Execution Rocks Light

The Light With a Dark Legend

Many of the lighthouses that surround Long Island have interesting legends and histories that come with their existence. Most are associated with terrible shipwrecks and turbulent waters and all have the underlying purpose of providing safe navigation and passage for various types of vessels. Some of the legends that surround a few of these lighthouses are more nefarious than others. Execution Rocks Light is one of those beacons linked to dark and disturbing lore.

It has withstood many storms and at least two fires according to research. What makes this lighthouse especially interesting are the many legends that surround how the name was given to this historical beacon.

By Original uploader was Skapur at en.wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., Public Domain,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2084792

One of the popular and less villainous stories is that the lighthouse derived its name from the many deaths of resisting Captains whose vessels found their fate upon the rocks. But this dangerous rocky island has a much more sinister legend tied to its existence.

Keep in mind that these legends have never been proven and very few facts can be found to substantiate the claims throughout history, but this hasn’t stopped the stories, or variations of them from being told as though they were true. The television series Ghost Adventures even made it to the lighthouse during an episode.

It has been rumored that the Execution Rocks Light or otherwise known as Executioner’s Rock, obtained its name based on the practices of British soldiers just prior to the Revolutionary War. The story says that the British occupying Long Island during this time would take colonial prisoners or dissidents and bring them to the island. According to legend, they didn’t want to perform public executions in fear of colonial uprising, so they would chain the offender of the Crown to rings built into the rocks on the island at low tide. As the tide came in they would seek confesssions or simply allow the prisoner to drown. An alternative ending to this legend is that the prisoners would be chained to the rocks and become prey for sharks in the area waters.

An article from the New York Times, dating June 18th, 1893 speaks of a legend that is similar, but with a well known name to both historians and mariners from the Long Island area. It is amusing to think that this story was considered a legend even back then.

By NOAA Historical Collection. – NOAA Photo Library: line4046, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17915799

The article referenced the infamous Captain Kidd and how he came to deal with some resentful crew members while sailing up the Long Island Sound sometime in the 1600’s. While the author of the article remains unknown to me, a quote which stood out as I read the original publication paints a grim and undesirable picture of Executioner’s Rock. “…Kidd took summary vengeance upon some of his crew and ornamented the pile of stones with dangling corpses of dissatisfied shipmates.”

Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

It is a desolate island, and a very lonely place for even the smallest of sea creatures, perhaps that fact alone helped perpetuate the many legends that surround Execution Rocks Light.

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