America's Greatest Mystery Was Solved and True Crime Fans Are Seriously Disappointed

Hold onto your 7th-grade history hats, folks, because one of America's longest-standing mysteries has been solved... and we're not sure how we feel about it. Experts now claim to know exactly what happened to the settlers at Roanoke, and the answer was right in front of us the whole time.

To refresh your memory, Roanoke Island was the destination of some English settlers in the late 1500s. But being on an island, and fending for themselves, the settlers eventually began to run out of supplies. A group of colonists left the group to gather supplies but didn't return for a few years because of weather conditions, war and other inevitable obstacles. When they returned, the settlers who they had left behind were gone without a trace. All that was left was a creepy, unexplained word carved into a tree that, until now, didn't seem to have a clear meaning.

Roanoke
Illustration depicts John White (c1540 - c1593) and others as they find a tree into which is carved the word 'Croatoan,' Roanoke Island, North Carolina, 1590. Three years previously, White had left a group of colonists on the island and returned to England for supplies, intending to return in a matter of months, but a variety of circumstances (not the least of which was Britain's war with Spain) prevented his immediate return. When he was able to get back to the colony, it had been abandoned with only the word on the tree as a clue. Getty/Stock Montage/Getty Images

Theories on what could have happened to the people of Roanoke range from being captured by local Native Americans to being abducted by aliens. But it's a whole lot easier to explain than that, and in reality, not a mystery at all.

A book published in June, The Lost Colony and Hatteras Island by Scott Dawson, outlines 11 years of research by historians of the Croatoan Archaeological Society that seems to point to a very simple explanation: the people of Roanoke moved in with the neighboring Native Americans. They transferred their colony to live with the Croatoan tribe when supplies ran short.

And that word, Croatoan, may sound familiar: it's literally what they carved on the tree before they left Roanoke.

Yep, the settlers left a nice little spoiler for their fellow settlers to let them know exactly where they were. It's the historical equivalent of leaving a note on the fridge. And it's left us all wondering how Roanoke has been advertised as such a mystery for so long with an obvious explanation.

According to the book, the people of Roanoke assimilated naturally with the Croatoan people, and they lived in harmony for generations to come. It's a beautiful answer to a mystery that has long been fueled with a somewhat racist other theory—that the Croatoan people slaughtered the white settlers.

It is, of course, admittedly an anticlimactic conclusion to one of the earliest mysteries taught in American schools, one that ignited a passion for research, wonder and the unknown for countless young minds.

So what is there to take from the conclusion to the Roanoke legend, the future void of late-night Wikipedia binges that fuel even wilder theories? It seems the best send-off to the story older than America itself is to thank it for igniting that passion. Roanoke is a name not forgotten by many, even if the details blurred over time.

With the case of Roanoke cracked—no thanks to any of us armchair detectives this time, now is the house to obsess over the next mystery and embrace new curiosities as they come. So...who wants to talk about D. B. Cooper?