By the 19th century this brutal practice had ended, but the area was still a great danger to ships traveling the busy trade and commercial routes of the LI Sound. While some ships were destroyed and others suffered heavy damage, those who owned, stocked and crewed the vessels all agreed that protection from these harmful rocks was necessary.
Therefore, the solitary Execution Rocks Lighthouse was commissioned in1847 when the US Congress appropriated $25,000 for its construction; 20 years later the keeper's quarters were added and the first resident moved in. The beacon protected the island and surrounding waters almost without incident for the next 70 years. At which point, Execution Rock Lighthouse and its surrounding waters became hosts to unimaginable evil.
A Serial Killer's Dumping Ground
In August 1920, Carl Panzram was a thief in need of a house to rob. At 113 Whitney Ave. in New Haven, CT, he plundered the rooms, making off with pricey goods and some valuable bonds. It wasn't until after he left the residence and was en route to Manhattan that he noticed the name on the stolen bonds: William H. Taft, former President of the United States and now a professor at Yale University. He sold them for top dollar and continued his spree.
In New York, Panzram robbed yachts and boats all over the Long Island Sound before setting his sights on much darker crimes; he began killing in cold blood with the .45 Colt automatic stolen from William Taft's home. Panzram's pattern of killing involved tying rocks to each body, rowing them out to into the Long Island Sound and dumping them just 100 yards from the Execution Rock Lighthouse.
In his autobiography "Killer: A Journal of a Murder," Panzram writes, "In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry." Many of Panzram's victims were mercilessly tossed into the waters near Execution Rock Lighthouse.
In 1979, the lighthouse became fully automated. Grateful Coast Guard members happily abandoned shifts involving nightly watches at this lonely island and the waters that claimed so many. With countless souls meeting their end here, it's no wonder that strange sounds have been heard and ghostly images seen at Execution Rock Lighthouse.