One of the most distinctive features of the Connecticut shoreline is 14-acre Charles Island (a.k.a. Thrice Cursed Island), just off the coast of Milford at Silver Sands State Park. It is connected to the mainland by a sandbar, which during low tide emerges from the briny muck of the Sound to provide a shining causeway that allows visitors to reach the island.
According to local history, notorious pirate Captain William Kidd visited Milford during his final voyage in 1699, a stop along the way to Boston (where he would be subsequently arrested and imprisoned before being returned to England for trial and execution). Although he actually buried treasure at Gardiners Island just off of Long Island, it’s always been believed that he also hid a portion of his fortune on Charles Island, possibly beneath a giant boulder known as Hog Rock. And of course, being a good pirate, he cursed anyone who would go looking for his treasure.
As it turns out, Capt. Kidd isn’t the only one who cursed the tiny island — the Paugussett tribe believed the island was a sacred home to the spirits, and after they lost it to European settlers, cursed any structure that was erected on the island and anyone who tried to live there. Another story says the island is thrice cursed as a group of 18th-century sailors also tried to bury their ill-gotten booty on the island, meeting a bad end and damning anyone coming after them.
Not surprisingly, all the cursing has not deterred treasure-seekers over the centuries from trying to find the lost pirate gold. No one has yet to uncover a single doubloon or piece of eight, but it hasn’t been from a lack of effort. And, as with any unusual parcel of land surrounded with pirate and Native American myths, there are those who believe that Charles Island also may be haunted — some have alleged to have seen glowing ghosts and phantom figures among the trees. Others have heard disembodied voices and other unexplained noises.
In the centuries after the Native Americans and pirates, the island has been used for a resort, a home to fish fertilizer manufacturing and a religious retreat. Today, the island is part of Silver Sands State Park and open to the public. It has, however, been deemed a nature preserve and a large part of it is off limits so as not to disturb the nesting and mating of various endangered species of bird.
Our Damned Experience: Growing up in Milford, I spent many a summer day at Silver Sands, and made the walk out to Charles Island on multiple occasions. I never came across any treasure or ghosts in all my visits; really the most interesting experience I had there involved my cousin Jim and two girls from Watertown we met . . . ahem.
If You Go: As it is part of Silver Sands State Park, anyone can visit Charles Island, but leave the pick axe at home and bring your camera. If you’re looking for treasure, you’ll most likely find it in the form of natural beauty — herons, egrets and piping plover are among the avian gems you may spot, and Charles Island itself is none too shabby. Or you can bring your fishing pole, as bluefish and snapper are often caught from the sandbar during the summer months. (I’ve snagged a blue or two myself here.)
As far as supernatural treasures — nothing definitive has been unearthed to the best of my knowledge.
One final note: They call it a “sandbar” but it’s a really “rockbar” — smart explorers wear foot protection, and also keep an eye on the time so as to avoid not being stranded when the high tide comes back in, as well as the dangerous riptides. No need to add to the legend with a lost visitor or two.
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