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Kidd's Treasure


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Captain Kidd is the most ubiquitous gentleman in history. If his earnings
in the gentle craft of piracy were frugally husbanded, he has possibly
left some pots of money in holes in the ground between Key West and
Halifax. The belief that large deposits of gold were made at Gardiner's
Island, Dunderberg, Cro' Nest, New York City, Coney Island, Ipswich, the
marshes back of Boston, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Isles of Shoals, Money
Island, Ocean Beach, the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, and elsewhere has
caused reckless expenditure of actual wealth in recovering doubloons and
guineas that disappointed backers of these enterprises are beginning to
look upon--no, not to look upon, but to think about--as visionary. A hope
of getting something for nothing has been the impetus to these
industries, and interest in the subject is now and then revived by
reports of the discovery--usually by a farmer ploughing near the
shore--of an iron kettle with a handful of gold and silver coins in it,
the same having doubtless been buried for purposes of concealment during
the wars of 1776 and 1812.

Gardiner's Island, a famous rendezvous for pirates, is the only place
known to have been used as a bank of deposit, for in 1699 the Earl of
Bellomont recovered from it seven hundred and eighty-three ounces of
gold, six hundred and thirty-three ounces of silver, cloth of gold,
silks, satins, and jewels. In the old Gardiner mansion, on this island,
was formerly preserved a costly shawl given to Mrs. Gardiner by Captain
Kidd himself. This illustrious Kidd--or Kydd--was born in New York, began
his naval career as a chaser of pirates, became a robber himself, was
captured in Boston, where he was ruffling boldly about the streets, and
was hanged in London in 1701. In sea superstitions the apparition of his
ship is sometimes confused with that of the Flying Dutchman.

At Lion's Rock, near Lyme, Connecticut, a part of his treasure is under
guard of a demon that springs upon intruders unless they recite Scripture
while digging for the money.

Charles Island, near Milford, Connecticut, was dug into, one night, by a
company from that town that had learned of Kidd's visit to it--and what
could Kidd be doing ashore unless he was burying money? The lid of an
iron chest had been uncovered when the figure of a headless man came
bounding out of the air, and the work was discontinued right then. The
figure leaped into the pit that had been dug, and blue flames poured out
of it. When the diggers returned, their spades and picks were gone and
the ground was smooth.

Monhegan Island, off the Maine coast, contains a cave, opening to the
sea, where it was whispered that treasure had been stored in care of
spirits. Searchers found within it a heavy chest, which they were about
to lift when one of the party--contrary to orders--spoke. The spell was
broken, for the watchful spirits heard and snatched away the treasure.
Some years ago the cave was enlarged by blasting, in a hope of finding
that chest, for an old saying has been handed down among the people of
the island--from whom it came they have forgotten--that was to this
effect: Dig six feet and you will find iron; dig six more and you will
find money.

On Damariscotta Island, near Kennebec, Maine, is a lake of salt water,
which, like dozens of shallow ones in this country, is locally reputed to
be bottomless. Yet Kidd was believed to have sunk some of his valuables
there, and to have guarded against the entrance of boats by means of a
chain hung from rock to rock at the narrow entrance, bolts on either side
showing the points of attachment, while ring bolts were thought to have
been driven for the purpose of tying buoys, thus marking the spots where
the chests went down. This island, too, has been held in fear as haunted

Appledore, in the Isles of Shoals, was another such a hiding-place, and
Kidd put one of his crew to death that he might haunt the place and
frighten searchers from their quest. For years no fisherman could be
induced to land there after nightfall, for did not an islander once
encounter Old Bab on his rounds, with a red ring around his neck, a
frock hanging about him, phosphorescence gleaming from his body, who
peered at the intruder with a white and dreadful face, and nearly scared
him to death?

A spot near the Piscataqua River was another hiding-place, and early in
this century the ground was dug over, two of the seekers plying pick and
spade, while another stood within the circle they had drawn about the
spot and loudly read the Bible. Presently their implements clicked on an
iron chest, but it slid sideway into the ground as they tried to uncover
it, and at last an interruption occurred that caused them to stop work so
long that when they went to look for it again it had entirely
disappeared. This diversion was the appearance of a monster horse that
flew toward them from a distance without a sound, but stopped short at
the circle where the process of banning fiends was still going on, and,
after grazing and walking around them for a time, it dissolved into air.

Kidd's plug is a part of the craggy steep known as Cro' Nest, on the
Hudson. It is a projecting knob, like a bung closing an orifice, which is
believed to conceal a cavern where the redoubtable captain placed a few
barrels of his wealth. Though it is two hundred feet up the cliff,
inaccessible either from above or below, and weighs many tons, still, as
pirates and devils have always been friendly, it may be that the corking
of the cave was accomplished with supernatural help, and that if blasts
or prayers ever shake the stone from its place a shower of doubloons and
diamonds may come rattling after it.

The shore for several hundred feet around Dighton Rock, Massachusetts,
has been examined, for it was once believed that the inscriptions on it
were cut by Kidd to mark the place of burial for part of his hoard.

The Rock Hill estate, Medford, Massachusetts, was plagued by a spectre
that some thought to be that of a New Hampshire farmer who was robbed and
murdered there, but others say it is the shade of Kidd, for iron treasure
chests were found in the cellar that behaved like that on the Piscataqua
River, sinking out of sight whenever they were touched by shovels.

Misery Islands, near Salem, Massachusetts, were dug over, and under
spiritual guidance, too, for other instalments of Mr. Kidd's
acquisitions, but without avail.

It takes no less than half a dozen ghosts to guard what is hidden in
Money Hill, on Shark River, New Jersey, so there must be a good deal of
it. Some of these guardians are in sailor togs, some in their mouldy
bones, some peaceable, some noisy with threats and screams and groans--a
rum lot, as an ancient mariner remarked, who lives near their graves
and daytime hiding-places. Many heirlooms are owned by Jerseymen
hereabout that were received from Kidd's sailors in exchange for
apple-jack and provisions, and two sailor-looking men are alleged to have
taken a strong-box out of Money Hill some years ago, from which they
abstracted two bags of gold. After that event the hill was dug over with
great earnestness, but without other result to the prospectors than the
cultivation of their patience.

Sandy Hook, New Jersey, near Kidd's tree, and the clay banks of the
Atlantic highlands back of that point, are suspected hiding-places; but
the cairn or knoll called Old Woman's Hill, at the highlands, is not
haunted by Kidd's men, as used to be said, but by the spirit of a
discontented squaw. This spirit the Indians themselves drove away with

At Oyster Point, Maryland, lived Paddy Dabney, who recognized Kidd from
an old portrait on meeting him one evening in 1836. He was going home
late from the tavern when a light in a pine thicket caused him to turn
from the road. In a clearing among the trees, pervaded by a pale shine
which seemed to emanate from its occupants, a strange company was playing
at bowls. A fierce-looking reprobate who was superintending the game
glanced up, and, seeing Paddy's pale face, gave such a leap in his
direction that the Irishman fled with a howl of terror and never stopped
till he reached his door, when, on turning about, he found that the
phantom of the pirate chief had vanished. The others, he conceived, were
devils, for many a sea rover had sold himself to Satan. Captain Teach, or
Blackbeard, proved as much to his crew by shutting himself in the hold of
his ship, where he was burning sulphur to destroy rats, and withstanding
suffocation for several hours; while one day a dark man appeared on board
who was not one of the crew at the sailing, and who had gone as
mysteriously as he came on the day before the ship was wrecked. It was
known that Kidd had buried his Bible in order to ingratiate the evil one.

A flat rock on the north shore of Liberty Island, in New York harbor, was
also thought to mark the place of this pervasive wealth of the pirates.
As late as 1830, Sergeant Gibbs, one of the garrison at the island, tried
to unearth it, with the aid of a fortune-teller and a recruit, but they
had no sooner reached a box about four feet in length than a being with
wings, horns, tail, and a breath, the latter palpable in blue flames,
burst from the coffer. Gibbs fell unconscious into the water and narrowly
escaped drowning, while his companions ran away, and the treasure may
still be there for aught we know.

Back in the days before the Revolution, a negro called Mud Sam, who lived
in a cabin at the Battery, New York City, was benighted at about the
place where One Hundredth Street now touches East River while waiting
there for the tide to take him up the Sound. He beguiled the time by a
nap, and, on waking, he started to leave his sleeping place under the
trees to regain his boat, when the gleam of a lantern and the sound of
voices coming up the bank caused him to shrink back into the shadow. At
first he thought that he might be dreaming, for Hell Gate was a place of
such repute that one might readily have bad dreams there, and the legends
of the spot passed quickly through his mind: the skeletons that lived in
the wreck on Hen and Chickens and looked out at passing ships with blue
lights in the eye-sockets of their skulls; the brown fellow, known as
the pirate's spuke, that used to cruise up and down the wrathful
torrent, and was snuffed out of sight for some hours by old Peter
Stuyvesant with a silver bullet; a black-looking scoundrel with a split
lip, who used to brattle about the tavern at Corlaer's Hook, and who
tumbled into East River while trying to lug an iron chest aboard of a
suspicious craft that had stolen in to shore in a fog. This latter bogy
was often seen riding up Hell Gate a-straddle of that very chest,
snapping his fingers at the stars and roaring Bacchanalian odes, just as
skipper Onderdonk's boatswain, who had been buried at sea without
prayers, chased the ship for days, sitting on the waves, with his shroud
for a sail, and shoving hills of water after the vessel with the plash of
his hands.

These grewsome memories sent a quake through Mud Sam's heart, but when
the bushes cracked under the strangers' tread, he knew that they were of
flesh and bone, and, following them for a quarter-mile into the wood, he
saw them dig a hole, plant a strong-box there, and cover it. A
threatening remark from one of the company forced an exclamation from the
negro that drew a pistol-shot upon him, and he took to his heels. Such a
fright did he receive that he could not for several years be persuaded to
return, but when that persuasion came in the form of a promise of wealth
from Wolfert Webber, a cabbage-grower of the town, and promises of
protection from Dr. Knipperhausen, who was skilled in incantations, he
was not proof against it, and guided the seekers to the spot.

After the doctor had performed the proper ceremonies they fell to work,
but no sooner had their spades touched the lid of an iron-bound chest
than a sturdy rogue with a red flannel cap leaped out of the bushes. They
said afterward that he had the face of the brawler who was drowned at
Corlaer's Hook, but, in truth, they hardly looked at him in their flight;
nor, when the place was revisited, could any mark of digging be found,
nor any trace of treasure, so that part of Kidd's wealth may be at this
moment snugly stowed in the cellar of a tenement. Webber had engaged in
so many crazy enterprises of this nature that he had neglected cabbage
culture, and had grown so poor that the last disappointment nearly broke
his heart. He retired to his chamber and made his will, but on learning
that a new street had been run across his farm and that it would
presently be worth ten times as much for building-lots as it ever had
been for cabbages, he leaped out of bed, dressed himself, and prospered
for many a day after.

Next: Other Buried Wealth

Previous: The Prisoner In American Shaft

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