Executioner Rocks Lighthouse at Sunset

Execution Rocks Lighthouse

In the waters of the Long Island Sound, between Sands Point and New Rochelle, is an ominous low reef of looming jagged rocks aptly named Execution Rocks. Not visible during high tide, this menacing island of stones has a very dark and storied past.

It is said that during the Revolutionary War, British soldiers would shackle Colonial prisoners to the rocks at low tide, and would leave them there for an agonizing death as the tide slowly consumed them. Execution Rocks did not play favorites. The tides turned for the Colonials when a ship carrying British troops sent to intercept General George Washington struck the submerged reef and sunk into the Sound, leaving no survivors. While these legends have never been proven right or wrong, the menacing reef of rocks plagued the coastal shipping lanes. Something had to be done to remedy this problem.

As a solution, in 1809, the United States Government built a lighthouse on Sands Point, but to no avail, for the lighthouse did nothing to prevent mariners from crashing onto the reef. Finally, in 1847, Execution Rocks lighthouse was commissioned to be built by Congress, and twenty years later, they added a Keeper’s facility. The beacon of light seemed to brighten up the murky waters around the lighthouse and lift the shadow of darkness from the rocks below until the unimaginable happened.

It is said that Carl Panzram was a serial thief turned serial killer. Panzram wrote an autobiography in which he claimed, "In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arson's and, last but not least, I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things, I am not in the least bit sorry.” According to his autobiography, Panzram’s pattern was to dispose of the bodies by tying rocks to the victims and dumping their bodies near Execution Rocks Lighthouse. In the darkness, there is always light, but in the light, there is also darkness.