January 27, 2016
The Ghostly Legend of Gasparilla the Pirate
By: Rebecca Genesis
The waters around Florida’s Tampa Bay were hunting grounds for many pirates throughout history. The most infamous pirate terrorizing the waters of the Gulf of Mexico was Jose Gaspar, or Gasparilla, which means Little Gaspar in Spanish. A deadly man of small stature, Gasparilla was said to have successfully raided over 400 ships with his ship The Floriblanca during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Legend has it that Captiva Island is where he kept his ladies and that it is named for this very reason.Gasparilla was said to kill most of the unfortunate souls aboard the ships he and his crew raided. However, he would spare women from notable or wealthy families so he could use them for ransom. It was also rumored that he kept the most beautiful of his captives for his own collection of concubines.
1821 was said to be the year when the pirate Gasparilla announced he was to finally retire from his days of piracy at the age of 65. As the story goes, he decided to make one final raid. It would definitely turn out to be his last, but not in the way he’d hoped. The British merchant ship Gasparilla began closing in on was really the U.S. navy warship the USS Enterprise in disguise.
Cannonballs tore through The Floriblanca, but Gasparilla refused to be captured. As the warship closed in, it is said that he wrapped the ship’s anchor around his waist and jumped into the waters of the Gulf below. Legend also states that 10 of Gaspar’s men escaped with more than $30 million of pirate treasure and buried it along the Peace River. Even though some historians dispute the very existence of Jose Gaspar, $300,000 in gold coins were found in the area years later.
Every year in January or February, the Tampa Bay area celebrates the pirate Jose Gaspar with the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a mock pirate invasion held in the waters of Tampa Bay since 1904. Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, there are lots of beads, food and libations. But, there is an even darker side to the story of Gasparilla the Pirate. One that plays on beyond his death. Some even say that the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are haunted by Gasparilla’s ghost.
legend says that you should never be alone on the deck of a boat in the waters around Tampa Bay. For if no one is watching Gasparilla will rise from his watery grave with no eyes, seaweed in his hair, anchor still wrapped around his waist, as he pulls you down to your own demise. But, that’s just a silly ghost story, right? Or, is it…?The ghostly
Gasparilla Pirate Fest will be held on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at Bayshore Blvd. and South Ashley Dr. in Tampa. It is free to attend and the invasion begins at 11:30 am with the parade following at 2 pm.If you’re in the mood for some pirate-themed partying, the
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