One of the most intriguing mysteries to haunts Americans till date – What actually happened to the lost colonists of Roanoke?

One of America’s oldest unsolved mysteries can be traced to back to 1587, when a group of settlers arrived from England to Roanoke Island (now North Carolina), led by John White. The settlers were the third group to arrive on the island after it had been abandoned by the previous two bands of colonists in 1985. This group wanted to settle in the New World and was not a military expedition as it consisted of mostly families – approximately 127 men, women and children. They rebuilt an outpost on Roanoke Island, 50 miles north of Hatteras with John White, as their governor. White’s daughter Eleanor was also included in this group. She soon gave birth to Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World.

Within their first month, the colonists endured attacks from Native Americans and were soon left with scarce food and other supplies. Hence, it was decided that John White would sail back to England in order to bring the necessary supplies back to the colony. White soon took off for England leaving behind 115 colonists including his wife, daughter, and grandchild. But just as he arrived, he discovered that England was on the outbreak of war with Spain. Because of this, White wasn’t able to return to Roanoke for three years and finally when he did return to Roanoke in 1590, to his astonishment, he found no trace of the colony or its inhabitants. The entire colony had been abandoned, the only clues left behind included a single skeleton and the word “Croatoan” carved into one of the trees.

John White made many attempts to find his family and the colony of 115 people but to his dismay, not a single one was found. Centuries have gone by but still no one actually knows what happened to the colonies and its inhabitant, no bodies or signs of a mass grave have ever been found.

There have been many theories brewing up in peoples’ mind, some more farfetched than others, but none have yet been proven. Here are the top ten theories about what may have happened to the colonist of Roanoke Island:

Theory –

#1 –  They moved to the nearby Island called Croatoan

One of the most obvious theories states that the colonists simply ran out of food and migrated to the island 50 miles south of Roanoke, called Croatoan Island. This theory reinforces the clue left behind on the tree as so that when John White eventually comes back, he would know where to find them.

#2 – The settlers were killed by Native Americans

Since tensions were already high between the colonists and the Secotan tribe, it would not be a shocker for the theory of mass murder by the Indians to spark up.

It was also reported that Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas’s father, confessed to John Smith that he executed an entire colony, possibly referring to Roanoke.

#3 – John White poisoned them and fled

Many theorists also believe the colony was not satisfied with John White’s leadership and wanted to replace him. Who, in effect, poisoned the whole colony and went back to England to put up a charade.

#4 – They joined the native tribe

Some researchers think that the colonists split up into smaller groups and dispersed. It is believed that they adapted to the native culture and integrated with different tribes. Archaeologists have even identified the nearby site of a small Native American town named Mettaquem, which may have proof that they had adopted some of the colonists.

#5 – They were cursed by witches

On a more unlikely note, some theories went around that the colonists fell victims to witchcraft. Although there isn’t much evidence to support this theory, it highlights the fact that there was no trace of any of the 115 colonists.

#6 – The colonists were attacked by zombies

Another supernatural possibility that has been considered is a zombie attack. Some believe an undead infection overtook island and wiped off its inhabitants. This also leads to the cannibalism theory that states when food ran short, the colonist started eating each other.

#7 – They suffered from a fatal disease

Coming back to reality, a pandemic could have also played a part in the disappearance of people. It was stated by various tribes in the area that they had seen evidence of the colony fighting against itself. This lead many to wonder if a disease or plague caused the residents’ mental health to suffer.

#8 – They transformed into trees

Foolish as it may seem, this theory developed from the word “Croatoan” being carved into one of the trees on the island, leading people to believe the tribe somehow mystically turned all of the colonists into trees.

#9 – They were possessed by the devil

Widely rumored within tribes, another belief was that the entire colony had been possessed by evil spirits that lingered around the island.

#10 – The whole colony was abducted by aliens 

Wherever and whenever there are unsolved mysteries and bizarre stories, alien abduction always seems to make its way into theories – Roanoke is no different. Many believe these colonists were taken by intergalactic beings. Perhaps the reason why there were not any remains discovered.

Many studies are still in place to uncover the age-old mystery. For now, we are just left with possibilities of what could have happened to one of the first colonies of the New World.


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