Americans have a fascination with vintage villains – or, in the case of the Kid, people who walked the thin line between villain and hero with so much success that they remain venerated despite serious character flaws. Outlaws like Jesse James and John Dillinger also fall into this category; they were violent men who used aggression and force to get what they wanted, yet there was something about them that makes the public want to see them more as Robin Hoods than dangers to society.
In the spirit of going with the flow, here are some facts about Billy the Kid that everyone who hates to love him and his ilk will find super interesting.
#5. His legend may be a bit exaggerated.
It’s said that Billy the Kid killed 21 people – one for each year of his short life – but evidence suggests the actual number is only 4, with 2 of them being prison guards, though he may have been a participant in the deaths of 5 more people.
#4. His real name is a topic of debate.
Henry McCarty. William Bonney. Henry Antrim. All of these names have been attributed to Billy the Kid over the years.
We know he was born Henry McCarty, but some say his father’s name was William Bonney. He started using his father’s name sometime in 1877, but often used his stepfather’s last name, Antrim, as well.
Another mystery for a mysterious man.
#3. He probably wasn’t left-handed.
There’s a famous image of the Kid wearing a gun belt with the holster on the left side, which led many lefties to claim him as their own. Sadly (for them), it’s been discovered that the image was flipped during reproduction, so the gun was actually on his right hip all along.
#2. He worked at a cheese factory.
Charlie Bowdre, a man who was part of Billy the Kid’s inner circle and previous part owner of said cheese factory, claims this is where the two of them first met.
#1. Plenty of people think he faked his own death.
The official story is that Billy the Kid died in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on July 14, 1881. But many claim that Sheriff Pat Garrett helped the Kid fake his death and ride off into the sunset, though no substantiation for this claim has ever surfaced.
Ollie “Brushy Bill” Roberts and a man named John Miller both claimed to be Billy the Kid long after the date of his death. But Roberts’ cluelessness regarding gunfights and photo comparison evidence have shown him as an unlikely Kid, while Miller’s claims were put to rest in 2005 after DNA samples were not a match.