Thursday, October 3, 2013

New York Ghost Stories: Captain Kidd

New York Ghost Stories: Captain Kidd
The ghost of Captain William Kidd has been seen at three places downtown – Trinity Church, at the corner of Broad and Wall (in front of Federal Hall and across from the New York Stock Exchange) and at Battery Park.

He was born in Scotland but settled in New York in 1691 on Hanover Square – close to the Harbor and River. Kidd was a privateer, which was another way of saying that he was licensed by the English Crown to attack enemy ships during wartime and share any loot with the Crown and the crew. While living in NY he contributed his services to the building of the original Trinity Churchyard by providing a winch to lift the stones to build the church steeple.

Captain Kidd is one angry ghost, betrayed by his crew and friends in the English and colonial governments. They made him a scapegoat for piracy when he was hanged in 1701 in London. The government charged that he was supposed to be a catcher of pirates. However, Kidd was not permitted to defend himself.

Rumors, legends, myths and tales swept both sides of the Atlantic Ocean that Captain Kidd buried a fabulous horde of treasure on an island before facing trial. Such treasure as Kidd did have— 24 chests full of it— was all brought ashore on Gardiner’s Island, off eastern Long Island, carefully inventoried and, with the permission of John Gardiner, feudal lord of the island, buried in a swamp there. Gardiner’s itemized receipt to Kidd, dated July 17, 1699, listed precisely 1,371.625 ounces (85.73 pounds) of gold, silver and precious stones that was reclaimed by the Massachusetts colonial government.

In 1825, two U.S. Army soldiers, Sergeant Gibbs and Private Woods, thought life had dealt them a winning hand. They were assigned to Fort Wood on Bedloe’s Island (later renamed Liberty Island in honor of the Statue of Liberty). They spent their spare time at night hunting for buried treasure. When they opened a heavy metal box, Captain Kidd’s spirit emerged. They fainted. When they regained consciousness, all they had was an empty box.

Now and then Captain Kidd, walks off his anger on the grounds of Trinity Church, the one place that did not the one place that did not betray him and where he wished that he had been buried.

For more New York Ghost Stories, join a Wall Street Walks downtown ghost tour!