There are numerous famous thieves throughout our history. They own their fame to the imagination of folk culture that transformed them into legends. This transition to a fictional realm usually happened after the death of these characters. Few of these famous thieves were as important, as spiritual, or as handsome as the media and stories have made them look like. In fact, some of them are not even real! Here is the list of 10 of the most famous thieves in history.
1. Dismas and Gestas
Religious culture made way to an odd group of characters. These are two of the most famous thieves in the history of the human kind. They are the two thieves who were crucified at the same time with Jesus. One was on the right, while the other on the left side of the son of God.
One of the two outlaws, Dismas, asked for forgiveness. Eventually, these request was granted to him. However, Gestas was a disbeliever and rejected the religion of his time, thus ending in hell.
According to mythology, Prometheus the Titan stole the fire from the gods and brought it to humans. Consequently, he became the one who made it possible for us to eat French fries and steak instead of raw food. For his defiant gesture to gods, we should thank him every single day.
On the other hand, he received a harsh punishment for favoring humans to the detriment of gods. Zeus sentenced Prometheus to be bound to a large stone, while an eagle ate his liver piece by piece every day for an eternity.
3. Robin Hood
One of the most famous thieves in the world, if not the most famous of all, is Robin Hood. This fictional character is an important part of the English folklore. His existence was never proved and it is most probably, plain fictional (so disappointing!).
The story of Robin Hood and the Merry Men is extremely old, dating from the 13th century. Nonetheless, it still captures the attention of readers and movies about Robin Hood still manage to generate lots of money for producers!
4. Blackbeard (1680-1718)
Here is a thief who was as famous as Robin himself. However, this time this anti-hero is as real as you are. Edward Teach, on his real name, was a fierce pirate, known for his scary appearance and his mighty beard (hence the name).
He lived as an outcast throughout all his life. Eventually, he died fighting against soldiers that the governor sent to Virginia to kill him when he was in his 30s. Blackbeard was also granted pardon once. However, he chose to leave a pristine, new life behind and return to the sea and wrongdoing instead.
5. Jesse James (1847-1882)
This American robber did it all: trains, banks, stagecoaches, and so on. Nothing was safe when Jesse James was around! He was a former guerilla fighter during the civil war.
He and his brother, Frank, together with the Young brothers, formed a band which was feared in the entire South. However, he went down in history as a heroic bandit, and his legacy (though distorted) continues to this very day.
6. “Babyface” Nelson (1908-1934)
Babyface Nelson did not wait to reach adulthood to start stealing cars. By the age of 14, he was already an expert in theis field. His nickname was justified by his youthful look and his small height. Apparently, he is also known as the American citizen who killed the most FBI agents ever.
7. Bonnie (1910 -1934) and Clyde (1909-1934)
This young criminal couple is known for having committed bank robberies, murders, and all sorts of crimes in their short, illegal career. They were among the few famous thieves who managed to become famous in life. They turned into a legend after death both for their crimes and for their sensuality.
Their black and white photographs show the image of a couple who was obviously in love with each other, posing playfully with their guns. These images were found by the police after they were forced to run away with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. This visual collection was pretty shocking and contributed to the notoriety of the unusual couple.
8. Ma Barker (1873-1935)
One of the most unusual, yet famous thieves of all time is Ma Barker. Not only was Ma a fierce criminal herself, but she was the mother of a whole bunch of bandits who formed the Barker gang. At least that is what FBI wants us to believe. Some other sources claim that she was only an old lady who knew about her sons’ criminal robberies but never interfered. Apparently, she did not have the will or the intelligence to do so.
Alvin Karpis, her sons’ partner, said “It wouldn’t have occurred to her to get involved in our business, and we always made a point of only discussing our scores when Ma wasn’t around. We’d leave her at home when we were arranging a job, or we’d send her to a movie. Ma saw a lot of movies.” Apparently, the myth of her being the mastermind behind the gang’s crimes was encouraged by the FBI, after having killed her with no reason. Nonetheless, her fictional identity marks her as one of the most notorious rogue women in history.
9. Dick Turpin (1705-1739)
If you ask an Englishman to name the most famous English bandit, there is a high chance they might answer “Dick Turpin.” He was merely a horse thief first and then became a murderer as well. However, his alleged brilliant criminal career was only the fabrication of an author, William Harrison Ainsworth. He created the Dick Turpin’s myth from scratch.
In reality, he was nothing more than a common thief and not at all the dashing gentleman thief, riding on a super-horse called Black Bess. Most significant of all, there was no registered ride from Essex to York in the course of one night on this horse. This event made Dick Turpin a notorious charming robber in the first place.
10. François Villon (1431-1463)
François Villon is a French thief. He became famous for his poems as well. Apparently, he was well seen at the court. The Duke of Orleans himself, an admirer of his poems, stood up for him every time he committed a new burglary.
One of the most famous thieves in the history of France, François Villon was pardoned for many times. However, he was incapable of leading a normal. Therefore, he committed a new burglary or crime as soon as he was set free. Villon was sentenced to be hanged for his last crime. But once again, he succeeded to cheat death, and he was released and sent into a 10-year exile. Nothing is known about him since then.
While all of these characters are famous thieves, each of them was inspired by a different goal in life. Be it an evil or noble purpose, the act of defying authorities will always manage to spark public’s imagination. I hope these ten character portraits will enrich your day with adrenalin and a mood for adventure. However, you can definitely have the best of your time without going rogue.