If you have ever heard of the Ghost Fleet of the Outer Banks, then you have already caught a glimpse into the Outer Banks’ checkered past. The treacherous Outer Banks waters have sent many ships to a watery grave. The lighthouses were erected to solve this problem. And though they were largely effective, they failed to take into account one fact; many of the shipwreck survivors were pirates.
Some of the pirates, no longer having access to a ship, found a new way to continue their pirating ways. Using the existence of a light house to their advantage, these land pirates would tie a lantern around the neck of the nag (a horse of low quality, or sometimes a mule) and walk him along the beach pretending he was a lighthouse.
The unsuspecting ship would see the light at sea and head toward it thinking it was going into a safe harbor. Once the ship either wrecked or beached, these land pirates would fall upon the ship and take everything inside.
Though this happened frequently everywhere on the Outer Banks, the area where it happened most often came to be known as Nags Head