6 Famous Outlaws of the Wild, Wild West


Butch Cassidy

Butch Cassidy
Butch Cassidy, seated far right, with his gang of outlaws, The Wild Bunch, circa 1900. Flickr/KurtClark(CC BY 2.0)

Just look at the guy — hat cocked to one side, neatly-trimmed mustache shading a smirk — he looks the very picture of a clever ne'er-do-well who enjoys pulling one over on the fools in charge. Maybe that's why so many people are prepared to believe he didn't actually die in a hail of bullets in South America, but faked his death, changed his name and lived out his life in Spokane, Washington. That's the story detailed in a book called, "Butch Cassidy's Story: Bandit Invincible," by William T. Phillips. Some even think the book is a memoir written by Cassidy under a pseudonym.

If that were the case, it would be one of several name changes for Butch, who started life as Robert Leroy Parker in 1866 but changed his name to Cassidy in 1889. He was the leader of a notorious gang called The Wild Bunch who roamed through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and South Dakota robbing trains and banks, stealing cattle and horses. When the law closed in, he fled to South America together with Harry Longabaugh (aka the Sundance Kid) and Harry's wife, Etta. There, the two men returned to the hard work of robbery and, according to reliable historians, met their end. Like most accounts of celebrity criminals who managed to cheat death, the story of Butch Cassidy's survival is based not in fact, but wishful thinking.