Every now and then, though, there was no court, no jury to hear testimony, and no judge to make an impartial decision for the common good. Without that light in the darkness, many communities were left struggling to handle the crimes and claims that came their way. And in one town at least, that lack of authority led to something most people wanted to avoid: tragedy.
The latest episode of the Lore podcast travels back to Gold-Rush-era Montana and the mining community of Nevada City. Host Aaron Mahnke details how gangs of highwaymen arose to prey on prosperous, gold-carrying miners; such thefts and murders in turn led to the formation of “vigilante committees” that aimed to bring law and order to the area. What makes all this more than just an interesting history lesson is Mahnke’s proceeding to note the ghost stories that have been attached to Nevada City (including one involving a murderous highwayman sentenced to death by hanging). Similarly, Mahnke concludes by discussing the “shade”-iness associated with Deadwood, South Dakota. “Lawless” isn’t a terribly substantive episode (the narrative might have been fleshed out by considering bits of Old West lore other than ghost stories), but nevertheless pans out as an entertaining listen.