Roanoke Colony and Croatoan: Whatever happened to the real Lost Colony?

Photo credit: Supernatural/The CW bySergei Bachlakov, Aquired via CW PR
Photo credit: Supernatural/The CW bySergei Bachlakov, Aquired via CW PR /

When Sam saw the word “Croatoan” etched into a lamp post, he instantly thought about Roanoke, also known as the Lost Colony. Just what happened to that colony and why does it pop up in so many mystery and supernatural shows?

You may remember that Sam Winchester mentions Roanoke Colony in Supernatural Season 2, Episode 9. When he sees the word “Croatoan” etched into a telephone pole, he instantly thinks about the colony that will be forever known as The Lost Colony. There was hope that the series would touch on this colony more, but instead just used the name for a demonic virus as a hint of what could have happened.

Roanoke Colony has been used in a variety of shows and movies with supernatural themes. Most recently, American Horror Story told the story of the men and women who seemingly just disappeared. What really happened to the men, women and children of Roanoke Colony and what’s the deal with the word Croatoan?

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Sam Winchester only covered the basics

Let’s start by saying that the mention of Roanoke by Sam Winchester really was just the basics. The word “Croatoan” is directly linked, but Sam certainly missed a lot in between.

In 1585, Queen Elizabeth I of England made an attempt to establish a permanent colony in the New World. Led by Sir Walter Raleigh, a group of settlers set off on a journey to what is now known as Dare County in North Carolina. The trip was perilous for many and food supplies ran low. The settlers were also attacked by the Native Americans. Raleigh’s attempts failed and he returned to England, only for another attempt in 1587.

This attempt seemed a little more positive, with the first baby of the colony born on August 18, 1587. However, more supplies were needed, so Governor John White headed back to England. When he returned in 1590, the settlement was deserted.

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All 100 men, women and children were

Photo credit: Supernatural/The CW bySergei Bachlakov, Aquired via CW PR
Photo credit: Supernatural/The CW bySergei Bachlakov, Aquired via CW PR /

gone, without a trace. There wasn’t even a sign of trouble or violence! The only clue was the word “Croatoan” carved into the settlement’s palisade. White and his men assumed that the settlers had moved their colony to Croatoan Island.

It was a reasonable and understandable assumption. The island was about 50 miles away from Roanoke and White knew that the colony was struggling, which is why he’d left. However, when they group got to Croatoan Island none of the settlers were there.

What really happened to Roanoke Colony?

It’s impossible to give an exact answer. White never did learn of the fates of the men, women and children. However, archeologists have learned that there was an extreme drought between 1587 and 1589. It is highly possible that all the people perished.

What happened to their bodies? Well, animals may have got to them.

However, it’s possible that rather than perishing, they managed to leave Roanoke and gain safe passage into the Indian tribe called the Croatans. That would certainly explain the note left behind.

Of course, it seems like Supernatural is working with a theory that they were all taken over by a virus: the croatoan virus.

Roanoke was never something the series looked back on. While the virus came up twice more afterwards (in the future and because of Pestilence), it never played a major role in the series. With that in mind, it’s not surprising the theories and legends of Roanoke Colony never came up.

Next: Demon summoning lore explained

Did you know the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke? What did you already know about Croatoan? Share in the comments below.

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