At high tide, this small island and stone pyramid are barely visible. This is Nixes Mate, located in the Boston Harbor, and its history is grisly. In 1726, infamous pirate chief William Fly was brought to Boston and executed. His body was then gibbeted — hung by chains — on Nixes Mate as a warning to other sailors not to turn to piracy. Fly is remembered for having berated his undertaker for tying his noose incorrectly. Fly famously removed the noose, retied it, and then put it back on his own neck.

Fort Warren was built on George’s Island, a small plot of land off the Boston Harbor, in the mid 1850s. Although the structure never saw a direct attack, it was used for trainings and housing soldiers and prisoners during a number of American wars. One of those prisoners was Confederate soldier Andrew Lanier, who was imprisoned on the island in 1861. In an attempt to free him, Lanier’s wife traveled north from Georgia and, dressed in drag, crept onto the island late one stormy night. During the escape attempt, a Union soldier knocked a pistol from Mrs. Lanier’s hand. The gun went off, killing her husband. Mrs. Lanier was hanged on the island. Her last request was to be executed in feminine clothes. Lacking these, it’s said that the soldiers draped her body with black drapes. For this reason, and some spooky sightings, she is known as the Lady in Black.

In one of the most famous accounts of state executions, two innocent men were put to death in 1927. On April 15, 1920, as is commemorated by this plaque in Braintree, two men were murdered in an armed robbery. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian-born anarchists living in Boston, were convicted of the murders in a lengthy trial that drew international attention. Despite pleas and protests from thousands and multiple attempts to appeal (all of which were denied), the pair of radicals were sent to the electric chair at the Charlestown State Prison. Over 10,000 people viewed their bodies over the course of a two day funeral in Boston’s North End.

Charlestown State Prison, where Sacco and Vanzetti were housed and executed, once stood where Bunker Hill Community College stands today. The prison was built during the 1800s and housed thousands of prisoners before being shut down in 1955. Before it’s closure, the prison witnessed the last execution to be carried out in Massachusetts. Phillip Bellino and Edward Gertson, two gangsters who were conviceted of murdering a former U.S. Marinem, were executed by electric chair on May 9, 1947. Four years later, Massachusetts restricted the death penalty, removing mandatory sentencing requirements for some crimes. The death penalty was then abolished in the state in 1984.

Residents of Massachusetts have had to grapple with the death penalty in recent years. Although the crime carried out by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, happened in Massachusetts, it was a crime tried in federal court, which allows death penalty sentencing. The case was controversial because it took place in the Commonwealth, where more than half of the population is against capital punishment. To be on a jury for a case where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, you must be willing to vote for that sentence. Many believe that the trial should have been moved out of state for that reason.