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 helped decrease its size.

Chart: Nixes Mate
Chart: Nixes Mate

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.

Chart: Nixes Mate
Chart: Nixes Mate

 

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