Captain Kidd's New York
By Tom Seligson
Every country has both its history, and its legends. The haunted houses of America, the lost millions of Zimbabwe, and the notorious monster of the Scottish Lochs. Part of the excitement of travel is visiting the sites that give rise to legends, the places that evoke mysteries still unsolved. Only by actually going to where legends were born can we try to distinguish fact from fiction, reality from myth.
To inspire our readers on their own such quests, FarewellTravels is introducing a new department. “In Search Of” will take you to the scenes of controversial crimes, have you tag along with professional treasure hunters, and brave the homes of famous ghosts. Your guide on this adventure is Tom Seligson, the Executive Editor of FarewellTravels, and a treasurer hunter is his own right. In fact, his novel, Kidd, about the legendary pirate, was bought by Disney as a source for the National Treasure franchise.
Accordingly, our first search is in pursuit of the real Captain Kidd.
The Myth: You probably know him as a villainous pirate, a man said to inspire fear in sea captains from Maine to Madagascar. He is thought to have buried a king’s ransom in treasure, inspiring the Robert Lewis Steven classic Treasure Island, and sending generations of treasure hunters searching in locations from New York to Nova Scotia.
The Reality: In the late 17th century, William Kidd was a respected New Yorker, a merchant seaman and parishioner of Trinity Church.He was actually hired to go after pirates by a group of English Lords, who planned to split whatever spoils he came home with. When his secret mission was uncovered, his backers distanced themselves by accusing the hapless Kidd as a pirate. Determined to clear his name, Kidd sailed back to New York. Tricked into giving himself up, he was arrested, shipped off to England, where he was tried and hanged.
What’s There to See: Kidd buried some of his treasure on Gardiner’s Island, a private family-owned island in Long Island Sound, not far from Easthampton. The treasure was dug up shortly after Kidd’s arrest; a part of it, a gold cloth, remains on display in the Easthampton Library. The island itself is off-limits to visitors. But it is clearly visible from Easthampton, as well as by boat. Kidd’s home in New York City was, appropriately enough, on Wall Street, where many of today’s treasure hunters spend their days. His house has been gone for years. But its location, on the corner of Pearl Street and Hanover Square is within walking distance of another important fixture in Kidd’s life: Trinity Church, which is still there, at the end of Wall Street.
But, of course, the most important destination people interested in Kidd would love to visit is the secret location he is thought to have buried the rest of his treasure. From Penobscot Bay in Maine, to the Thimble Islands in Connecticut, treasure hunters have been searching for the last 400 hundred years. Its final resting place may in fact be someplace you can get to with ease. Millions of visitors to New York go there every year. According to this theory, Kidd’s treasure is buried right beneath the Statue of Liberty. Go out there and look for yourself. Happy hunting.