mentioned in The Murder House so there were already links.
  • Angela Bassett & Kathy Bates shot scenes for season 6 and a number of stars from previous seasons were meant to be returning
  • Newcomers, including Cuba Gooding Jr., would make an appearance

This is what I found out about the Roanoke Colony:

Settlers arrived in 1587 and where the 3rd group of English colonists to settle on North Carolina’s Roanoke Island. The group was over a hundred strong and included 17 women, and 11 children. The Roanoke Colony disappeared in 1590 – that’s only 3 years people, barely time to get settled into any kind of normalcy.

  • The second group had troubles with the local Native Americans who thought the group were using up valuable land resources
  • They left 2 clues. Croatoan carved into a gatepost, and Cro carved into a tree. Suggesting premeditation perhaps, it takes a little time to do that. Or could it have been a message to John White, the leader of the colonists, who went back to England for Supplies?
  • Theories include – Violence from the locals, disease, and the group breaking into smaller groups who then dispersed.
  • Some think they went south to Croatoan Island (now known as Hatters Island) and that others may have gone west.
  • The worst drought in 800 years occurred over the three years the colonists lived on Roanoke. Could this be the reason for the abandonment?
  • If the colony had to move due to disaster or attack they would leave a Maltese Cross symbol to let others know. No symbol of this nature was found.


Roanoke Colony
via Learn NC

Modern Day Findings from the Roanoke Colony Mystery:

In 2013 a satellite survey began of the area as part of an archaeological search of what happened to the Roanoke Colony.

They compared old maps to satellite mapping images and bounced radio waves through the ground to locate hidden objects. They’ve found canons and the remains of wooden structures. However, the area was colonized again in the 1700’s and this activity could distort the findings.

  • First Colony archaeologists found evidence of 16th century Europeans at a site discovered to be marked with a red x on the old map.
  • Evidence included a type of pottery called Surrey-Hampshire Border Ware, regularly brought with settlers of the Virginia Company. The Virginia company went out of business in 1624. Suggesting these artifacts were from colonists living in the area before 1624, including the Roanoke Colony.
  • DNA testing has/is being done to determine whether the Roanoke Colony did merge with the Croatoan Indian community.
  • Lumbee, descendants of the Croatoan’s who died out in the 17th century, are said to have European features.

The Myths and Legends of the Roanoke Colony Disappearance:

As with most unexplained disappearances a number of stories emerged. Below I’ve noted the ones I found, although I’m sure there will be more.

  • Colonists fled an attack from a nearby tribe. The escaping colonists joined the Croatoan tribe. John White’s granddaughter among them. As she grew into a young woman she attracted suitors – including a sorcerer who cursed her when she turned him down. Transforming her into a snow white dear. Read the rest of this ghost story here.
  • The colonists gave up waiting for the return of John White and attempted to return to England on their own, perishing in the attempt.
  • The whole colony was eaten by cannibals. This was the reason for their being no bodies left behind and no real trace of the colony to be found. Although I think I would expect to find bones, unless they were ground to make bread???
  • Croatoan has also turned up in a series of other unusual events:
    • Edgar Allan Poe was said to be saying it as he was brought to his death bed
    • Written in Amelia Earhart’s Journal
    • Carved into the bedpost of horror author Ambrose Bierce before he vanished in Mexico
    • On the wall of Stage Coach Robber’s cell before his release in 1888 after which he was never seen again
    • In the log-book of the Carroll A. Deering ship which ran aground, unmanned, on Cape Hatteras
  • The Spirit of the Island changed the inhabitants into animals, trees, and rocks. Which, according to the Croatoan’s, the spirit would do when angered  

So what do you think?

Hmmm, that cannibal theory along with the pretty mobile in the baby crib in the teasers makes for interesting theories. It wouldn’t be unheard of for starving, dehydrated people to take drastic measures to survive. Could they of turned to cannibalism during the worst drought in 800 years, on land that was already struggling to support two native tribes? But then there’s the children to consider – isn’t this series meant to have children?

American Horror Story: Roanoke hit our screens in September 2016 – if you haven’t watched it yet, there’s plenty time to catch up, and on season 7, before they even start filming season 8. After all, we know there will be 9 Seasons. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.