OJ Simpson may have his Bronco. Jack The Ripper might have never been found. But Albert Hicks has one thing these men will never have. Notoriety that strikes fear into most people who hear his name, especially those who live in New York City.
What would cause those who live in the most ruthless of cities to shudder in fear? A pirate serial killer, who took joy in his killing spree. This is not an exaggeration, Hicks was gleeful as he recounted the murders and the reason why he committed them. As he might have said himself, “The Devil is in the details.”
Ahoy Dead Matey
Dressed in a monkey coat and a Kossuth hat, Hicks walked around what is now the Lower East Side of Manhattan looking for trouble. Or he claimed work. He was a sometime oyster slooper and part-time pirate, one never knew which version of Hicks they were going to get.
Charming to a fault, yet dead inside. Many serial killers have been described this way but Hicks took the lithium with it. Instead of worrying that it made him different or dangerous, he seemed to relish in the contrast. Almost as if he enjoyed the chaos he caused and always sought another rush.
Eventually, he took a job on an oyster sloop boat, he was the first mate. When the boat returned to dock, he was the only mate. During the journey, Hicks killed the Captain and the other members of the crew and stole the money onboard. It was the only reason he had taken the job. He told police: “The devil was the fifth personage, He possessed me.”
This is partly why he was dubbed “the last pirate of New York.”
For a criminal mastermind like Albert Hicks, no ordinary police investigation would do. No. He wanted something big, he wanted police chasing him. The original fugitive.
Police showed up at his residence after talking with the sole survivor of his massacre. When they arrived at his Manhattan apartment, it had already been cleaned out. Neighbors told stories of how Hicks had been throwing money around and acting like a big shot. Maybe he was still possessed by the devil?
The neighbors also hinted that Hicks was planning on moving his family out to Rhode Island. This time, they followed the family and found the psycho pirate with $100 on his person and the watch of the dead captain.
Murder Most Acquitted
Captain George Burr was one of three (the survivor eventually died due to injuries sustained from Hicks) murder charges. Hicks was not concerned though, he had a great escape from the charges. The bodies had never been found. Without the bodies, it would almost certainly mean an acquittal for the serial killing pirate. Prosecutors knew their hands were tied.
Until they untwisted that knot. Since Hicks had stolen the money and watch from Captain Burr, he could be considered a pirate. Back in the 1860s, being a pirate was considered a federal felony. This meant prosecutors could go for the death penalty and rid the world fo the monster. And that’s what they did.
Nobody Mourns The Psycho
The jury took seven minutes to deliberate. Seven minutes. Likewise, the judge overseeing the case decided the sentence with lightening quick speed. After calling the crimes against his crew “inhuman and revolting,” the judge sentenced Hicks to death by hanging.
What the judge may not have realized at the time was that was what Hicks wanted. Being America’s first serial killer, police would connect him to at least a dozen more murders later, and New York City’s last public execution. He may not have lived to see his fame or relish in it, but he and the devil are still celebrating it to this day.