I’d like to introduce you to my great-great-grand-cousin-twice-removed-or-something, Albert W. Hicks, the last man hanged in the United States for piracy.
Here are some fun facts about “the hangin'” of Good Ol’ Uncle Al that I lazily cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia:
– The hanging took place on Bedloe’s Island, which is where all federal executions took place back in 1860. Nowadays, it’s known by a different name: Liberty Island. Yep, that’s right, where Lady Liberty serves as a beacon of freedom and democracy and blah blah blah, that’s where they used to hang traitors to the State.
– His defence: the devil made me do it. Literally. He said “the devil took possession of me.” Ain’t that just like a Hicks; weasilin’ out of trouble with a sorry excuse like that. Bet he had terrible allergies and really liked obscure kinds of cheese, too.
– His name became a gambling phrase. If you rolled a six on a pair of dice, you said “Albert W. Hicks.” I’m going to start doing that the next time Hammy and Cousin Dave talk me into rollin’ the bones with them, until they start looking at me funny.
– His last wish was to see the steamship Great Eastern, which was docked in New York at the time. Which really is just like a Hicks. Perhaps he knew that the tightening of the rope around his neck and the subsequent snapping of his spine would be slightly more bearable if he was distracted by a shiny thing.
– P. T. Barnum’s American Museum featured a wax image of Hicks. Barnum also arranged for Hicks to be hung in a silk pirate costume, which he later charged admission to view. I’m not sure whether this was awesome or a hideous display of hucksterism from Mr. Barnum. I suppose it depends on how Albert felt about it at the time. Unfortunately, he’s strangely silent at the moment.
– He was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Called “The New Exhibit”, it was broadcast during the show’s fourth season and took place in a wax museum, where dummies of Hicks, Jack the Ripper, and other ne’er-do-wells all came to life and drove a curator insane. I’ve worked in museums before, and I’ve had to shut them down late at night, and let me tell you, those places are creepy.
Then there’s this: here’s his description, also lifted shamelessly from Wikipedia:
In person Hicks is tall and strongly built, being about five feet ten inches in height, with a slight stoop in his shoulders. His arms are long and sinewy, and his hands very large and much hardened by work; his complexion is dark, and he has high cheek bones, and a stout crop of straight, black hair. His eyes are black; and rather small, with an unsteady and revengeful expression.
That’s right. One false move an’ ye panda walks the plank, matey.