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Shiver me timbers, pirates are on the loose

Reenactors, fans turn out for annual fair in Salem

Hudson Wynne, 4, of Beverly, joins a contest at the New England Pirate Faire in Salem.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Hudson Wynne, 4, of Beverly, joins a contest at the New England Pirate Faire in Salem.

SALEM — Their stories were numerous and terrifying. They robbed, murdered, bullied, and intimidated their way up and down the Atlantic Coast, and — in the end — usually met their own grim deaths.

There was the Boston pirate Rachel Wall, who, along with her husband, George, repeatedly feigned distress in a stolen boat off the Isles of Shoals, and then robbed and killed would-be rescuers.

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Ruthless English pirate William Fly became infamous for castigating the hangman at his execution near Charlestown Bridge, undoing and properly tying the noose that was to go around his own neck.

“There were actual pirates who plundered these shores,” said historical reenactor C.J. Landram of Saugus. “It’s fascinating when you realize just how many were here in the golden age of piracy.”

Just last weekend, a band of buccaneers returned to seize Salem’s Forest River Park and exact revenge as part of the 10th annual New England Pirate Faire. About 1,300 revelers turned out over the two-day event.

Fittingly held among the thatched roof cottages and rambling trails traced with roots at the 1630 Salem Pioneer Village, it was a celebration of the swashbuckling, the intrigue, and the menace of pirates, and featured an overarching story line played out in several acts with duels, cannon fire, period music, and general merriment.

“I love their sense of adventure,” said David Stickney, a Revere resident who produces the pirate fair with his brother, Paul, through Pastimes Entertainment. “They were freebooters, free men of the sea.”

Tall and commanding, David Stickney played the part of Peter Pan nemesis Captain Hook, dressed in a long red coat, a gold earring in his left ear, thin glasses framing his eyes, and the notorious hook taking the place of his left hand.

“Pirates offer that freedom and adventure that people really desire,” he said.

Featuring 15 core cast members — including the infamous Calico Jack and Blackbeard — the event’s theme was “The Revenge of Red-Handed Kate,” a tale written by Paul Stickney that played out in six acts. Just as the title character was to be married, pirates slaughtered her family and husband-to-be. Distraught and outraged, Kate then learned pirating skills to repay the four cruel captains who ruined her life.

Bevin Ayers of Jamaica Plain played the vengeful Kate, dressed in a striped piratical “kilted up” skirt, corset, and bodice. She boasted that it was her first time fighting with a sword.

“Everyone’s like ‘Yay, pirates,’ ” said Ayers, a nanny by trade who participates in numerous reenactor fairs. “No, pirates were bad. They would steal, pillage, take what they wanted.”

She laughed, “Not that it’s not fun to be a pirate.”

Nearby, musicians were leading families and visitors fitting the era (classic pirates were most active from the 1680s to the 1730s, according to Stickney) in a sing-along. There were women in bodices, men in long coats, feathers tucked into caps, jingling coins on gypsy dresses, greetings of “Ahoy, mate!”

Little boys wielded cardboard swords and shields, families posed for pictures in a gibbet and stocks, and Captain Jack Sparrow, the quick-quipping, flamboyant character made famous by Johnny Depp in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, roved through the crowd.

“I was just going for the female captain look,” said visitor Simone Phillips of Waltham, dressed in a dark coat and pants, curly black hair wrangled beneath a brown cap.

Adopting the pirate name Tessa Rose for the day, Phillips said, “I think the best part is being inside this neat little village. And the back story is incredible.”

Landram, meanwhile, was playing the part of Captain Henry Morgan while overseeing a costume contest.

“Samantha the Bounty,” he said to a small crowd, presenting contestant Samantha Fadden, a Nashua resident dressed in a corset and red, flowing dress. He corrected himself, to titters from the crowd, “I mean, of the Bounty.”

She vamped a few steps back and forth, encouraged by David Stickney’s shouts of “work the garment, sell it, intimidate it!”

“It’s interesting to learn and research, bring these people to life in a way that’s engaging and fun,” said Landram, wearing an impeccably white top coat over a waistcoat, trousers, and tricorn hat sprouting an ostrich feather, with a flourish of a red lace jabot and a curlicue mustache.

Ultimately, Stickney noted, the goal of the event is to educate and involve the visitors.

Calling interaction a “dying art,” he explained, “When people come, I want them to feel they’ve walked into a movie, and they’re part of the cast.”

Taryn Plumb can be reached at tarynplumb1@gmail.com.
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