Climb aboard the Whydah at Union Station to meet some of the ship’s fascinating crew members — plus a few of their most notorious contemporaries. Listen to Captain Bellamy share the tale of why he is known as the “Prince of Pirates” and “Black Sam.” Discover how John Brown ended up aboard the Whydah or ask Dr. Ferguson about the surgeries he performed below deck. Join the crew in an all-pirate sing-along, learn how their treasures were divided, and find out what they feasted on while they were away from land. The Real Pirates crew members man the ship every day, making each journey a unique and interactive voyage.

Special thanks to this spectacular troupe of Kansas City actors for helping Real Pirates truly come to life.

Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy

Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy was born in1689 in the rural English village of Hittisleigh, Devon. A sailor by trade, Bellamy arrived in New England after the War of Spanish Succession (1702-1712), where legend has it he met and fell in love with Maria Hallett of Eastham, Massachusetts. Hallett’s parents did not approve of their daughter’s romance with the poor sailor and refused to allow them to marry. In 1715, Bellamy set off with his friend Palgrave Williams to find wealth and win the approval of the Hallett family.

Their search was unsuccessful. Rather than return empty-handed, the determined Bellamy decided to “go on the account” and turn pirate.

In just a year of raiding, Bellamy and his crew plundered more than 50 ships on the Caribbean and Atlantic. Calling themselves “Robin Hood’s Men,” his crew lived by a remarkably democratic set of rules. Bellamy became known for his mercy and generosity toward those he captured on his raids. This reputation earned him the nickname “Prince of Pirates.”

In February 1717, Bellamy captured the Whydah, a three-masted English ship that was built to transport human captives from the West Coast of Africa to the Caribbean, on its maiden voyage. The Whydah carried gold and silver worth more than 20,000 pounds sterling. Combined with the plunder of other ships that he had captured, Bellamy had finally amassed the fortune that he had been seeking. Bellamy turned his fleet around and headed back to Massachusetts, hoping to finally gain Hallett’s hand in marriage.

On April 26, 1717, the Whydah encountered one of the worst nor’easters ever recorded. It went down off the coast of Cape Cod, taking Bellamy and all but two of his 145 men with it.

John Brown

Jamaican born John Brown was the rigger on the Mary Anne and the Whydah, which were ships in Sam Bellamy’s flotilla. He joined the crew when Leboose, captain of the Postilion, took him off of a naval vessel in the winter of 1716. This is where he met Bellamy and became friendly with him. Bellamy was said to have thought that John Brown brought him luck.

Besides being a good luck charm, Brown was a formidable pirate. When the Whydah took the ship the Mary Anne, Brown strutted up and down the coast where the former crew of the Mary Anne was being held. He threatened them, claimed that the Whydah was his ship, and told them to call him “Captain.” At the time of the Whydah’s sinking, John Brown was on the Mary Anne. He survived the ship running aground and sought refuge in a tavern with the other survivors, where they were arrested.

He was put on trial in 1717, convicted of piracy and sentenced to hang. It was said that on his way to the gallows he was given a mug of rum, which he swallowed in one gulp. When all of the other pirates were repenting for their crimes, it was Brown alone who gave a short speech which was said to have greatly disturbed the spectators and left them shivering long after he was hanged.

Dr. James Ferguson

Dr. Ferguson hailed from Paisley, Scotland, and was the surgeon of Sam Bellamy’s ship, the Mary Anne, in St. Croix in November 1716. Since a man of his expertise would have been prized among a pirate crew, he may not have signed on willingly. However, considering the political climate in his native land at the time, he may have found a pirate’s life to be an attractive one.

Upon the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the British Parliament imported her second cousin, Georg Ludwig of Hanover, from Germany and crowned him King George I. Some Britons, particularly in Scotland, thought that the crown should have been passed to Anne’s half-brother, James Stuart. In 1715, a revolution was fought against the German king to restore the Stuarts to the British throne. When this uprising failed, some took to the sea. Perhaps Ferguson had served as a surgeon in the rebellion and fled Scotland to avoid political retribution.

This was an exciting, albeit gruesome, time in Western medicine. While some in the medical trade still held fast to theories put forward by the ancient Greeks and Romans, others were approaching questions of treatment from a more scientific standing. Usually, a surgeon’s area of expertise had to do with flesh, skin and bone, while the treatment of diseases fell to physicians. On board a ship, these lines weren’t quite as clear. A ship’s surgeon had to be a medical jack-of-all-trades. One of his primary duties was the treatment of the battle wounded. In a time before anesthesia, antiseptics and antibiotics, surgery could be just as deadly as the malady it was meant to treat. A surgeon’s skill was often measured by how quickly he could saw off a limb and then cauterize the wound with a red-hot axe head.

Of all the diseases of the age of piracy, one of the most deadly to any sailor was the dreaded “gray death,” better known as scurvy. Aboard a pirate ship in unfriendly waters, the sailor’s diet was dependent on the food supply looted from other ships. If his diet contained no vitamin C, scurvy would set in, resulting in extreme weakness and lethargy, bleeding mouths, old wounds opening, previously-healed bones re-breaking, and eventually death. From the time of Columbus to the mid-1800s, over 2,000,000 sailors died of this horrible disease.

Dr. Ferguson went down with Whydah on April 26, 1717.

Peter Cornelius Hoof

Peter Cornelius Hoof was born in 1683 in Sweden, and began his career as a seaman at the age of 17, sailing with Dutch trading outfits. At this time, it was not unusual for teenagers, and even young boys, to take to a life on the seas. Although a difficult and laborious career path, work on a merchant ship easy to come by, especially for the inexperienced or uneducated. It stands to reason, then, that Hoof was probably from a lower economic class.

Sea trade was a booming business for the Dutch, who established trading relations all over the world early on, including parts of India, Asia, the West Indies, and in fact the entire Spanish Main. In his 16 years working aboard Dutch trading vessels, it’s likely that Hoof sailed as much of the known world as any of his peers. His navigational experience and firsthand knowledge of the shipping routes of the Spanish Main would have made him a coveted and indispensable member of any crew—particularly a pirate crew.

In spring 1716, just after Sam Bellamy and his crew “went on the account,” they managed a series of successful raids around Cuba and along the Central American coast. It was during this time that Hoof joined Bellamy’s crew.

For the next year, Bellamy and his crew continued their winning streak, wreaking havoc all over the Caribbean, until the Whydah finally went down off the coast of Cape Cod in April 1717.

Hoof was aboard the Mary Anne, another of Bellamy’s fleet, when the Whydah sunk. He and the rest of the survivors of the Mary Anne managed to make their way inland, where they took refuge in the home of John Cole. In an ill-advised move, they decided to head down to the Eastham tavern for a drink. By this time, news of the wreck had spread, and they were quickly apprehended. The prisoners were taken to Boston and charged with piracy, a hanging offense. To a man, the prisoners maintained they were forced into captivity by Bellamy and his crew. The judge, for the most part, did not believe them. All of the Mary Anne’s survivors, save Thomas South, were convicted of piracy and condemned to death.

During his incarceration, Hoof and others were counseled by Cotton Mather, an infamous fire-and-brimstone preacher, who was most noted for his involvement in the Salem Witch trials. It appears these meetings had some influence on Hoof, who repented for his sins before his execution. In fact, one account tells of how, on the gallows and with a hangman’s noose around his neck, the convicted pirate recited a Dutch psalm.

In a gruesome footnote to this short, merry life, Peter Cornelius Hoof’s mortal remains were covered in tar and suspended in a metal cage at the water’s edge, a warning to pirates everywhere.

John Julian

Pirates threw the law of the land overboard. That was good news for John Julian, a half-blood Mosquito Indian who joined Samuel Bellamy early in his brief, brilliant career. On land, Julian’s skin made him nobody. On water, his skill made him somebody. He eventually piloted the Whydah, which was the leading ship of Bellamy’s fleet. Julian was one of 30 to 50 people of African descent in the pirate crew—all treated as equals.

Julian managed to escape a watery grave when the Whydah sunk in April 1717. Unfortunately, once he reached land, he was captured and jailed in Boston, though never indicted. More likely, he was sold into slavery. It is believed he was “Julian the Indian” bought by John Quincy—whose grandson, President John Quincy Adams, became a staunch abolitionist.

If so, Julian suffered a great deal after his pirate days were over. A purportedly “unruly slave,” Julian the Indian was sold to another owner and tried often to escape. Julian is believed to have killed a bounty hunter who was trying to catch him after an escape, and was executed in 1733.

John King

The youngest pirate ever known, John King was traveling with his mother aboard the sloop Bonettawhen it was captured in the Caribbean by Captain Bellamy and his crew. King, who was believed to have been between the ages of eight and eleven, was captivated by the wild, exciting lives of the men on board Bellamy’s ship, the Marianne. When the pirates boarded the Bonetta to overtake it, King demanded that he be allowed to join Bellamy’s crew—or he would kill himself. When King’s mother protested, he threatened to kill her.

King won the battle of wills and joined Bellamy’s band. Less than a year later, he sank with theWhydah.

Richard Noland

Richard Noland set sail from his homeland with pirate Ben Hornigold before coming under the employ of Captain Bellamy. His even temper, eye for detail, and smooth talk earned him the position of the fleet’s Quartermaster under Bellamy before he assumed command of his own ship, the Anne.

Noland later sailed with the notorious Blackbeard, but retired from piracy in 1718. He led a respectable life on land for the rest of his days.

Hendrick Quintor

Born in Amsterdam in 1692, Hendrick Quintor was a free black man of African and Dutch descent.

As the son of a sailor, he spent most of his life at sea. Quintor became a pirate when the Spanish brigantine he was aboard was captured by French pirates in the early 1700s.

After joining the pirates of the Whydah, Quintor earned a reputation as one of the toughest pirates on the ship. He was one of the 30 seamen of African descent aboard the Whydah.

Quintor was not aboard the Whydah when she sank in April 1717. He was captured not long afterward and found guilty of piracy in October 1717. The penalty was death by hanging. Bostonians crowded by the gallows to watch as Quintor and five other pirates were hanged. To the audience, the slow writhing of the dangling bodies was a form of entertainment—and a warning to anyone considering piracy.

Anne Bonny (Not a Whydah pirate)

Nearly without exception, everything about the life of Anne Bonny is debatable, including the date of both her birth and her death. She was born near Cork, Ireland, as the illegitimate daughter of a married lawyer, William Cormac, and his maid, Mary. Soon after the affair was discovered, Cormac and his wife split and he moved to South Carolina with Anne and her mother. When Anne was about 13, her mother died and Cormac raised her alone. By this time, he had re-acquired a good reputation and had a sizable worth, including a large plantation.

Anne’s youth was, by most accounts, turbulent. There are a few references to her stabbing and killing a servant girl for making her mad, and others to her trying to kill a man who raped her. Still, Anne was considered a ‘good catch’ on account of her looks and her father’s wealth. When she was about 16, Anne married a small-time pirate named James Bonny. He was more interested in Anne’s wealth than in the woman herself, and they both were thwarted when Anne’s father, furious by her choice of husband, disowned her. Anne and James moved to New Providence in the Bahamas—already a well-established pirate town. It was so well-established, in fact, that its governor began to recruit pirate informants. James Bonny quickly took up the charge and gave the names of several pirates, many of whom Anne reportedly knew and called friends. In part because James was a ‘turn-coat’ and in part because he had never been fully committed to Anne in the first place, Anne began an affair with another pirate on the island, John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham.

According to Daniel Defoe’s A General History of the Pirates, when their affair was discovered, Anne dressed as a man and ran away with Rackham to his ship. A few months later, ‘she proved with child’ and was taken to Cuba, where she delivered. A short time later, she returned to Rackham’s crew alone. Some sources say the child died, while others say Anne abandoned it because James Bonny was the father. Regardless of what happened, the child never turns up again in her history.

While at sea with Rackham, Anne Bonny fought with more skill and fierceness than was typical—for a man or woman. Legend has it that the first crewman who tried to assault her was stabbed instantly through the heart.

How Anne met Mary Read is point of contention for historians. The most consistent theory suggests that Read was brought aboard Rackham’s ship disguised as a man. Anne took a liking to ‘him,’ and when she brought Read in private and showed her affections, Mary showed her breasts. However it happened, once they met, the two didn’t separate. Together with Rackham aboard the Revenge, they developed a reputation for being among the most feared crew in the Caribbean.

In October 1720, the governor of Jamaica learned that Rackham’s crew had stolen a ship called the William, anchored somewhere near Nassau. When they were discovered, most of the crew was drunk and put up a pitiful fight. Anne and Mary, the exceptions, were the last two standing.

The crew was captured and went to trial in Port Royal, Jamaica in mid-November 1720. Some claim that the cowardice displayed by their fellow crew members infuriated the women more than being captured. Bonny’s last words to Rackham were, “I’m sorry to see you here, but if you’d fought like a man you needn’t to hang like a dog.”

When it came time for their sentence, the women were spared execution because they were pregnant. Some suggest that Anne Bonny’s rich father never truly abandoned his headstrong daughter, who was pregnant, alone and sentenced to die. Perhaps Cormac used his money and influence to take her back to South Carolina, where she changed her name and raised a family. There is no substantiated historical record of her after November 1720.

Mary Read (Not a Whydah pirate)

One of the most famous female pirates in history, Mary Read spent most of her life pretending to be a man. Born in England to the widow of a sea captain, her exact birth date unknown, Mary’s female identity was hidden by her mother from the very beginning.

Mary had a brother who died around the same time she was born and her mother, in order to secure a greater inheritance from her mother-in-law (in those days boys were worth more money than girls), presented her new baby as a boy. This lie provided Mary’s mother with a crown a week to support her family. Without this assistance, they would have been unable to survive. Thus, Mary was disguised as a boy for the duration of her childhood.

When she was a bit older, Mary became a footboy to a French lady and then later enlisted in the military to become a soldier in the horse regiment. During her military service, she fell in love with a fellow soldier, and she decided to uncover her true identity to her newfound love. The soldier shared the same feelings for Mary, and the two left the regiment and were married. For the first time in Mary Read’s recorded history, she walked through life as a woman.

The two newlyweds opened an inn they called The Three Horseshoes, but their life together ended abruptly when Mary’s husband died shortly after the inn’s opening. Mary then decided to resume life disguised as a man. Donning masculine attire once again, she re-enlisted in the military in Holland during a time of peace. She boarded a ship en route to the West Indies that was overtaken by pirates. She was pardoned by the king and went on to privateer. Her privateering days ended when she joined the crew of Captain John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham in mutiny. On board, the entire crew believed Mary to be a man. It was to fellow pirate Anne Bonny that she revealed her true identity, for Anne, too, was living and working on the ship disguised as a man.

On board Rackham’s ship, Mary fell in love again. As legend has it, her lover was to have a duel with another pirate on the ship, and Mary, in order to save her lover’s life, challenged the same pirate to a separate duel earlier in the day. Mary won the duel and killed the rival pirate only two hours before his scheduled duel with her lover.

Eventually, Rackham’s ship was overtaken and Mary was arrested and sentenced to be hanged. In order to postpone her execution date, she declared she was pregnant and was sent to prison, where she died of fever in 1721. It has been said that Mary Read was never fond of being a pirate, but she fought better and more bravely than any man on the ship.