A crew of pirates will overtake a small coastal village this weekend, and North Shore residents can be on hand to witness it.
Pioneer Village in Salem will host Pirate Weekend tomorrow and Sunday, when a few dozen pirates and their women will take control of the replica Colonial village and demonstrate pirate activities, including cooking, blacksmithing and punishments.
People often picture pirates terrorizing the Caribbean shores, but crews would come as far north as Newfoundland, according to David Goss, director of museum studies and scholar-in-residence with the Institute for Public History at Gordon College, which operates Pioneer Village.
"It's hard to say whether pirates came to the village here," Goss said, "but the whole New England coast, throughout the 1600s, was constantly being visited by pirate crews. They visited the Isles of Shoals, the Maine coast, what is now Boston Harbor — anywhere they could go to get resupplied."
Goss said pirates would sometimes prey upon local settlements, like Pemaquid, Maine, for example, where the pirate captain Dixy Bull destroyed the settlement in the 17th century.
"Everything they had to get to resupply their vessels had to be stolen," Goss said of pirates.
When pirates were ashore, or between journeys, some would present as fishermen or other local folks.
"Marblehead had a very questionable element that was always frequenting," Goss said. "You were just left alone unless you were in the act of pirating."
But there was also an order within pirate society, which is part of what the re-enactors plan to teach the adults and children who visit the weekend events.
"Pirate crews had elections. They were run very often like little floating republics," said Goss, who teaches history at Gordon College. "They had insurance, so if you lost your finger or a limb or a hand in combat, you would get a retirement fund.
"In addition to entertaining families at Pirate Weekend, we're hoping to educate the public a little bit about pirate life in the Colonial era."
The re-enactors can also debunk pirate myths. For example, pirates didn't say "Arrr!" or walk the plank, event organizers said.
"On the calendar, there is a 'Talk Like a Pirate Day,'" Goss said. "We're trying to discourage that sort of unfortunate stereotype."
Organizers said one of the most famous pirate shipwrecks, the Whydah, was discovered in Massachusetts off the coast of Cape Cod, where it had been driven into a sandbar. Among the wreckage were cannons, pistols, thousands of coins and a shoe with foot bones in it, they said. Whydah artifacts are displayed at a museum in Provincetown.
"Only three or four men made it to shore," Goss said. "They were captured and tried in Boston and hanged. The rest of the crew died" at sea.
Goss said that piracy was sometimes viewed as the lone opportunity for young men.
"Colonial society was limited," Goss said. "If your family didn't have land or own a ship, you literally had to make your own way. A lot of pirates turned to this as the only viable option."
Pirate Weekend activities
Pirate fortunetelling with bones
Jolly (Roger) Good Time
Where: Pioneer Village, Forest River Park, Salem
When: Tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for students/seniors, $6 for children ages 4 to 12
More information: www.pioneervillagesalem.com