But How Can You Lose An Entire Colony?

So, four hundred and twenty-four years ago today, a resupply convoy arrived in North Carolina to find the colony it was supposed resupply, Roanoke Colony, had vanished. There weren’t any signs of a struggle, and the buildings had all been dismantled, seemingly in a slow and orderly fashion. Pretty much anything could have happened, since the last contact with the colony was three years earlier; other supply efforts had been stymied by the whole Anglo-Spanish War and Armada thing.

It’s a fascinating little snippet of Americana (or, rather, pre-post-British Colonial Americana), particularly as an unsolved mystery: one-hundred and eighteen people vanished, and the details will probably never be revealed. The only clues were the words “Croatoan” and “Cro” carved into some nearby trees, which didn’t reveal much. An investigation provided no end of theories, namely integration with native tribes, but nothing was conclusive. Later theories include starvation and cannibalism, that the dastardly Spanish sailed from Florida to the Carolinas and attacked (what with the war and all), or that the colonists attempted to sail back to England and all drowned due to shoddy shipbuilding. (I guess the latter would explain why their buildings were all dismantled, and why these barn-ships eventually sank.)

It’s also had a slight impact on gaming (as, y’know, that’s what the blog is focused on). White Wolf rolled the disappearance into the World of Darkness, and had it connect to the Croatan tribe (Croatan, Croatoan, get it?) This conveniently avoided answering the mystery, since the Croatan all died in the fight against the Wyrm, with Roanoke implicitly where their Pyrrhic end battle was fought. More recently, Paizo used Roanoke as the inspiration for its Varnhold Vanishing module, third in the Kingmaker adventure path, and reading through that reminded me that today was the 424th anniversary of the Roanoke Disappearances.


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