Owens’s exploits might have been lost to the mists of time if not
for an undergraduate student named Jane Browning, who stumbled on the
story in a cafe in Gloucester County, Virginia, and tracked down the
man behind the legend. You can read more about Owens in his Wikipedia entry and on Ms. Browning’s blog, The Last American Pirate. On YouTube, you can watch Ms. Browning visit the site of Owens’s house and interview a couple of historians about his historical status.
It’s a good story. None of it is true.
Edward Owens and Jane Browning are fictions, unleashed on an
unsuspecting world by students taking an upper-level history course at
George Mason University. Will they get in trouble with their professor
now that the hoax has been unveiled? No. It was his idea.
T. Mills Kelly, an associate professor of history at George Mason
and an associate director of the university’s Center for History and
New Media, thought up the course, “Lying About the Past,” as a novel
way to teach history, not to subvert it. — Jennifer Howard, Chronicle