David Bruce: Crime Anecdotes


George Catlin: A Sioux Chief, His Daughter, and a Warrior 

George Catlin sought to paint Native Americans and Native American culture before the West was tamed and their way of life was lost. In this pursuit, he learned much about Native Americans and about the people who encroached on their lands. One night, while in St. Louis, he left the steamboat he had been traveling on and slept in a hotel, leaving on board the steamboat a canoe, several paintings, and some Indian artifacts he had collected. The next morning, he discovered that they had all been stolen. He commented, “This explained the losses I had met with before, losing boxes and parcels I sent back to St. Louis by steamer. What a comment this is upon the glorious advantages of civilization.”

In 1831, the land of Israel was ruled by Egypt and the governor Ibrahim Pasha. One day, the governor met a Jewish goldsmith who complained about a robbery, insisting that before Egypt ruled the land, he had never been robbed, but as soon as Egypt had gained control of the land, he had been robbed. The governor did not want the Jewish goldsmith to think that Egyptian justice was nonexistent, so he announced that the next day in front of the goldsmith’s shop a miracle would occur. The next day, a crowd gathered to see the miracle. The governor then sentenced the door of the goldsmith’s shop to 100 lashes for failing to protect the shop against robbery. After he had given the door 100 lashes, he leaned toward the door in a listening attitude, then said angrily, “What you are saying is nonsense. I sentence you to another 100 lashes.” Again, after giving the door 100 lashes, he leaned toward the door in a listening attitude, then said loudly, “You say that the thief is present in this gathering, and that he still has a cobweb from the store sticking to his fez!” A man in the crowd took off his fez to examine it for cobwebs, the governor had that man arrested, the man confessed, and the Jewish goldsmith was satisfied with Egyptian justice.

A scoundrel named Jack Skifton once wrote King Charles II: “One of your subjects, the other night, robbed me of 40 pounds, for which I robbed another of the same sum, who has inhumanly sent me to Newgate, and he swears I shall be hanged; therefore, for your own sake, save my life, or you will lose one of the best seamen in your navy.” Charles II wrote back: “For this time I’ll save thee from the gallows; but if hereafter thou art guilty of the like, by—I’ll have thee hanged, though the best seaman in the navy.”

Frederick the Great once visited a prison where prisoner after prisoner insisted that he was innocent and that a great miscarriage of justice had occurred at his trial. However, one prisoner kept quiet. Noticing this, Frederick the Great asked, “I suppose you’re innocent, too?” “No, Your Majesty,” replied the prisoner. “I’m guilty and I deserve my punishment.” Hearing this, Frederick the Great shouted for the jailor, then ordered, “Release this man before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here.”

Opera singer Mary Garden was in the audience when a crazed man rushed on stage and tried to shoot Jean de Reszke, who was singing the part of Romeo in Gounod’s Roméo and Juliet. Mr. de Reszke kept on singing as two stagehands grabbed the crazed gunman, disarmed him, and carried him off the stage. Later, Ms. Garden asked him, “Weren’t you frightened at all, Jean? He might easily have fired that shot.” He replied, “There was nothing I could do but hope that he would not fire. I hadn’t a moment’s fear.”

In 1924, Pep, a black Labrador retriever, killed a cat that belonged to the governor of Pennsylvania. The governor was not pleased. Because he was a judge, he decided to hold a trial for Pep. He found Pep guilty, and Pep was sent to prison for life. However, Pep was happy in prison. He was allowed to run free as he pleased, and he accompanied the prisoners on their work details. Pep liked the prisoners, and the prisoners liked Pep. When Pep finally died, prisoners wept.

Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Boogie Nights, and actor John C. Reilly made a parody of the Fox reality TV show C.O.P.S., early in their careers. After filming for a while, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Reilly stopped at Eat a Pita for a meal. While they were eating, a fight broke out. The other customers were angry that Mr. Reilly—who was wearing a L.A.D.P. uniform—did not stop the fight, until he explained that he was an actor, not a police officer.

A thief once burglarized an office belonging to a lawyer in Kiryat Shemona, stealing a notebook and a 50-shekel note. The next day, the thief read the notebook and discovered that the 50-shekel note had been set aside as a donation to a synagogue charity fund. That night, the thief broke into the lawyer’s office again—to return the notebook and the 50-shekel note.

The car that belonged to TV’s Mister Rogers was stolen. Fortunately, he had left some personal belongings, including a script of his TV show, in the car. A day later, the car was found in the exact spot from which it was stolen, with an apology note on the seat: “Sorry. We didn’t know it was your car.” (Is this an urban legend? Possibly, but it sounds plausible.)

Ballet dancers have extremely strong legs. In 1840, Fanny Elssler crossed the Atlantic on the very first steamship for passengers. One day, she discovered a jewel thief in her cabin. She was alone, and she was unarmed, so she used her ballet muscles and kicked the jewel thief—the ballet kick killed him.

Early in his career, landscape artist Thomas Cole sailed to the West Indies. During the trip, his ship was boarded by pirates, who looked around to see if anything was worth stealing. Nothing was, so the pirates shook hands with the crew and passengers of the waylaid ship, then left.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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