In the early 1700s, pirates ran amok around coastal Virginia and among them was Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. Legend has made Blackbeard the prototype fearsome, loathsome pirate but he was. in reality, a fairly decent guy (for a pirate) and a lady’s man who had a very short — one year, from 1717 to 1718 — pirate career. When Blackbeard was killed, off the North Carolina coast by the Virginia governor’s men, many of Blackbeard’s surviving crew were taken to Williamsburg and tried. All but two were hanged. Archeologists found the remnants of the gallows in 1992, about a mile from the Colonial Williamsburg gaol, on what’s now Capitol Landing Road. Ghost lore tells of the pirates haunting the road between the gaol and gallows.
These events form the basis (I’m guessing) for the skeletons, dressed as pirates, popping up all over Colonial Williamsburg during the weeks leading up to Halloween. Patricia and I were there for Halloween and while I’ve done Williamsburg many times already, I thought Halloween was different enough to deserve its own post. (My first Colonial Williamsburg post provides background on the site.)
These pirates were waiting for the fife and drum parade on Duke of Gloucester Street. The “Got Save the King” banner is hanging because another theme to the CW Halloween programming was that the British had won the American Revolution and George remains the king.
Sorry for the horrible quality of the photo below, but it was the best my iPhone could do in the dark. The Evil Pumpkin Headed figure riding a horse was cool enough to post it anyway.
CW features several special programs during the Halloween season and we went to one: the Mad Revenge of King George. “Be a part of an immersive experience through the halls and grounds of the Capitol,” said the description, “where you step inside the King’s mind chasing an alternate reality as you face a descent into darkness.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but we were looking for an evening program that we hadn’t seen yet. After several visits a year over 40 years, that’s hard to come buy. So we decided to go to Mad Revenge.
All the ticket holders — hundreds of us — were asked to arrive at the Capitol Building at the same time. Once there, we were divided into groups and they staggered the entry of each group into the building. That meant that some people — including us — waited for hours to get in. We were stuck on the Capitol Building grounds while we waited because we had no idea when our group would be called. There were entertainment stations (a juggler, a sword swallower and maybe a couple of others I can’t remember) to keep us amused. Also, a multitude of cash bars.
The “king’s mind,” apparently, is very much like a film version of Bedlam — dark rooms inhabited by wild-haired women babbling incoherently. And, a ballroom scene with couples dancing to music only they can hear. And an appearance by a royal figure proceeded by an attendant. King George? Maybe.
There seemed to be more than one group in the building at any given time, and we were squeezed together like subway commuters during rush hour. Occasionally, a silent, masked figure, looking like s/he’d wandered away from a Venetian carnivale, would appear to usher us toward the next room. We were shuffled from one room to another for about 15 minutes, then shuffled out of the building.
I didn’t care for any of it: not the concept and not the execution. No, not one bit.
I’ve learned my lesson (know what I’m buying) and in future years, I’ll stay far away from the madness of King George. Actually, in future years, I plan to stay far away from Williamsburg during Halloween. The skeleton pirates were fun and the rest of the decorations eerily lovely, but that was the extent of the positives for me. Bacon’s Castle, about an hour southwest of Williamsburg, does ghost tours during the Halloween season. I think I might go for that next year.