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Beane, Sawney (fl. 15th–16th cent.), legendary murderer and cannibal, is first mentioned in print in broadsheets about 1700. Various versions of his life appeared: in some he is said to have been active during the reign of James I of Scotland (1424–36), while other accounts date his crimes to the reign of ...

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Carnegy, Elizabeth Patricia, Baroness Carnegy of Lour (1925–2010), Girl Guides official and educationist, was born at 71 Pont Street, Chelsea, London, on 28 April 1925, the eldest of three daughters of Lieutenant-Colonel (Ughtred) Elliott Carnegy Carnegy of Lour (1886–1973), a decorated soldier, and his wife, ...

Article

Crofts, Elizabeth (b. c. 1535), impostor, is of unknown origins. Nothing is known of her before 1554, when she was involved in a cause célèbre that led to her being accused of attempting to undermine the church and the crown. The episode is reported in both Catholic and protestant sources, with no significant variation in detail. On 14 March that year, aged about eighteen, ...

Article

Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.), legendary outlaw hero, is wellnigh impossible to identify, first because of the sparsity and peculiar nature of the evidence, and second because Robin quickly became a composite figure of an archetypal criminal, and then an outlaw hero....

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Richard Davenport-Hines

Jack the Ripper (fl. 1888), serial killer, was known as ‘the Whitechapel murderer’ or ‘Leather Apron’ until on 27 September 1888 the Central News Agency received a red-inked, defiant, semi-literate letter signed Jack the Ripper. This letter was probably a hoax concocted by news agency staff. It is suitable that he is known by a name devised in a journalistic stunt, for he was the first criminal to become a figure of international mythology through the medium of global communications. The indivisibility of his crimes from reportage of them is shown in a few words of a cabinet minister, ...

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Lindow Man (fl. 1st cent.?) by unknown photographer © The Trustees of the British Museum

Article

Lindow Man (fl. 1st cent.?), victim of ritual sacrifice, colloquially named Pete Marsh or the Body in the Bog, was found in Lindow Moss, near Wilmslow, Cheshire, in August 1984. A Celt, probably of the Brigantes tribe, he was a ritual sacrifice whose remains were deposited in a peat bog. The skin, hair, fingernails, bone collagen, and some internal organs had been preserved by the tannins of the sphagnum moss....

Article

Ludd, Ned (fl. 1811–1816), mythical machine-breaker, was the name signed by the authors of letters threatening the destruction of knitting frames. Luddism emerged initially in the small villages of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire (the address affixed to some of the letters was Sherwood Forest...

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Spring-Heeled Jack (fl. 1837–1838), mystery assailant, was first reported, though not named, in early January 1838, when the lord mayor of London made public a letter he had received, signed 'A resident of Peckham':

It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the higher ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion (name as yet unknown) that he durst not take upon himself the task of visiting many of the villages near ...

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Swing, Francis [known as Captain Swing] (fl. 1830–1831), mythical incendiarist, was the signatory of letters announcing incendiary raids in the agricultural areas of England, especially in the south, in the autumn and winter of 1830–31. The first 'Swing' letters were recorded in ...

Article

Todd, Sweeney [called the Demon Barber of Fleet Street] (supp. fl. 1784), legendary murderer and barber, may have his source in a murder reported in the London Chronicle of 2 December 1784. It related that a 'Journeyman Barber that lives near Hyde Park...

Article

Tuck, Friar (fl. 15th cent.), legendary outlaw, may have originated in a real individual, but his mythic qualities as a member of Robin Hood's band are his own, and have become indelibly established in the popular mind. In the developed stories he enters the band, like other recruits, by a personal encounter with Robin Hood in which a contest of wits and physical prowess brings each to respect the other. Once in the greenwood, he dispenses joviality and brings a sly wisdom to the outlaws' councils. His clericity, ordinarily not much in evidence, gives him a status that strengthens rather than disturbs the structure of the band....