Weird History Utterly Fascinating Theories Behind The Vanishing Roanoke Colony  

Lyra Radford
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The disappearance of the Roanoke colony remains one of the oldest unsolved mysteries in the United States. It all began back in 1587, when Sir Walter Raleigh financed the attempts of John White to establish a British colony on Roanoke Island, just off the coast of North Carolina. They landed that July and established themselves rather quickly. Everything seemed to be going well for the thriving colony of 115 people. In fact, John White’s daughter, Eleanor Dare, gave birth to a daughter while in Roanoke. Virginia Dare became the first English child born in the Americas.

White sailed back to England to gather fresh supplies, but the Anglo-Spanish War delayed his return. After being away from his family for three years, White finally returned to Roanoke in 1590, but he arrived to find the entire colony had simply vanished. They left nothing behind except the word “Croatoan” carved into a post and “Cro” etched into a tree. But what does "Croatoan" mean and where could the colony have gone? Check out the Roanoke theories below.

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The Colonists Tried To Sail Back To England

The Colonists Tried To Sail Ba... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Utterly Fascinating Theories Behind The Vanishing Roanoke Colony
Photo: Internet Archive Book Images/flickr/No known copyright restrictions

Some theorize the colonists simply grew tired of waiting for John White to return and attempted to sail back to England on their own. But that might be far-fetched. Historians believe the colonists were left with only a small boat known as a pinnance, and it wouldn't have been large enough to carry them all. There's also no evidence of a shipwreck to support this theory.

The Croatoan Tribe Executed The Colonists As Suspected Witches

The Croatoan Tribe Executed Th... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Utterly Fascinating Theories Behind The Vanishing Roanoke Colony
Photo: Santiago Camado/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Croatoan tribe reportedly believed in witches, both male and female, who used black magic to do evil. The tribe could have interpreted the actions of the Roanoke colonists (like spreading disease and encroaching upon Native Land) as evil.

While local tribes in that area did not regularly execute witches, they did condemn dangerous outsiders to death, and the colonists may have seemed dangerous.

Roanoke Was The Site Of A Zombie Apocalypse

Roanoke Was The Site Of A Zomb... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Utterly Fascinating Theories Behind The Vanishing Roanoke Colony
Photo: John White/Wikipedia Commons/Public Domain

Another theory some folks like to share on the internet claims Roanoke served as ground zero for some kind of zombie apocalypse. This combines aspects of other theories that the colonists were diseased and became cannibals.

According to this idea, the settlers became infected with a zombie virus that gave them an insatiable hunger for human flesh and hastened the decaying process of their own bodies. The remains would've been long gone and the infestation would've been over before White returned.

The Roanoke Colonists Were Transformed Into Trees

The Roanoke Colonists Were Tra... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Utterly Fascinating Theories Behind The Vanishing Roanoke Colony
Photo: John White/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Croatoan tribe reportedly believed the island had a spirit who, if angered, had the ability to absorb the offenders into the woods - literally. The spirit could transform them into trees, stones, animals, or anything else in nature. If this lore is taken at face value, that means no one actually went missing. They just became a part of the land.