[OBXE Feature] Kill Devil Hills in Pop Culture

Posted By on March 3, 2012

On March 6, 2012, the town of Kill Devil Hills will celebrate its 59th anniversary since the former village named for a famous local sand hill was incorporated in 1953. Kill Devil Hills official town seal

There are numerous legends that attempt to explain how the town originally got its curious name, but most agree that it dates back to the Colonial era, when the Outer Banks earned its reputation as the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ and shipwrecks of these shores were as common as the waves.

Many of the ships were transporting barrels of rum, which would often be retrieved and then hidden by the local pirates, sometimes actually buried beneathe the same dunes the Wright brothers would later use for their earliest test flights.

 Rum was called “Kill Devil” by the English colonies of the time, and therefore the local dunes became affectionately known as “Kill Devil Hills”.

Registered logo for 'Kill Devil' Rum

There are other legends that tell different – sometimes more supernatural – stories; but today the actual Kill Devil Hill itself is generally considered to be the manmade mountain atop which the Wright Brothers National Monument sits.

Wright National Monument on December 17, 2003 - the 100th Anniversary of the First Flight

Wright National Monument on December 17, 2003 – the 100th Anniversary of the First Flight *

The town has played a prominent role in pop culture in the decades since the Wrights’ first flight, despite often being confused with neighboring Kitty Hawk, which wasn’t incorporated until 28 years after Kill Devil Hills. Of course, the only post office at the time of the first flight was in the former village of ‘Kitty Hawk,’ which is why it (not Kill Devil Hills) is so universally identified in history with the Wright brothers.

December 17, 1903 in Kill Devil Hills

Hollywood paid tribute to Kill Devil Hills with the 1983 science fiction film Brainstorm starring a very young Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction) and the legendary Natalie Wood (Rebel Without a Cause) in what would be her final movie.

Wood died mysteriously prior to the release of the movie, just after completing her portions of filming – including two pivotal scenes filmed with Walken at Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

The movie is quite ahead of its time. For a taste of what to expect, you can check out a trailer in the player below!

Eventually released almost two years after Wood’s death, the closing credits of Brainstorm dedicate the film “To Natalie.”

Amazingly, some of the technology depicted in the fictional film has since been partially developed in real life, as of September 2011, and the same technological institute depicted as developing the technology in the film (UC Berkeley) has made some progress in actually doing so in reality.


More recently, the name “Kill Devil Hill” or its plural has become a popular source of reference within the lyrics of many modern musicians’ original songs.

Perhaps most effectively is Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson‘s 2005 ode to the Wright brothers, called simply ‘Kill Devil Hill’. You can hear the heavy metal track in a fanmade video featuring archival footage of the Wrights and other aviation pioneers using the player below!

Alternative music pioneers R.E.M. paid their own homage to “Kill Devil Hill” in the lyrics to their 1996 song “So Fast, So Numb” from the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi. You can hear it clearly in the first and third chorus refrains using the player below!

Maryland-based rock band Clutch called out the town by name in its track “Four Lords (and One More)” from their 2003 album Slow Hole to China. Be sure to pay close attention to the fourth line of lyrics, which contains the reference, in the player below.

Rappers Ill Bill and DJ Muggs released an entire album entitled “Kill Devil Hills” on August 31, 2010.

"Kill Devil Hills" album cover

You can check out the album’s title track, also featuring B-Real of Cypress Hill, using the player below!

There’s also an Austrailian country-punk band called The Kill Devil Hills that formed in 2003. You can check out a track from their most recent album, 2009’s Man, You Should Explode below!

Most recently, former Pantera bassist Rex Brown announced in March 2011 that his new band with drummer Vinny Appice (Dio) would be named Kill Devil Hill.

Kill Devil Hill debut album cover

The debut album from Kill Devil Hill will be released on March 27th, and you can hear the first single in the player below!

  Finally, the most famous of all monster trucks, Currituck’s own Grave Digger traditionally lists its hometown as Kill Devil Hills.

Grave Digger (photo: GraveDigger.com)
* Wright photo: Artz Music & Photography
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Posted by Matt Artz

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