Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Billy the Kid Experts Weigh in on the Croquet Photo


The juggernaut of publicity for the National Geographic Channel show airing on Sunday, October 18, is nothing short of phenomenal. We started getting e-mail requests last week about the alleged new photograph of outlaw Billy the Kid, which we first discussed in our special Billy the Kid issue (June 2015).  Readers begged for our input and verdict on the so-called “croquet photo.” They all wanted to know one thing: “Do you think it’s really Billy?” Short answer: We think the publicity is genius, but no one in our office thinks this photo is of the Kid.

We polled some of our writers and researchers who have spent a good part of their lives studying the Kid. These are the guys we trust and respect. Here are their responses:

“…that photo described as ‘Billy the Kid playing croquet’ [was] supposedly found in a Fresno, California, ‘junk shop’ by a certain Randy Guijarro—who paid ‘a couple of bucks’ for it ( some accounts state he paid 67 cents ). These accounts go on to say that this junk shop photo is ‘now worth $5 million.’ I guess I’ll have to see how many millions I can make by selling the photo I found in a dumpster in East Overshoe, which shows Belle Starr and Calamity Jane playing hopscotch on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
—Jack DeMattos, author of “The Search for Billy the Kid’s Roots is Over,” Real West, January 1980

“Without a solid provenance linking a historic photograph to the Kid, it can never be anything more than simply a photo of a goofy-looking juvenile who bears a  resemblance to one William H. Bonney.  Such images are hardly rare—unfortunately.”
—Mark Lee Gardner, author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett

“Aside from lacking any provenance, this photo is from such a long distance that it’s impossible to discern physical attributes, much less facial features. This is simply another of the long chain of want-it-to-be-the-Kid pictures. This one poses even less credibility than its predecessors. We so-called experts have been showered with a flood of Billy pictures that their owners were sure were Billy because they looked like  Billy.”
—Bob Utley, author of Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

“When I first saw it two years ago, the owner only thought the one was Billy the Kid because he had a sweater on, and he thought the hat looks like the one in the authentic photo.  But the promoters he was somehow able to get involved are leaving money on the table at $5 million because they failed to identify Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok who are also obviously in the photo.”
—Robert G. McCubbin, world-famous collector of historical Old West photographs

“Bob  McCubbin and I told the owner two years ago it is not a photo of Billy the Kid. He refused to believe us and kept dragging it around to various auctioneers, trying to convince them it was real.  Finally, he got Don Kagin to accept it.  Bob and I have explained in detail to everyone involved why the image has no value. This photo has no more provenance than any of the scores of alleged Billy the Kid images which have appeared on ebay the past 15 years. And don’t talk to me about facial recognition software. When it comes to two-dimensional historic images, it just doesn’t work.”
—John Boessenecker, California outlaw historian

“Regardless of what is said by paid ‘experts,’ their conclusions are CONJECTURE, not FACT.  No matter how sophisticated the hype that accompanies them, it’s still hype and nothing else. The ‘proof’ they offer is nothing more than wishful thinking, and the historical value of the image is zero.”
—Frederick Nolan, author of The West of Billy the Kid

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