Morbid Curiosity


Hall’s Harbour – See High Island .

Hamel, Normand “Biff”: Family Horror – Hamel was with his girlfriend and child when he was approached by two gunmen men in front of a health clinic in Laval on the outskirts of Montreal around three in the afternoon of April 27, 2000.

As his girlfriend and child watched in horror, the gunmen chased him around the parking lot before they cornered him and sprayed him with bullets.

Hamel, who had twice been acquitted of conspiracy to commit murder, was a founding member of the elite Nomads chapter and a top lieutenant and long-time friend of the Angels’ Quebec leader, Maurice “Mom” Boucher.

His murder made him the highest-ranking Hells Angel killed in the turf war with the Bandidos over the lucrative drug trade.

A member of the Angels for fifteen years, he had also stood guard while five members of the Angels’ Laval chapter were gunned down at the Lennoxville clubhouse in the spring of 1985 because of the enormous drug debts they’d amassed.

See also: Bandidos, Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Hells Angels, Nomads .

Hart, Pearl: “Girl Bandit” – She attended a fine finishing school in Lindsay, Ontario, in the late nineteenth century, then shocked the town by running off as a teenager with a man who was not her husband.

Things only got more scandalous from there.

After dumping her lover, she hung around for a time in Colorado with “Calamity Jane” Cannary, a hard-drinking, straight-shooting woman who often dressed as a man.

On the morning of May 30, 1899, two masked bandits – Pearl and boyfriend/pimp Joe Boot – held up the Globe, Arizona, stagecoach. Even though it was a gold-mining area, they managed to pick a stage holding no gold, and they got only $431 in cash from the passengers. With that feeble haul, she became the West’s only female stagecoach robber, as well as its last female stagecoach robber.

There wasn’t much wealth, glory, or freedom in the titles, just the prospect of free housing in a prison. Hart and Boot, who had no horses, were easily captured in the hills the next morning.

At her trial, she wove a sad story of how she had committed the crime to pay her mother’s medical bills, then shouted out a statement that endeared her to feminists for generations to follow: “I shall not consent to be tried under a law which my sex had no voice in the making!”

Boot received a thirty-five-year sentence for the crime. Perhaps because Hart, though twenty-seven, looked only nineteen, the jury sentenced her to a mere five years in Yuma Territorial Prison.

Pearl Hart (Arizona Historical Society)

Pearl Hart (background right) and fellow Yuma Penitentiary inmates (Arizona Historical Society)

Hart was apparently not intimidated, or repentant, inside the eight-foot-thick adobe-and-stone walls of Yuma, where a guard stood watch at the main tower with a repeating rifle capable of firing six hundred rounds a minute. There, Hart welcomed reporters and photographers, sometimes posing with a brace of pistols and a Winchester lever-action repeater. The warden’s wife of the almost all-male prison wasn’t amused, and decreed, “We’d better keep that woman far away from the other inmates. She’ll shock them with her language and corrupt their morals.”

The warden’s wife was apparently on to something. When Pearl was finally released, it wasn’t for good behaviour in the traditional sense, but for what some others in the prison might consider really good behaviour: she had become pregnant.

Freed after serving less than two years, Hart embarked on a national lecture tour, speaking on “What My Life of Crime Has Taught Me,” and starring in a play called Pearl Hart, Girl Bandit . The press loved her, calling her a “spitfire” and “Pearl Hart, the Arizona Bad Girl.” She hadn’t made much money for her crime, but she was able to make a living re-enacting it. More than once she boasted, “I’m the only woman who’s ever robbed a stagecoach.”

When her play finally ran its course, she disappeared, although in the 1920s she was reported to be running a bawdy house in Mexico. After that, there were equally unconfirmed reports that she turned respectable, living under another name, and had married a wealthy farming husband.

Hells Angels: Constant Wars – A group of B-17 bomber pilots stationed in England at the end of the Second World War called their aircraft “Hell’s Angels.” The name proved a popular one, and was picked up by other Allied fighter groups, including one that served with U.S. Marines stationed in Asia. When the Marines returned home to California, they hit the road on motorcycles together, keeping the name.

Hells Angels, 1983

Murdered Members of Hells Angels Laval Chapter

Jean-Guy “Brutus” Geoffrion

Michel “Willie” Mayrand

Laurent “L’Anglais” Viau, president of the Laval chapter

Jean-Pierre “The Weasel” Mathieu

Guy-Louis “Chop” Adam

The first chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club appeared in 1948 in San Bernardino County, California. In 1957, Ralph “Sonny” Barger formed the Oakland chapter. The Angels made Oakland their headquarters and Barger became leader.

The Angels first displayed their colours in Canada on December 5, 1977, when the Popeyes gang, who had been warring for two years with the Satan’s Choice and the Devil’s Disciples over drug turf, became the Angels’ Montreal chapter. They immediately began to fight with the Outlaws as well, who were bitter enemies of the Angels.

This gave the Quebec Angels about three dozen members and, on July 23, 1983, the Angels expanded into British Columbia. In 1984, they absorbed the Thirteenth Tribe gang in Halifax.

A year later, in 1985, they shocked the public and other gangs by executing six members of the Laval Angels chapter for rampant drug use. The bodies of five of them were found in the St. Lawrence River, in weighted-down sleeping bags.

By the time the Montreal chapter celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary on December 5, 2002, the Canadian Hells Angels were connected to stockbrokers, bankers, and lawyers. They were particularly wealthy in British Columbia, where gang members owned such businesses as cellphone stores, stripper agencies, and porn sites on the Internet, and displayed a key interest in stock-market fraud.

Their drug-smuggling operations in Halifax, Montreal, and Vancouver were aided enormously by the federal government, which dismantled its ports police in the 1990s, despite strong warnings from major police forces, the provinces, and some of their own advisers. Authors Julian Sher and William Marsden of The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs Are Conquering Canada estimated in 2003 that forty-three Hells Angels and associates worked in the Port of Vancouver, at least eight of them as foremen and one as the training officer for longshoremen. Other gang members worked on docks in trucking, maintenance, laundry, and garbage service. While the Angels beefed up their presence in the ports, Ottawa simply walked away.

While Ottawa was dismantling the ports police, the Hells Angels of Quebec were proving themselves to be the most violent Angels on the planet. They were locked in the 1990s in a war with the rival Rock Machine that left some 165 people dead and another 300 injured, including innocent bystanders. The war was over control of downtown Montreal drug-trafficking networks. Angels hit man Serge Quesnel told his biographer, Pierre Martineau, that there was a businesslike ruthlessness to the gang’s murders. “I noticed that before executing a criminal, the guys would often ‘borrow’ large quantities of drugs from him. As a result, they pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Hells Angels tattoos

Hells Angels in Mexico

Gang members were particularly interested in gathering intelligence on potential enemies, and police in Montreal found gang members had rented a room overlooking the employee parking lot of the RCMP , using high-powered lenses to note and record licence numbers of cars coming and going.

By the end of the millennium, they spanned the country from coast to coast. Their almost six hundred Canadian members made up about a quarter of the membership of the Hells Angels around the world, and the Toronto area had the highest concentration of Angels in the world.

See also: Michel Auger, Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Yves “Le Boss” Buteau, Daniel DesRochers, Stéphane “Godasse” Gagné, Nomads, Popeyes, Rock Machine, Red Zone, Wolodumyr “Walter” “Nurget” Stadnick, Wolverine .

Dutch Henry: Badlands Bad Guy – The real name for the Swiss-born, stocky cowboy with the hooked nose and German accent was Henry Yuetch, or Ieuch, but he was known in the Big Muddy Badlands of southern Saskatchewan as Dutch Henry. His brother Pete apparently also found the family name cumbersome and went by the moniker Coyote Pete.

Dutch Henry fought in one of the defining battles of the American West on November 25, 1864, at Adobe Walls on the Texas Panhandle plains, alongside Christopher “Kit” Carson, Wyatt Earp, Quebec-born Bat Masterson, a man known simply as Frenchy, and twenty-three others against Comanche and Kiowa. While the whites were vastly outnumbered, they had far superior firepower, including howitzer repeating rifles. When the day-long battle was over, scores of Indians had been slaughtered and more than 170 Kiowa lodges were destroyed, along with their winter provisions and buffalo robes. Also gone were the Natives’ hopes of a unified stand to protect their lands.

The 1880s were a time of drought on the American prairies. Beef prices dropped and once-rich ranchers were suddenly broke. Cowhands – even skilled ones like Henry – were released from their jobs, and some formed gangs to rustle cattle, rob trains, and terrorize ranchers.

Henry drifted north in 1888, to the Badlands area of Montana and Saskatchewan, which was a rustlers’ paradise. Criminals could steal as many as two hundred horses on one drive in Montana, alter their brands, and resell them in Canada. Then they could resteal them and sell them again in Montana and the Dakotas, where they knew there was a shortage – of their own creation.

Henry had a keen sense of humour and many friends along the border. Law-enforcement agencies weren’t impressed that he gave money and beef to poor families, noting that the gifts had often been stolen from someone else.

A bounty of $12,000, enormous money for the time, was promised for capture of his band of horse thieves. When in Canada, Henry’s gang often hid out in a wolf den near Peaked Butte in the Big Muddy Badlands, close to the American border. They dug out the den until it was big enough for the outlaws and their horses.

Henry was credited with naming Plentywood, Montana, when he was camped by a creek, and impatient that a cook couldn’t get a fire started. “Go upstream a couple of miles, and you’ll find plenty of wood,” Dutch supposedly said, and the place where the wood was found became known as Plentywood.

One of his partners in crime was Ed Shufelt, a cowboy who exhausted his life savings successfully bribing a jury after pumping four bullets into the back of a dying man in a saloon he ran in Saco, Montana. Shufelt began working in Canada in the Big Muddy town of Willow Bunch at the ranch of respected citizen Pascal Bonneau.

A grassfire in 1902 forced Bonneau to winter his horses in Montana. He left the herd with Henry and another cowboy, but when he tried to retrieve them in the spring, Henry stuck a gun in his back and told him to go home. Henry then sold the horses to his friend Shufelt, giving him a bill of sale.

Bonneau wasn’t easily intimidated, and the next time Shufelt showed his face in the Willow Bunch area, the Mounties were ready to arrest him.

“When Shufelt went to trial in Regina for his role in the horse theft, cowpuncher friends filled the courtroom and intimidated witnesses,” as Barbara Hegne writes in Border Outlaws of Montana, North Dakota and Canada . The judge had to dismiss the first jury because of threats, but finally a trial was held and Shufelt was sentenced to five years in prison. He died before completing his sentence.

Henry escaped unscathed, and joined forces in 1903 with Sam Kelly and a motley crew of others, including characters named Bloody Knife and Pigeon Toe Kid. In 1905, Henry gave an ornately engraved, ivory-handled Bisley Colt .45 to a boy named Alfred Watkins near Loring, Montana.

“If I never come back, kid, it’s yours,” Henry told him.

He also left his buggy and $100 with Watkins, supposedly so he would have an emergency weapon and transportation safely stashed at the Watkins ranch. A few months later Henry wired Watkins from North Dakota, saying he needed the money quickly. The next day, however, Henry was reportedly shot to death by an associate. What was believed to be Henry’s body was discovered in 1907 in a shallow grave with a gunny sack over his bullet-riddled head.

There were other reports that the real Dutch Henry was killed in 1910 by a Mountie on the Big Muddy River near Moose Jaw, and also that he fled to South America. Whatever the case, he never came back for the pistol.

Ironically, the gun that Henry used to rob ranchers became an economic plus for Malta, Montana, attracting tourists to see it in a glass case in the Phillips County Museum. “It’s not just any revolver,” explained Gary Wilson, a Montana author of books on outlaws. “This is tied to economic development for this town.”

Henry’s character was dramatized in director Anthony Mann’s classic 1950 movie, Winchester ’73 , in which he was played by Stephen McNally. Winchester ’73 revived the career of James Stewart and also featured a young Rock Hudson, playing an Indian chief, and a dance-hall girl played by Shelley Winters.

See also: Bat Masterson, Big Muddy Badlands, Frank Carlyle, Sam Kelly, Outlaw Trail, Sundance Kid .

Hervieux, Serge: Deadly Mistake – He looked up when a visitor to the northeast Montreal car-rental outlet where he worked called out the name “Serge.” Seconds later, the father of two lay dying from gunshot wounds, because bikers connected to the Hells Angels mistook him for a rival Rock Machine member they were seeking.

Serge Hervieux, thirty-eight, had no criminal record or known affiliation with biker gangs, and police called his murder a case of mistaken identity.

Other innocent victims of the biker wars included eleven-year-old Daniel Desrochers, who was killed when a bomb went off outside a Hells Angels hangout in 1995. Two years later, two prison guards were shot in an intimidation campaign. In January 1997, Montreal security guard Guy Lemay was fatally shot in his apartment building, after being mistaken for a neighbour who was a Rock Machine sympathizer.

See also: Michel Auger, Daniel Desrochers, Diane Lavigne, Nomads, Red Zone, Rock Machine .

High Island, Haut Isle: Deadly Mysteries – There are a couple of notable points about this tiny island about twenty kilometres off the Nova Scotia shore. One is that its appearance constantly changes because of a phenomenon called refraction. The other is that it was a former stopping point for American pirates, including Captain Kidd and Ned Lowe.

It was called Ile aux Morts by the Acadian-French settlers, meaning the “Island of the Dead,” since it was a trap for ships trying to enter north or south channels of the bay and offered scant hope of escape for trapped sailors. Tides here often hit fifty feet, and run like the current of a great river. The island has only one landing place, and the rest of its shores are ringed by cliffs from eighty to two hundred feet high.

Local folklore said that American pirate Capt. Samuel Hall left treasure nearby. Hall, who raided Nova Scotia settlements during the American War of Independence, was a privateer with American letters of marque, meaning he could legally attack and loot enemy ships from his sloop, the Mary Jane . When the Mary Jane was captured by the British, its strongbox was missing and presumed to be buried somewhere around Hall’s Harbour.

See also: Charles Bellamy, Eric Cobham, Cupids, Peter Easton, Edward Jordan, Captain Kidd, Mogul Mackenzie, Henry Mainwaring, Sheila Na Geira, Samuel Nelson, John Phillips, Gilbert Pike, Pirates, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts .

Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union: Grim Distinction – This was the only union ever thrown out of the Quebec Federation of Labour ( QFL ) for ethical misconduct, which was quite a distinction, considering the QFL also included the Seafarers’ International Union of Hal C. Banks, which was rough enough to merit a federal commission of inquiry into its behaviour.

The Cincinnati-based hotel union also had problems with authorities in the United States, and a 1984 report by a permanent Senate subcommittee on investigations concluded, “that the almost 400,000 members of the union have suffered as a result of some officers who have been corrupted.”

Reformers were eventually swept to power in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, after the old guard was accused of vote-rigging, negotiating poor contracts, stealing money from members, and maintaining tight links to organized crime.

During the union’s bad old days, top Quebec mobster Claude Faber had his hotel, drinks, meals, and movies billed to the Toronto-based union local. An invoice from the Delta Chelsea Inn in Toronto shows that Local 75 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union was billed for the $75.79 tab for Claude Faber of Ste. Adèle, Quebec, during a February 19 and 20, 1981, visit. The bill covered the room, beverages, phone calls, four movies, and meals.

Faber had been identified as the right-hand man to Montreal Mafia boss Frank Cotroni during the Quebec Police Commission inquiry into organized crime in the 1970s. A year after his stay at the Delta Chelsea, Faber had his accommodations subsidized by the taxpayers, as he was in jail after pleading guilty to the 1982 Montreal gangland slaying of Claude Ménard and to cocaine trafficking.

It didn’t help the union’s image that its organizers in Toronto in the early 1980s included Eddie Melo, a former boxer who was a close friend and associate of Cotroni. Melo once threatened a bartender to force him to sign a union card. He didn’t deny making the threat, but did argue that he didn’t pull the .38 revolver that was found in his home. Then he gestured with his fists toward investigating officers and added, “I have my own weapons – these two.”

See also: Frank “Santos” Cotroni, Claude Faber, Eddie Melo .

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