Captain William Kidd, 1645—1701

A privateer was a private person (a civilian not in the navy) who was given a commission to attack the King's enemies at sea and traditionally there was always a thin line dividing privateering from piracy. In 1695 William Kidd, a Scotsman who had emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, was given a commission by William III to arrest all pirates and also a commission to act as a privateer against the French. He fitted out the brig Adventure and in 1697 sailed to Madagascar, the lair of many pirates at that time. But instead of attacking the pirates, he joined forces with them and began capturing merchant ships and plundering local trade. He deserted his ship and went to New York, offering treasure to the governor and claiming to be able to explain his actions. However, he was arrested and sent to England for trial where he was hanged in 1701. About 14,000 pounds of treasure was recovered from his ship and from a hiding place near Long Island, though there is still supposed to be a lot of Captain Kidd's treasure waiting to be found.

Alessandro Cagliostro, 1743—1795

Count Cagliostro's real name was Guiseppe Balsamo, and he became famous as a charlatan or confidence trickster, as we would call him today. As a young man he learned a little about chemistry and medicine and then left Sicily in 1769. After getting some knowledge of the supernatural, he appeared in Malta as the great Count Cagliostro, specialist in medicine, magic and all kinds of strange arts. He was soon fleecing the rich of Europe, selling them an elixir of youth and love potions. Finally he was condemned to death in Rome for setting up a secret society and died in prison at San Leone.

Billy the Kid (William Bonny), 1860—1881

Billy the Kid was a legend in the Wild West as a cattle rustler and murderer. Slim and fair, Billy was born in New York but soon moved to New Mexico. He was apprenticed to a blacksmith but found this boring, so he shot the smith and became a cowboy. At first he worked for John Chisholm, who was fighting a range war in the Pecos Valley. He quarrelled with Chisholm and joined a band of cattle rustlers, killing as many of Chisholm's men as he could in the process. Pat Garrett was elected sheriff to capture Billy the Kid. He did this, but Billy shot two deputies and escaped from his cell just before he was due to be hanged. He was caught by Garrett two months and five murders later and shot dead in a gunfight. He was said to have shot twenty-one men, but in fact he probably only killed three.

Jack the Ripper

"Jack the Ripper" was a mysterious killer who terrorised the East End of London in the autumn of 1888. His victims, all women, were killed by having their throats cut, and in many cases the bodies were savagely mutilated as well. The number of victims is said to be between four and fourteen, though police authorities generally thought that only five murders were definitely the work of the Ripper. The Ripper was never caught, and his identity remains a mystery. All kinds of people have been suggested as possible Rippers, including the Duke of Clarence and even a barrister.

Roy Bean, d. 1903

In the days when the western part of the USA was known as Wild West law was upheld by very rough and ready men. 'Judge' Bean, as he called himself, was one of the most colourful of the lawmen. As a young man he had been a slaver, driven an ammunition truck in the war against Mexico, smuggled cotton and been tried. He became famous as Justice of the Peace in a town called Vinegarroon. Here, in a saloon called the Jersey Lilly — so named after the actress Lily Langtree of whom he was a fan — he held the court. His justice was as rough as the people he tried and he built up an enormous reputation, so that many tales were told about him. One is that he decided on one occasion that a man accused of murdering a Chinaman might call on his tough friends to make trouble for the judge. Looking through his law books he announced that he could not find anywhere that it said that you must not kill a Chinaman!

Главная Страница