Freaky vigilantes of the 1880s Ozarks

As a child, writer Lisa Hix visited Silver Dollar City, a surreal theme park in the Ozark Mountains that I have been fortunate enough to experience myself. Like me, Lisa was enchanted with the nutty dark ride Fire In The Hole and its story of people in creepy devil-horned hoods who torched a town. No, they weren't KKK members but rather the Bald Knobbers, a 19th century vigilante group. Over at Collectors Weekly, Lisa explores the history of the Bald Knobbers:

Though they never lit a town on fire—that part of the ride is completely invented—the real story of their rise is a terrifying parable about what happens when government fails and violence reigns. It’s a lesson that’s perhaps more relevant in the political climate of 2017 than Americans would like it to be.

When I called Dr. Matthew J. Hernando, a professor at Ozark Technical College and author of Faces Like Devils: The Bald Knobber Vigilantes in the Ozarks, he told me that “Fire in the Hole”—which he has ridden many times—“is basically a bunch of nonsense.” For the real story of the Bald Knobbers, Hernando explained, you have to look at southwest Missouri’s peculiar history. In a region where the Civil War had laid waste to the rule of law, ne’er do wells like the notorious James-Younger Gang and vigilante groups like the Bald Knobbers emerged to fill the void of authority. Admirers saw them as righteous folk heroes; adversaries regarded them as murderous thugs.

Notable Replies

  1. How cute! Leatherface when he was younger!

  2. This is a really interesting time and place in history. The gritty version is a lot more interesting than the Silver Dollar City version, for sure.

    In fact, that's true of The Ozarks in general, the real history is darker and more interesting than the Branson version. It's not only hillbilly idiots and racist assholes (though there are those as well.)

    People around here have weird interests, so perhaps I'm not the only one with an interest in The Ozarks. I like the stories and photos on this site:

    http://stateoftheozarks.net/culture/history/baldknobbers_outlaws.php

    Huh... no onebox?

  3. Check out those artisanal popsicle sticks

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