The Lost Colony is America’s first mystery – the original “urban legend”!
The story of the unexplained disappearance of the first English colonists to settle on Roanoke Island in 1587 was first made into a silent film in 1921. It was filmed entirely on the Outer Banks and it was the first movie ever produced in North Carolina.
In the early 20th century, a group was formed to create a “pageant” of the story — an oratorio of the events using pantomime, music, and narration. W.O. Sounders, editor of the Elizabeth City Independent was a passionate proponent of these plans.
But due to the national financial depression, the plans remained dormant until Roanoke Island native and Dare County School Superintendent Mabel Evans Jones awakened interest with a 1921 silent film of the historic events that she conceived, wrote and produced, and in which she starred.
The finished film toured across North Carolina and was the first silent film produced in the state.
The film was recently restored and plans are underway to eventually release it on DVD.
After her successful film, Jones and other community leaders then create a dramatic pageant based on her film script. On Virginia Dare’s birthday in 1925 a lost colony pageant was performed “sound side” against the natural backdrop of the Roanoke Sound. The “pageant” was very successful and organizers sought to build on their achievement in their preparations for the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare’s birth. They approached North Carolina playwright Paul Green about developing a new pageant script.
The resulting play written by Green first opened on July 4, 1937. Though it was originally meant to run for only one season, The Lost Colony is now the longest running outdoor symphonic drama in America. Actor and Manteo resident Andy Griffith is among the most famous alumni of the production.
The Lost Colony has been referenced in popular culture recently in a 2011 episode of the hit F/X series American Horror Story.
The story also served as reference for a 2007 supernatural film called Lost Colony (aka Wraiths of Roanoke) that premiered on the SyFy network on October 13, 2007. The story of the Lost Colony has also been referenced in the 1998 film Phantoms, which was based on a 1983 novel of the same name written by Dean Koontz; and in the 2010 film Vanishing on 7th Street, starring Hayden Christensen (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith).
The first English child born in America, Virginia Dare was the main villain in the short-lived television show FreakyLinks. Inspired by The X-Files and The Blair Witch Project, the series premiered on the FOX network on October 6, 2000 and followed a young man who took over his twin brother’s paranormal Web site, Freakylinks, after his death.
It was later found that his brother’s death was related to his investigations into the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. It was implied that Virginia Dare was a demon who destroyed the colonists, either directly or indirectly; however, the show was canceled before the end of the first season, and the mystery was never resolved.