High Tide

The CapeMay.com blog

Pirate treasure in Cape May County?

According to an old undated newspaper filed away at the Cape May County Museum, an author identified only as Z.H. recalls a story told to him about Captain Kidd’s treasure supposedly buried in Cape May County.

Illustration of William “Captain” Kidd overseeing a treasure burial by Howard Pyle

[This story was told to me] during the cold, winter evenings around a glowing wood fire. I was but a small lad and a silent listener. I have thought often of the sore disappointment of the actors in the drama of this story remembered by me as if only heard last evening.

On a certain cloudless night in the 1870s, when at near midnight, by the light of the moon, it was quiet as a grave and the stillness was broken only by the flapping of sail, the rush of the incoming tide and the roar of the surf on the sandy beach.

After making our boat secure and lowering the sail, we hurriedly secured our picks and shovels and crossed to a point on the beach marked by a stake in the soft beach sand. Only the day before had we determined upon this very spot, by the ranges that stood on Nummy’s Island, the Five Mile Beach, and by one dead cedar tree that stood alone on the beach to the north.

I was a little nervous. It seemed to me that my heart beats could be heard a 100 yards away. We said little, but after reaching the spot we lost no time in removing the loose sand. One of my companions had not been at work more than 20 minutes when we heard him say, ‘Here it is. I just struck it with my shovel!’ And striking it several times it gave forth a dead, metallic sound. Our anxiety was intensified and our hopes seemed near realization.

I stopped shoveling and was standing erect, when I could discern some object moving. I watched the object for a few seconds to satisfy myself I was still alive. The object appeared to be approaching us. As it grew nearer, we were to see that it was the outline of a man. On it came, nearer and nearer; this form of a man and at his heels a large dog. A hasty consultation determined our course of action. We made a hasty retreat to our boat and we fled that ghostly shadow of a man on the beach.

Boy that I was, my interest at high pitch, I asked, “And, did you go back the next day?”‘

“Yes, my boy,” he sadly said. “We did not discover the metal box, but something else instead. It was the imprint in the soft sand of a heavy box or chest weighing many pounds being pulled across the sand. Deep footprints indicated that it had been no light task even for a strong man to drag the metal box and its contents up among the sand hills of the beach where we lost all trace of the trail. And to this day none of us know the contents of the box and whether it was part of the buried bounty of Captain Kidd, the pirate, found by some lucky treasure hunter, or the form of the pirate himself stalking the beach with his dog that clear moonlight night at half past midnight.”

– Z.H.