Lighthouses of Long Island, New York

Long Island Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society Website

Execution Rocks Lighthouse - Sands Point

Copyright May, 2002 Bob Scroope. All rights reserved. Images may not be used or reproduced without expressed written permission.

Execution Rocks Lighthouse is located on rocks in Long Island Sound to the north of Sands Point (north shore of Long Island near Port Washington).

US Coast Guard Photo

Execution Rocks Lighthouse Viewing Guide

The Legends of Execution Rock

By Kristin E. Scroope

In 1850, a light station was established on a rock reef located off of what is now Sands Point in Nassau County of Long Island, New York. The lighthouse itself naturally took the name of the rock reef it was situated on. This rock reef had curiously come to be known as Execution Rock.

The name “Execution Rock” originates from several local folklore legends. There are even various versions of each of these stories. Although none of these tales have solid historical evidence to support them, it is interesting to note that some of these stories have survived from since before the birth of our nation.

It has been said that the name of the rock reef was noted on British Admiralty charts in the pre-revolutionary 18th century as “Executioner's Rock” because the rock “executed” so many ships. Many ships were wrecked against the dangerous rock reef due to inadequate lighting and heavy ship traffic in the area.

A popular story tells that the British would take American rebels from their settlements during the Revolutionary War and bring them to the isolated rock reef for torture and execution. The British kept their brutal actions from being witnessed so that they would not further fuel revolutionary passions.

An extension to the aforementioned tale says that the British drove spikes into the rock reef, and chained condemned prisoners to them at low tide. When the tide rose, the chained prisoners were slowly drowned. This tale has even been altered to say that the prisoners met their death by sharks rather than drowning.

Some local fisherman have been known to say that the ghosts of the men who died on the rock reef, whether it be tortured Revolutionary War prisoners or victims of ship wrecks, have been sighted near the light station. Allegedly, due to the rock’s ghostly history, the US Lighthouse Service relieved any keeper from duty without question.

Apparently, the lighthouse was even given a role in the origin of the name later on in a similar story. Lighthouse keepers assigned to the light station on the remote rock were said to be free to ask for a transfer at any time because service was so lonely that it felt like a “sentence of death.”

Copyright May, 2002 Bob Scroope. All rights reserved. Images may not be used or reproduced without expressed written permission.

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