Every September, on the first night of the new moon, there are those who vow they see a flaming ship sail three times past the coast of Ocracoke. No matter the direction or velocity of the wind, this fiery vessel moves swiftly toward the northeast, they say, always accompanied by an eerie wailing sound.
The story of this ship is but one of the colorful legends intrinsic to the charm of North Carolina's historic coastland. From the northern tip of the Outer Banks to the lower end of the sweeping shoreline, there are stories to be found . . . and to be told with gusto, or awe, or sometimes with horror.
At Nags Head there is a sand hill where only the unwary go without shoes, and at Beaufort the grave of a young British naval officer buried upright, standing at attention. From Shackleford Banks comes the story of a strange woman named Porpoise Sal and from Wilmington a shadowy tale of a macabre Maundy Thursday party that had awesome consequences.