Some pirates were superstitious about plundering churches, but others did so eagerly, knowing that a lot of treasure might be hidden there for safe keeping. Captain Firedrake and his henchmen were the latter sort. The captain was born while his father was at sea, and named Humble Williams by his pious mother. He always hated the name, since he was anything but humble. On the contrary, he was charismatic, and a natural leader of men. He joined the privateering vessel Sparta, and rose to be its captain after the previous captain, the near-sighted fourth son of a minor English nobleman, had an unexplained accident at sea. From then on, he told his men to call him by his new more fearsome name.
The ship followed along on Sir Francis Drake’s expedition to pillage Hispaniola in 1586, and took part in the sacking of Santo Domingo. Firedrake and his six most trusted henchmen claimed the city’s second largest church as their own. They tortured the priest, razed the structure, and made off with a fortune in hidden gold, along with the emerald-studded chalices, candlesticks, and other ornamentation of the altars. From those sacred pieces, they unceremoniously plucked the jewels and melted the gold into ingots.
Departing from the city, the Sparta became separated from Drake’s fleet, and was becalmed about 50 miles offshore. The rest of the crew knew of Firedrake’s exploits, and were uneasy. After four days of drifting, one crewman timidly suggested that the sacred treasure be tossed overboard as a sign of penance. Firedrake had the crewman tossed overboard instead.
Soon after that, the winds began to blow again, but not just a little. A roaring storm approached from the east. Firedrake ordered a run for cover, but after a few hours they were just fighting to stay afloat. They came within sight of shore, and the crew had hopes of getting off the ship. But then lightening struck the ship, igniting powder in the magazine. The Sparta nearly broke in two, and the flames from its broken timbers were extinguished as it slid beneath the waves. The ship and its treasure came to rest in the sand under 100 feet of water. Only three men survived. Each took to his grave the location of the wreck, believing the treasure to be cursed.