Charles Island, Milford

November, 2008 by Ray Bendici

The Damned Story: If there's a kid (or Kidd) out there who hasn't dreamed of finding buried treasure, we have yet to meet them.

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.

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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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Submitted by Dave (not verified) on

Upon investigation into this one this history of it is much more interesting. The spirits or things that are believed to haunt the island are more based off a historical settlement. Again as stated before it was because of an indian chief who was laid to rest on the island, along with many lives taken in defense of it. It used to be one of those hallowed grounds, and supposedly a house was attempted to be built on the land, and thats where things get weird. Apparently when a settler first tried to build on the land in the 1700's, he tried to break ground. He struggled in doing so because of the foundation of the island itself, but also cause of the so called curse.

Housing has failed miserably to be build on the land, and those said to dig on the land will not live a pleasant life short after.. The "white man" who first tried to build on the land was bruttaly murdered, and butchered. I would not suggest disturbing any part of the island at all.

I had the pleasure of spending a decent amount of time on Charles Island, and truth be told, yeah it really isnt that bad. But when the sun goes down it gets a little more eerie, and understandable why it might be haunted. Tides are key, but I had taken a Jet Ski out to the island with a bunch of friends from. So we were able to leave at our will. But we didnt stay too late just because the dock was a bit away from us. We scaped the land out and theres some weird rock formations but other than that nothing to special, your mind tends to play tricks on you but regardless it was a eerie expierence, I intend on going back.

Submitted by Christopher Hob... (not verified) on

My family comes from Milford. The Augurs had a little house which is today still there but overshadowed by the Highway. We used to go there every year on what they called Decoration Day and put flowers on the gravesites. My grandparents Don and Catherine Augur are buried there side by side. My Aunt Marcia was married to Al Mallett (sorry if I spelled that wrong) who was in the yacht club. I have seen the jetty but have never been on the island.

If I were to go onto the island, and I hope to do so before I die, I would like to perform some ceremony to honor the spirits of the natives and any other spirits that happened to be there. It would also be a nice place to have your ashes scattered after your death.

Submitted by Grace (not verified) on

My aunt and uncle have lived down the street from Silver Sands for over 10 years now (the private beach adjacent to Silver Sands is Fort Trumbull). I've walked out to the island a few times, and of course I've heard the stories of Captain Kidd. The woods and underbrush are kind of thick and filled with insects in the summer, so I've never ventured too far in. If you walk around to the back of the island, you can still see the remains of foundations and a chapel from a monks retreat that was once there. I've never experienced anything creepy, but it's always interesting.

Random story- the first time I walked out there, we found a leatherback turtle that had washed up. The carapace had to be between 5-6 feet. I'm not sure if they often come into the Sound, but it was a cool sight (would have been ever better if it were alive but oh well..maybe the curse got it).

Submitted by Jr (not verified) on

I grew up about a mile from charles island and spent a lot of time there. having walked every inch of the island I can tell you, the treasure is there- somewhere.
you can feel it. I also did some research and believe it is not impossible but..

And of all the places I've camped out at night, Charles Island was by far the weirdest/creepiest. lots of huge rats out there at night. good for target practice.

Submitted by Jennifer (not verified) on

Thank you for the fond memories! We used to trek out onto the island to enjoy the peacefulness, look for signs of treasure, or to see if it was haunted. That was over 20 years ago, and this article brought it all back to me. Now my kids are in college and I tell them the stories. Is the stone archway still standing? I found that to be eerily cool.

Submitted by jorge f. (not verified) on

i lost my wallet at charles island...... i curse those whom search for it!!

Submitted by Alex (not verified) on

I found the treasure a LONG time ago. You might as well stop wasting your time looking.

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on

The "sandbar" is actually called a tombolo.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tombolo
A more complete history of Charles Island may be found at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Island
Too many people get caught in the incoming tide when going to Charles Island, and some get washed away and drown. Pay attention to the tides. If you start to walk out there about 90 minutes before LOW tide, that gives you a three hour window to walk out there, explore the island, and get back safely before the water covers the tombolo. Use this website to calculate the tides for the area: http://www.noreast.com/tides/indexb.cfm

Submitted by John Mason 12:09 am (not verified) on

My friend and I camped on the island when we were 19 years old at the time im now in my 30's ..But I can tell you The day we went out it was very stormy ..we had a raft just incase of a riptide or for a safety mattar..we brought a tent and food with two coolers.We set up camp near the old fire place that still remains in the mid part of the island goin towards the back from..We were both soak in wet so we cut rope from the raft hung up sum of the wet clothes we had and made a small fire ,because of the foggy weather and rain nobody seen the smoke we wer lucky at that point cause you dont wanna pay the fine for being there.Anyway as it got ark and I mean dark we had flash lights and a lantern as well and out of nowhere we had a deer come so close to us that it scared the crap out of us so we fed him sum crakers we had then he took off.At about midnight the fire was dieing down so we just had the lantern we heard lots of weird noeses from the birds that are there nesting but lots of movement of small footsteps around in the woods could have been rats.cause of reports of giant rats on the island.The next mourn we woke up we had to think quick cause another storm rolled in and we had to walk the sandbar back to the beach in knee high water but the funny thing was there were no storms reported the day before in the forcast so I had to call my girlfriend to pick us up at the time...

Submitted by andrew (not verified) on

the creepy thing about charles island is that nobody has been able to inhabit it even with the many attempts, and the stories of the deaths that happened on the island or right near it. just a year or two ago ,when my family had a beach house right near charles island, on the fourth of july a man drowned walking to the island.

Submitted by jeff (not verified) on

I am an avid runner and due to my work schedule would train late at night 10pm. Running at silver sands at that time always gave me a very unease feeling. I could be running in central park or the south Bronx at the same time and feel more relaxed. Reading about the island it makes more sense since at the time I had no clue of the history.

Submitted by Bill B (not verified) on

I lived in Stratford and Milford for the first 40 years of my life and being the adventurous type I have explored the island many times.
I found an old copper coin that says "the uplifters club" on it. Maybe from the religious retreat in the early 1900's?

Also, do you remember the flagpole that was near the edge of the island on the west side?

Well- I have the pulley from the top if it. I found it buried about 15 feet from the pole. It is dented from being shot down by someone. Solid brass.

Don't go in the summer now. It's a protected bird area with big Snowy Egrets and
Black Crowned Night Herons up on the trees nesting.
Also, how much do you love poison ivy?

Submitted by Madrugada (not verified) on

Charles Island was a landmark for all of us who spent summers of our childhood in Milford. To make the trek over the sandbar to explore was a sign that you were a "big kid". Being allowed to row out there in our little inflatable boats was even more huge! Too bad mosquitoes were the most vividly memorable thing we found there. I've heard it was a monastery or some kind of religious retreat...never heard the treasure story but love it!

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