Kidd's Secret Stash
When Captain William Kidd was captured in Boston in 1699 and sent back to London to await his trial, it was rumored that he left behind a great treasure. Kidd was tried, found guilty, and hanged at Execution Dock the following year, but throughout the process he continued protesting his innocence, and declaring that if freed he would lead his captors to his treasure. Whether the treasure actually existed or not is anyone's guess, but people have been searching the rivers and shores of New England for Kidd's secret stash since the 1700s, and continue to do so to the present day. Benjamin Franklin even wrote about it in 1729, saying, “You can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side without observing several pits dug … there seems to be some peculiar charm in the conceit of finding money.”
You've Hit It!
One of the areas where Kidd supposedly buried his treasure was Clarke's Island, located in the Connecticut River in Northfield, Massachusetts. According to legend, Kidd and his men buried a chest full of gold on Clarke's Island, choosing the spot because it was secluded but distinctive enough to be easily found. Burying treasure wasn't all glamour, as one of Kidd's men would quickly discover. During the process they drew lots to see which of them would be sacrificed, then buried that man on top of the chest so he could guard the treasure for all eternity. The legend later grew to say that the treasure could only be dug up by three men, standing in a triangle formation around the spot, digging at midnight in absolute silence, under a full moon. A man named Abner Fields and two of his friends claimed to have tried it in the early 1800s, but when they struck the chest, a mysterious voice cried out, “You've hit it!” and the chest sank out of sight.
What is the Flying Dutchman?
Pirates were very superstitious. Some pirates claim to have seen the
In Palmer, Massachusetts in 1849, two boys claimed to have found a bottle wedged in a ledge of rocks. Upon opening the bottle, they discovered a letter that appeared to have been written by Captain Kidd to John Bailey, Esquire, claiming that Kidd was being held as a pirate and was waiting to be taken to England. Kidd asked Bailey to come to Boston, but if Bailey did not arrive before he left, he wanted to let him know that his treasure was buried on Conant's Island, in Boston Harbor, in two chests that contained gold, silver, jewels, and diamonds. He continued on to say that they were buried about 4 feet deep, with a flat stone placed on top of them, and a pile of stones nearby to mark the place, which was about 60 rods up the side of the hill.
The letter, as it turned out, did appear to have been written around 1700, as the seal on the bottle appeared to have been that old, and the information contained in the letter as well as the style of the writing all pointed to it being an actual Kidd letter. Unfortunately, the area of Conant's Island 60 rods up the side of the hill had been washed into the sea during the 150 years between the writing of the letter and its discovery, so it seemed likely that the sea had claimed the treasure. In a dispute over ownership of the letter, however, the father of one of the boys who found it admitted that he had written it, and that everything was a hoax. What has been confirmed is that Kidd did bury a small amount of treasure on Gardiner's Island just off of Long Island in New York. That treasure was dug up almost immediately after his arrest and was sent to England with Kidd to be used as evidence in his trial.
New Jersey also boasts several areas that claim to be the site of Kidd's buried treasure. The first is Cape May, which had abundant fresh water and was a popular pit stop for pirates. A second possible site is at the mouth of the Toms River, where pirates often hunkered down to avoid the open ocean during storms. Yet another popular choice is Sandy Hook, where Kidd is known to have anchored his ship during his final voyage. The most likely New Jersey burial site is near what was ironically called Money Island, located off the coast of Cliffwood Beach. Money Island has since eroded and disappeared, but a few gold coins were found there, and a few more found at nearby Treasure Lake. Although many have dug at all these places, no treasure has been discovered.
Whether there was even any treasure to be found is a matter of debate. Kidd was not a particularly successful pirate, and many of his men had left him in Madagascar in 1699, possibly taking more than their share of loot with them. At one point, in an effort to find Kidd's alleged treasure, the governor of New York had Kidd's New York City home searched. The family silverware was taken but nothing else was found, and the silver was returned to Mrs. Kidd after she complained.
The peculiar charm of finding money that Benjamin Franklin noted over 300 years ago endures to the present day. On any given day, it's not unusual to find individuals with metal detectors scouring the shores of rivers and islands throughout New England looking for the treasure of Captain Kidd.
The Adventure Galley
In the year 2000, an expedition to Madagascar led by Barry Clifford, who had found Black Bellamy's