execution of Captain Kidd - Atlas Obscura

 The body of William Kidd was purportedly gibbeted for three years after his death, as a warning to others (source)

On May 23, 1701 at the Execution Dock at Wapping in London, a noose was placed around the neck of a drunken pirate, condemned to death for his wayward ways. The trapdoor snapped open, and the man dropped… all the way to the ground, with the rope snapped round his neck. Embarrassed, they hoisted him a second time and this time the rope held, and the notorious scourge of the seas, Captain William Kidd, was dead.

Captain William Kidd - Atlas ObscuraWilliam Kidd, painted by by Sir James Thornhill (source)

But before he died, before he was captured, the Scottish pirate Captain Kidd did what all smart pirates did: he buried his treasure. It is well documented that before being lured in and taken into custody in Boston in 1699, he buried treasure on Gardiners Island that was dug up to be used as evidence against him in his trial the following year. Theories abound regarding other places Kidd might have secreted valuables, from remote Japanese islands to other New England islets. 

Pirate Treasure - Atlas ObscuraPirate treasure, as illustrated by Howard Pyle (source)

One of those New England islets was Charles Island, now a wildlife sanctuary, home to Connecticut’s largest nesting population of egrets and herons. According to local legend, it was here that Kidd stashed his secret booty, the treasure he hoped to come back for. To protect his stash, the pirate put a curse on the valuables, and on anyone who might discover them.

Charles Island - Atlas ObscuraCharles Island (source)

The island Kidd purportedly chose was actually already cursed. Known by the name “The Thrice Cursed Island”, the diminutive Charles Island supposedly holds more than its fair share of bad juju. Originally cursed by the Paugusset chieftain who traded it away to European settlers, then again by Kidd to protect its treasure, it supposedly was cursed a third time when an unlucky local treasure hunter buried a different stash of cursed Aztec goods, transferring the bad luck to the island.

To this day, no one has dug up the pirate treasure — or the other cursed booty — at Charles Island, but we’d like to think that only means it is still waiting.


CHARLES ISLAND, Silver Sands State Park, Connecticut