With the exception of local family stories and legends, Kill Devil Hills' history is hard to trace prior to the Wright Brothers' historic First Flight in 1903. In fact, even the origin of the town's fascinating name is not certain, and the many theories that surround the moniker involve pirates, shipwrecked buccaneers, and barrels of rum strong enough to "kill the devil."
As the first light of dawn broke over the North Carolina coast one midwinter morning in 1921, coastguardsmen along the shore near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse were astounded to see a five-masted schooner, The Carroll A. Deering, under full sail, her prow caught deep in the sand, heaving mightily against the restraining land.
The men were stunned - the previous night had brought no storm, no distress signals or lights had been seen. Where then did this ship come from? Where was her crew? No sign of life, save a lean gray cat was to be found when the ship was boarded and searched. What tale could this feline tell, if only she could talk? Bunks were all made up, food left on plates and icy-cold on the stove. Everything appeared shipshape.
Eventually six government departments undertook an exhaustive investigation, to no avail. For though her identity would be learned, how she became the ghost ship of Diamond Shoals and the circumstance of her vanished crew was never known. Gone were the days of pirates such as Blackbeard who, two hundred years earlier, might have accounted for her fate, so even that possibility was ruled out. Only her memory lives on --majestic snow-white canvases in full sail without captain or crew.