The Legend of Nixes Mate

Most Boston boaters are familiar with the black-and-white stone pyramid off the northeast tip of Long Island known as Nixes Mate. The marker and its granite-fortified base sits atop a gravel bar, visible only at low tide, where a 12-acre island once existed. In 1636, Nixes Island was granted to John Gallop, a harbor pilot who used it for grazing sheep. The island was later quarried for slate and granite, which further decreased its size.

While many unlikely legends surround Nixes Mate, it’s true that hanged pirates and other criminals were once displayed there as a warning to potential wrongdoers and eventually buried on the low-lying chunk of land. According to Christopher Klein, author of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands, after a pirate named William Fly was executed in Boston in 1726, his body was transported to Nixes Mate, where it hung “like a scarecrow, his flesh plucked to pieces by sea birds until his bare bones rattled in the breeze.” Today, many mariners believe Nixes to be haunted, but even skeptics should give it a wide berth.

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