Top Five Biggest Manhunts of All Time
So, a certain someone or other just got capped in the face during an awesome covert op on May 2nd, just in case you hadn’t heard. After ten years in hiding, he was finally brought to justice. His case leads us to think about some other villains that were the cause of massive, nationwide, sometimes worldwide efforts to capture or kill them. Men like:
John Wilkes Booth
Booth is one of a very few people that was as famous before committing his crime as he was afterward. He came from a family of actors, well known around Europe and America for their performances on the stage. Booth was no different, becoming renowned for playing such roles as Brutus in Julius Caesar.
He was also a staunch Confederate, and was on the side of the rebels in spirit, but not in uniform (he was busy acting, you see.) However, in 1864, he began to plot chicanery directed at the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. By then, everyone had realized that the Civil War was being lost by the South, and Booth hoped to save his beloved black people oppressing South by kidnapping the Commander in Chief and holding him for ransom, Snidely Whiplash style.
However, before Booth and his team could put their plan into action, the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox, thus eliminating the main Confederate Army and effectively ending the war. Needless to say, this pissed off Booth exponentially, who changed his tactics from kidnapping the President to busting a cap in his ass. So, he gathered up the members of Team Dastardly Deeds and plotted some murder.
The President was set to attend a play at a theater Booth was more than a little familiar with, since he practically lived there. On the night of April 12, 1865, he shot Lincoln in the back of the head at point blank range before taking a flying leap off the balcony and into history. No one said history didn’t hurt though, as his leg shattered on impact, proving the old adage that jumping from a high place is not good for you, said some pithy words about the situation, and limp swaggered out of the theater.
Well, Booth was surprised to discover that not only did the South not approve of his action, but in fact reviled him for shooting a man with such a magnificent chin beard. A $100,000 reward was put on his head (in today’s dollars, it’s a pantload,) and the entire Federal Army, which hadn’t been demobilized yet, was put on his trail. The biggest manhunt in US history to that point was on. Booth and a companion fled south to the Maryland Virginia border, and there waited for news of the renewed rebellion. Imagine his surprise then, when even as far south as Georgia, people were calling him an asshole. It didn’t help that he was the freaking George Clooney of his day, literally everyone in America knew what he looked like. Frankly, it’s amazing that he managed to evade capture for 12 days after the assassination. But he finally ran out of luck in Virginia.
A cavalry troop finally tracked Booth and his friend to a farmhouse where they had been staying for the last few days (turns out they found the only people who didn’t know who he was.) The two fugitives hid in the tobacco barn. The soldiers set it on fire, providing all in attendance with a nice buzz, then a gun battle broke out. Booth took a musketball to the neck, a fatal wound. His last words were “Tell my mother I died for my country.” Which country, no one knows, since all of America hated his ass.
Not many people can say that an entire federal agency was formed to hunt them down. Dillinger was responsible for the creation of the FBI with his bank robbing chicanery. Dillinger was a wild child, and started off his formal criminal career in 1929, stealing fifty bucks from a grocery store. However, he proved that he was not yet a criminal mastermind when he was spotted leaving the scene of the crime by a minister who told the cops. Dillinger’s father convinced him to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for a lesser sentence. He did, and the judge promptly flipped him off before sentencing him to 10 to 20 years in prison.
Dillinger, with a “you ain’t seen nothing yet” attitude, dedicated himself to becoming a master criminal. He was paroled in 1933, and promptly robbed a bank before being arrested again. But he wasn’t going back to prison, because, fuck that. He had his gang break him out of the Sheriff’s office, killing the Sheriff. The gang then robbed a string of banks from Ohio to South Dakota over the next year. His bank robbing and policeman killing put him on the front page of newspapers across the country, especially since he seemed to center on Chicago, the second largest city at the time. He was arrested in Tucson, Arizona after an embarrassing incident involving lost luggage and was sent back north. He promptly escaped again with the aid of a wooden gun painted black with shoe polish, stole a car, and went back to Chicago.
Now he was the nation’s most wanted man, and the Bureau of Investigation, the father of the FBI, was on the case. Lead investigator Melvin Purvis tracked Dillinger back to Chicago, and a massive task force of federal agents was deployed to hunt him down. Several times over the next few months the Dillinger Gang and the BOI agents were involved in gun battles and such, usually getting someone killed in the process, and then Dillinger would run away. They finally got a breakthrough from a whorehouse madam who agreed to tell what she knew in exchange for a green card to prevent her deportation.
She told the agents that Dillinger was going to see a movie with one of her hookers the next night. When he left the theater at the end of the movie, agents opened fire, killing Dillinger with a shot to the back of the head. People started doing weird shit almost as soon as he was killed: bystanders started dipping handkerchiefs and skirts into pools of Dillinger’s blood for keepsakes, and when he was buried, people brought chisels to hammer away pieces of his gravestone, you know, to remember him by. And because they knew that one day, eBay would be invented.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage “Crime doesn’t pay.” Well, Pablo Escobar proclaimed that to be a bundle of shit. At one point, Escobar was one of the top ten richest men in the world, with a 25 billion dollar fortune, all built on the exportation of cocaine around the world. He was the head of the Medellin Cartel, one of the most famous drug cartels of all time. He dealt with police, officials, anyone who stood in his way either one of two ways: bribing them, or killing them.
This man could not possibly give less of a fuck about his fellow human beings. When he entered politics in the 1980’s, he rigged elections by having all the other candidates killed. In 1990, his gang assassinated all four presidential candidates, and tried to take out one of their replacements by putting a bomb on a plane he was supposed to be one. The future president of Colombia wasn’t on board, but the plane did explode, killing 110 people. The next month, a truck bomb targeting another enemy of Escobar exploded outside a building in Bogota, killing another 52 people. It is also believed that Escobar was behind a rebel takeover of the Department of Justice building in Bogota to destroy his criminal records and those of others, that led to a confrontation with the Colombian army and wound up with over 120 people dead.
The US wanted to get his ass to the States to face drug smuggling and murder charges, but the problem was he was untouchable. They couldn’t extradite him, and the Colombian government wasn’t very helpful since they were either a) on the payroll or b) dead. He would actually pay his hitmen bonuses for killing policemen, causing the violent crime rate to become the highest in the world. He finally was caught in 1991, but escaped from jail and went back on the run. By now he had multiple groups after him, including a rival cartel, the Colombian police and military, and a vigilante group made up of citizens who Pablo had pissed off called Los Pepes.
His luck ran out in December 1993, when Colombian military police tracked Escobar to a house in Medellin. A firefight broke out, and Escobar and his bodyguard were both killed, Escobar shot in the head. As with Dillinger, the people present at Escobar’s death did some weird shit, like pose for pictures with his body.
However, people still regard him as a South American Robin Hood. He gave generously to all kinds of social causes, perhaps to try to balance his karma for all the mass murder he was committing. People named their children after him, including NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya. But, then again, at the beginning, people thought Hitler was a nice guy too.
When people think of pirates, names like Blackbeard and Jack Sparrow come to mind. But those are cupcakes compared to most badass pirate to ever sail the seas: Bartholomew Roberts. Roberts started off as an honest seaman aboard a merchant vessel (read: slave ship.) His ship was captured by pirates, and he was shanghaied aboard the pirate ship because of his navigational skills. 6 weeks later, the captain of the ship was killed in a raid, and the crew met to elect a new captain. For some strange reason, they chose Roberts to be the captain, and even more surprising, he accepted the job, presumably because of the “eh, what the fuck?” mentality.
As it turns out, he was very good at being a pirate, taking out the town where the previous captain was killed and massacring the population, then taking two merchant ships in his first week as captain. He engaged in high seas hijinks such as capturing an entire merchant fleet, taking a harbor and port without firing a shot, and generally living up to the pirate lifestyle. He hung the Governor of Martinique from his yardarm after the man had the gall to call him out. Now he had the attention of the governments of Europe, who sent out whole fleets to take out the pirate who was raping their shipping. People began to think of him as invincible.
But his luck finally ran out in 1722, after three glorious years, he was run to ground off the coast of Africa, when he took a load of grapeshot to the face at the hands of a Royal Navy ship. His pirate comrades weren’t about to let the British get their Limey hands on his body, so they could mount his head on the main mast like they did to Blackbeard. So they wrapped his body in chains and threw him overboard, as per his wishes. Hey, does that remind you of anyone? Speaking of which…
Osama bin Laden
Oh come on. Don’t act like you didn’t know this was coming. This whole article has been nothing but a vehicle for me to make Osama jokes. So let’s stop pretending and get down to business. Osama was born in Saudi Arabia, the son of a wealthy businessman. He wasn’t raised as a fanatical terrorist, he went to college and received a degree in business and economics. He was such a nice boy, the family wasn’t sure what went wrong.
For ten years, he honed his trade in Afghanistan, killing Soviets with the secret backing of the US through the CIA. When the Soviets finally tapped out, Osama was left with no more infidels to fight. So he went looking for some more and found the US, presumably because he saw a McDonald’s. He founded al-Qaeda in 1988, and immediately set about doing evil. In 1993, terrorists tried to explode the World Trade Center with a van bomb, killing six people. In 1998, over 200 died when US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. The USS Cole was bombed in 2000, killing 17. Of course, you all know that he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 people and finally brought down the WTC towers. They were also responsible for attacks in Indonesia, Istanbul, Madrid, and London, adding hundreds more deaths to his tally. What I’m trying to say is he’s not a very nice person, and then, on May 1st, 2011, well…
That’s right! After ten years of eluding capture, quite a feat when you consider that a significant portion of the armed forces and intelligence units of most of the Western world was on his trail, CIA operatives finally found out where he was hiding, in a plush estate in Pakistan. So, the President sent in the SEALs, and the highly trained superbadasses shot Osama in the face. Twice. Then grabbed his body, killed a few more terrorists, exploded a helicopter that set the house on fire, and then threw his body into the ocean for good measure. I was going to end this article with some glorious pictures of Osama in all his dead glory, maybe with some soldiers posing in the background like with Pablo up there, but the President won’t release them, because he is a spoilsport. So, I’ll just end it with this.
By Ben Adelman