JS1990

Rackham's skeleton

20 posts in this topic

Hi everyone,

Not that I am the fondest of the 'Hollywoodiztion' that the Pirates of the Caribbean did to pirate history, I've come across a few resources that stipulate the skeleton of the real Jack Rackham is visible in one of the movies (not sure which one). Apparently, when Jack Sparrow enters Port Royal, Rackham's skeleton is the one on the right:

vEkedH4.jpg

I think I remember reading somewhere else that after he was hung, he was gibbeted and put on display. Could there be any truth to the above?

Warm regards to you all

J

Edited by JS1990

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I've come across a few resources that stipulate the skeleton of the real Jack Rackham is visible in one of the movies (not sure which one).

You're saying that Disney got a hold of a roughly 300-year old skeleton that was John Rackham and used it as set dressing in film? Or are you saying the film makers were saying in their heads that that skeleton they made for that shoot was supposed to represent John Rackham?

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This is what I am trying to figure out. It seems highly unlikely to me that they were able to take A) find his skeleton and B) display it in an all ages movie. Perhaps just in the mind of the creators?

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Although there has been several movies that have used real skeletons on set, the likelihood POTC filmed port royal at the real port royal is minimal. I'm sure a simple internet search can debunk it. If I am correct, the moving of a 300 year old skeleton is also highly unlikely. Now I am going to look into this. Could prove interesting

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What I've been reading, the original port royal and burial site of rackham, Morgan and more was lost due to natural disasters.

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I should point out that, if someone did have the skeletal remains of John Rackham, the knowledge of their existence would be talked about a lot more. Unless someone is keeping it secret, they have not preserved and discovered the remains of John Rackham. Even if they found a mass grave of where they dumped remains of executed people in Jamaica, how would you separate out which one was Rackham? The odds and circumstances for Rackham's remains to still be floating around intact are pretty much none.

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I read somewhere that yes - the screenwriters were purposefully paying homage to Rackam in POTC, just as they paid homage to the female pirates Bonny & Read by naming the angry boat owner Anamaria. It's at the very beginning of the first movie as Jack's boat is sinking while he glides into port. I recall he tips his hat to the Rackam figure.

And yes the real Rackam was definitely gibbeted!

Thanks, JS1990, for reminding me about this forum. I'd forgotten I was a member apparently!

Edited by grossmusic

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Filmed at the real Port Royal...? You realize it sunk in 1692 and attempts to rebuild it were ravaged by various fires and hurricanes until it was finally demolished yet again in the early 20th century by another earthquake? All that is there now is a little fishing village.

And if any pirate's remains were still around they'd be a major tourist attraction these days given the renewed interest. (They definitely wouldn't be props in a movie. You'd have a better chance of them using Walt's cryogenically frozen head in a movie.) (Except, of course, that that is also a myth.)

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If this is true then that is just spooky.

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Mission makes a good point, It never made sense to me the way they portray Port Royale or Tortuga in POTC! Shoudn't it be Kingston and New Providence?

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It never made sense to me the way they portray Port Royale or Tortuga in POTC! Shoudn't it be Kingston and New Providence?

That assumes that Pirates of the Caribbean was actually trying to be accurate and recreate the actual past - instead of an alternative universe that is loosely inspired by our world's past and heavily mixes in fantasy. Considering that the King of Britain in Pirates 4 is George the 2nd, that the Pirate Codex was founded by Bartholomew Roberts and Henry Morgan (two men that weren't even alive at the same time historically), the vast mixing of material culture, and so on - I really don't take examining the issues of historical accuracy in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise seriously. It would be more viable to try to critique Hallmark's Blackbeard movie for historical accuracy.

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When the first PotC came out I got daily emails from people asking how historically accurate it was. My stock reply was "I don't know of any primary sources that support the historical existence of a ghost ship crewed by the damned."

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I've been told that you can only see ghosts if you believe in them, Ed.

David has a good point. Even when PotC drew upon history they didn't really try to be historically accurate. Look at the (implied) makeup of the Brethren Court (among dozens of other things you could point to).

I remember reading an interview with the writers Elliot and Roussou where they flat out said they were drawing from every and any source that represented piracy to them - books, history, art, movies and possibly Terry and the.

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Not so true about the ghost thing, as I refused to believe in that nonsense for most of my life yet I have seen "things" that I cannot reasonably explain more times than I care to relate. But Rackham's bones on POTC!!!???!!! That's a good one.

Bo

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OK... so what did they do with what was left of the Pyrates tarred body after it hung around for awhile and then started to fall apart?

From Wikipedia on William Kidd....

His body was gibbeted over the River Thames at Tilbury Point—as a warning to future would-be pirates—for three years

So after thee years..... what did they do with his remains?

A descent Christian barrel doesn't sound right... So where wold they had dumped them?

.

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probably some mass grave or a lone unmarked grave where they buried all the other criminals.

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I think Brit.Privateer is right - I don't see them being buried decently.

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While that skeleton hanging in the POTC may REPRESENT Rackham, it's most definitely not the real skeleton of Rackham. Rackham was hanged at Gallows Point in Port Royal on Nov. 18, 1720 and then gibbeted along with another crew member on Deadman's Cay which is near Gun Cay and just a bit away almost due south of Fort Charles. Four months later, pirate Charles Vane was also hanged [on Gallows Point again?] and then gibbeted on Gun Cay. So there they were, two former shipmates swingin' in the breeze within sight of each other.

Gibbeted pirates often remained gibbeted for several years. This means that their body was put into a metal gibbet cage and hung from a gibbet, NOT hanged to rot on a rope as depicted in POTC. In the case of Captain Kidd, I have read various accounts from 2 to 20 years. In 1722 in Port Royal there was a severe storm, and this was followed by a hurricane and two earthquakes in that same year. According to an article entitled "Two West Indian Amazons" [about Anne Bonny and Mary Read] on page 61 of the "ALL YEAR ROUND: A WEEKLY JOURNAL" in 1895, the gibbeted remains of Rackham were swept away by the hurricane in 1722. So, it might be possible his gibbet cage, or parts of it, may still be rusting away somewhere in the bay buried under centuries of sediment and encrustations. There is also archaeological evidence that shows that gibbeted criminals were also sometimes buried still in their gibbet cages. I'm guessing that Captain Kidd was probably buried in his gibbet cage somewhere near Tilbury Point or Tilbury Fort.

After being gibbeted --- if there was much left --- a pirate was often consigned to an unmarked grave somewhere, possibly still in his gibbet cage. I have read that the idea was to not grant the criminal a burial on consecrated holy church grounds, but was meant as a punishment for the criminal's eternal soul as well. I have read that this type of burial was feared back then due to the religious beliefs at this time.

Sir Henry Morgan was buried in a cemetery on Port Royal. When the earthquake struck in 1692, that portion of land was one of the parts of Port Royal that slumped into the sea. That area has been silted over during the centuries and I think is now under new dry land. So maybe his grave is still there but only much deeper and farther out from the original burial site.

By the way, Deadman's Cay was renamed and is now called Rackham's Cay. The earliest map I have seen "Rackham's Cay" is about 1736. Or was it 1756? I cannot exactly recall. I have also seen a very early map of Port Royal online that shows that Deadman's Cay may have been originally named "Gun Cay" before being called "Deadman's Cay". On that map there are TWO "Gun Cays" side by side. This also makes me think that they never changed the name of the "Gun Cay" where Vane was gibbeted. Did they rename the other "Gun Cay" to "Deadman's Cay" because so many executed criminals were gibbeted there? I don't know, but it makes me think so. Rackham's Cay is barely under water these days. Gun Cay is still above the water.

Having a bit of movie special effects knowledge and educational study from movie special effects artist Dick Smith, I can tell you that real skeletons have often been used in movies by special effects people. He used them in movies such as "Scanners" and "Ghost Story". Tom Savini used them in movies such as "Creepshow". When I was studying under Dick Smith in the late 1980s I could have ordered a real skeleton from the Carolina Biological laboratory supply company, but they were insanely expensive. I think maybe about $500 at the time. I believe many of the skeletons there were imported from India. Laws soon changed, and real skeletons are no longer being offered for sale, and maybe not even imported into the United States. That's not to say that the two skeletons hanging in the POTC are not real. They could be the high quality plastic ones now offered for sale by the scientific lab supply places. Or they could be real ones that Disney Studios have had and reused and redressed in movies for decades. It's difficult to say without talking to the movie prop master or crew involved with the production. Special effects people will even go to the trouble to sculpt human skeletons and various human bones out of clay and then mold and cast them in plaster or plastic or something.

I hope this long-winded post helps answer some questions.

-Tar Bucket Bill

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  Actually, real skeletons are not very durable.  They don't stand lots of handling and manipulation very well.  Plastic is a much better choice for prop use these days !! 

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Very true. I've worked with real human skulls at an archaeological site. Some portions of them were less durable than others.

I have a good quality medical school type plastic skeleton on a stand in the closet .... er ..... uh ..... rather in the basement that I have had for years. And it's still going strong. I drag it out for display during Halloween season.

The 4th quality Bucky skeletons that you can buy various places online are fairly good for a much less expensive alternative. But if you're going to do one up like those in POTC, then you won't be able to tell much quality difference at all. The Bucky skeletons are a staple skeleton for haunted house attractions and the like.

-Tar Bucket Bill

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