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The pirate who lived to tell the tale of his execution.

In 1684, Andrew Ranson was found guilty of leading a band of pirates on a planned attack on St. Augustine and sentenced to death by garrote. But when the executioner was applying the final twists to the rope around Ranson's neck to choke him to death, the rope broke and the prisoner fell to the ground. The town's friar rushed to the gallows and discovered the pirate was still alive.

The friars believed that Ranson's near-death experience was a miracle and refused the governor's demand to execute Ranson on grounds of ecclesiastical immunity. Instead, Ranson was transferred from the convent to the Castillo de San Marcos, where he helped in its construction. And when the English from South Carolina captured St. Augustine and laid siege to the Castillo, Ranson helped the Spanish repel the attack and was instrumental as an interpreter during the interrogation of captured English soldiers. When the siege was lifted, so was Ranson's prisoner status.

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Did you know?

  • The Jolly Roger was a black flag flown to identify the vessel as a pirate ship. While the skull and crossbones is the most common of these flags, many great pirate captains designed custom symbols to identify exactly who is attacking.

  • "Shiver me timbers" is an expression of excitement or awe. Its origin has to do with sailing in heavy seas, when the ship is lifted up and pounded down so hard that the timbers are said to shiver.

  • Although pirates have been around since the Romans and Vikings, most pirating happened during the Golden Age of Piracy between 1680 and 1730.

  • Pirates believed that whistling on a ship would cause the weather to turn stormy. Consider the phrase 'to whistle up a storm.'

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