America's First Serial Killers and Many More Deadly Historic Figures
America’s First Serial Killers and Many More Deadly Historic Figures

America’s First Serial Killers and Many More Deadly Historic Figures

Khalid Elhassan - September 6, 2020

America’s First Serial Killers and Many More Deadly Historic Figures
John Wesley Hardin. Reddit

2. Piling Up the Corpses

As Hardin grew ever more deadly, he invested the time and effort to hone and facilitate his killing technique. He carried his pistols in holsters sewn into his vest, with the butts pointed inwards across his chest. He crossed his arms to draw, which he deemed the quickest way to get his pistols into action, and practiced his draw technique every day. He also kept on steadily piling up the corpses, and on his 21st birthday in 1874, he quarreled with a deputy sheriff and shot him dead.

A $4000 “Dead or Alive” reward was placed on Hardin. Choosing discretion over valor, he fled Texas with his wife and daughter, and settled in Florida as a businessman, using an assumed name. That peaceful interlude lasted until 1877, when Texas Rangers caught up with Hardin on a train in Pensacola, Florida. He tried to draw his pistol, but it got snagged on his suspenders, and the Rangers pistol whipped him into submission.

America’s First Serial Killers and Many More Deadly Historic Figures
Photo said to be of John Wesley Hardin after he became a lawyer. Wild West Outlaws

1. A Deadly Outlaw’s Violent End

Back in Texas, Hardin was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years in 1878. He made numerous escape attempts, including a tunnel into the prison armory, but they all failed. He eventually settled down, studied law behind bars, and was put in charge of the prison’s Sunday school.

America’s First Serial Killers and Many More Deadly Historic Figures
Constable John Selman, who killed John Wesley Hardin. Alchetron

In 1894, Hardin was pardoned after serving 17 years of his sentence. Upon his release, he took and passed Texas’ bar exam, and became a licensed lawyer. He moved to El Paso in 1895 to start a law practice, but got into trouble when he quarreled with John Selman, a lawman who had arrested a prostitute friend of Hardin. Heated words were exchanged, and that night, as Hardin was playing dice in a local saloon, Selman walked up to Hardin from behind, shot him in the back of the head, then pumped three more bullets into him as lay on the ground.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

American Weekend, October 23rd, 1998 – Frontier Serial Killers: The Harpes

Ancient Pages – Giulia Tofana Poisoned 600 Men: Beautiful Sicilian Woman and Her Deadly Mission

Indiana Genealogy Trail – Jackson County Indiana: The Legend of the Reno Gang

Legends of America – James Miller, Hired Killer of the Old West

Legends of America – Reno Gang & the 1st Big Train Robbery

Legends of America – The Vicious Harpes: First American Serial Killers

Medium – Meet the Woman Who Poisoned Makeup to Help Over 600 Women Murder Their Husbands

Mike Dash History – Aqua Tofana: Slow-Poisoning and Husband-Killing in the 17th Century

Murderpedia – Harpe Brothers

Murderpedia – Kuno Hofmann

National Park Service, Fort Smith Historic Site – Rufus Buck Gang: A Time to Die

Observer, March 23rd, 2017 – No Surrender: The Story of a Japanese Soldier Who Did Not Surrender Until 29 Years After WWII

Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 10th, 2014 – Hiroo Onoda: Hero, or Villain?

Ranker – Life of Giulia Tofana

All That Interesting – Meet Giulia Tofana: The Professional Poisoner Said To Have Killed 600 Men

Spartacus Educational – Frank Reno

Texas State Historical Association – Hardin, John Wesley

Vintage News – The Most Prolific Female Assassin in History

Wikipedia – Harpe Brothers

Wikipedia – Japanese Holdout

Wikipedia – Reno Gang

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