DIGGING TEXAS OUTLAWS
The Wild West gunfighters died young and left good looking corpses, but is that any reason to keep digging them up? It's a craze in the name of "historical" curiosity that has seen the supposedly-final resting places of guys like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jesse James, and, most recently, Wild Bill Longley, disinterred and subjected to the prying eyes of DNA experts, reporters, and the more morbid Western buffs amongst us.
Before Bill Longley's remains were exhumed from the Giddings Cemetery and subjected to the latest is-he-or-isn't-he test, 21 graves were opened and perused in error. According to history, William Preston Longley was buried in Giddings after being hung for one of his 32 murders in 1878. (Longley had to be hanged twice because the first time, the hangman used the wrong length of rope, and the killer dropped through the gallows' trap door and hit the ground, neck sore but not snapped). But legend has it Longley's friends rigged a fake execution and aided his escape from Giddings, after which the outlaw lived to a ripe old age under another name. Similar legends persist about Jesse James, the Wild Bunch, and Billy the Kid.
Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio will examine the grave's remains and perform DNA testing to try to confirm that they indeed belonged to Longley. One part of the body the people in San Antonio don't have is the skull -- which was sent to the Smithsonian, where experts will attempt a facial reconstruction.
Searching for the truth about Bill Longley has always been tangled in ambiguities. A racist killer, thug, and pathological liar, one of the kindest things that can be said about the man is that he was probably exaggerating when he claimed to have killed 32 men. By far the best book on Longley's murderous career is contained in Bloody Bill Longley, by Rick Miller
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