Steve Walker (Dean Jones) arrives in the seacoast town of Godolphin, North Carolina, to take the position of track coach at the local college. The night of his arrival coincides with a charity bazaar at Blackbeard's Inn, a hotel run by the elderly female descendants of the pirate's crew, where Steve will be boarding. The owners are attempting to pay off their mortgage in order to keep the inn from being bought by the local crime boss, Silky Seymour (Joby Baker), who wants to build a casino on the land. In quick succession, Steve discovers his track team's shortcomings, runs afoul of the dean of Godolphin College, its football coach, and Silky; but he also makes the acquaintance of an attractive Godolphin professor, Jo Anne Baker (Suzanne Pleshette), who is anxious to help the elderly ladies save the Inn. A bidding war with the football coach at the charity auction nets Steve an antique bed warmer, once owned by Blackbeard's wife (who is the spitting image of Jo Anne, and was a witch). Inside this bed warmer is hidden a book of magic spells, that had once been the property of Blackbeard's wife. Steve recites one as a lark, unintentionally conjuring up the ghost of Blackbeard (Peter Ustinov), who appears as a socially-inappropriate drunkard whose wife cursed him to an existence in limbo unless he can perform a good deed.
They are bound to one another by the power of the spell and only the very reluctant Steve can see or hear the ghost. As a result, Steve must deal with the antics of the wayward pirate, while attempting to revive Godolphin's track team; and form a relationship with Jo Anne. Things are complicated when the pirate steals one of the Inn's mortgage payments and bets it on Steve's track team. Blackbeard's intention is to use his ghostly powers to help Godolphin win the Broxton Relay track meet, and thereby pay the mortgage in full. Though Steve (who is an overly scrupulously honest man) is at first outraged over the pirate's interference during the meet, he eventually decides the greater good is to win the money for the sake of the Inn, and help the old ladies whom he also has grown fond of. He also accepts the pirate's help in shaking down Silky and his thugs, after he refuses to pay out the winnings from the bet. Finally, with the mortgage paid, Blackbeard has performed his good deed and is released from the curse. He departs to join his ghostly crew, leaving Steve and Jo Anne to pursue their future happily together.
The movie was first released in 1968 which was the 250th Anniversary year of the death in 1718 of the real-life Blackbeard the Pirate (born Edward Teach).
Peter Ustinov portrayed the character of the pirate Blackbeard as a rolly and rompous person and much different to the way the personage was characterized in the movie's source novel by Ben Stahl.
In the film, track coach, Steve Walker discovers the book of magic spells whereas in the film's source Ben Stahl novel of the same title, the edition is found by two teenage boys.
The film was made and released about three years after its source novel of the same name by Ben Stahl had been first published in 1965.
This was Hank Jones' favorite movie. He showed up faithfully for work each morning at the corner of Goofy Lane and Dopey Drive to film memorable scenes from that movie.
Walt Disney, who personally produced the film, would get angry if anyone called him "Mr. Disney:" it was always, "Uncle Walt."
Walt Disney himself cast Hank Jones in the movie but it was to be Walt's last film. Sadly, he died during the first days of shooting in 1966.
When filming the scene where Hank Jones was flying on "the Mary Poppins wires" high above the Disney soundstage, the wires broke and Hank fell right on top of poor Peter Ustinov, bleeding all over his expensive pirate costume
Wires are visible when Blackbeard helps the Godolphin pole-vaulter and when he takes the bottle of rum from the motorcycle cop.
The flag flying on Blackbeard's pirate ship at the end is completely inaccurate. Blackbeard flew his own flag which depicted a man stabbing a heart with an arrow. The one used in the film was the flag flown by Richard Worley, another infamous pirate.
A properly functioning Colt automatic pistol does not fire if it is dropped, or if it is incorrectly gripped, yet it does during the run-in with the motorcycle officer.
When Blackbeard takes a bottle of rum from the bar, Miss Stowecroft can't see him but she should see the bottle floating in the air.