Captain Kidd

Captain Kidd (1645–1701) In British and American history and folklore, popular name of William Kidd, privateer. Born in Scotland, Kidd came to New York City, where he ran a thriving ship business. He worked for the British government in their fight against French privateers, but in 1697 he turned pirate himself. Two months later he refused to attack a Dutch ship, which nearly brought his crew to mutiny, and in an angry exchange Kidd mortally wounded his gunner, William Moore.

Kidd returned to Boston in the hope of being pardoned but was sent to England, where he was tried for murder and piracy, found guilty, and hanged. After his death various ballads were circulated, such as “Dialogue Between the Ghost of Capt. Kidd and the Kidnaper.” Legend grew up around his life and about where he had hidden his vast treasure, inspiring various hoaxes about the burial site.

According to legend, his spirit hovers over his treasure. Captain Kidd’s treasure appears in Edgar Allan Poe’s tale “The Gold Bug,” set on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, South Carolina. Poe’s tale influenced Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. Hollywood’s Captain Kidd, starring Charles Laughton, deals with the legend.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante