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Further Details on
VILLAINS Series, 2010
Oil Pastel, Chalk Pastel, Graphite and Acrylic on 200 lb. Rag Paper,
106cm X 167cm (41" X 65")




Canada has its villains, like all cultures.  Sad but true.  Ours are not the most world famous or seemingly iconic, as an image per say, as say the Americans counterparts lets say do.  Which is probably a good thing.  But, it's kind of cool somehow to have some notable bad guys.  Don't get me wrong, they suck as people for sure and in a better world there would be none to worry about which would have been even cooler.  But that's not happening quite yet.  So we need our wanted posters, so be it then. Scary, dastardly, vicious characters do make for a good story.  Admit it.  It doesn't sound nice I know, but interesting none the less.  Canada has its share of these characters. So why not tell the story a bit.  The ones mentioned here, don't worry are all long dead so they aren't there waiting for you around the corner or anything…. I wouldn't scare you like that.

Villainy is not something new in art. Andy Warhol did a series of huge silkscreen wanted posters he called "Most Wanted Men" showing portraits of criminals who at that time were still serving their sentences. He had made 25 of them for the outside of the American building at a Worlds Fair in he late 60's.  Turned out that 2 weeks before the Fair opened, which the large works already installed on the outside of the Pavilion one of the criminals depicted got himself acquitted of his said crime which really was better for him then Warhol who was forced to use black spray-paint to cover over the works entirely, once his lawyer alerted him of a possible lawsuit.  Kind of funny, but true. Warhol's were a statement for sure. The idea of using the wanted poster imagery was  appropriated by Warhol from a series of prints made by artist Marcel Duchamp who had stole a real wanted poster from a police station and replaced the picture of the wanted suspect with a picture of himself suggesting that he, himself was the most wanted man. Wanted I suppose for his parody and ironic surrealistic crimes against art itself. Mug shots are also a favourite of mine.  I'm gonna lie. They are interesting and emotional with a story to tell to be sure. There is always something in them. It's might be in poor taste, I know.  I'm a bit embarrassed of liking them.  Though I remember that Picasso once famous proclaimed "good taste is the enemy of creativity" and I really liked that idea somehow.

Now I don't want to celebrate these Baddies anymore than I need to.  Their stories should be told, as they have quite the stories and faces, and should addressed. In an arguably morbid way they are sort of amazing in their own right.  Well, more like amazing in their own wrong I guess.  I was just was interested in these characters striking stories and appearances and love a good story.  All the characters I depict already got what was coming for them so I'm worried about suits or anything at least until one of their ghosts show up or something. Really I just thought maybe I could show Canada's seedier side.  To cross the the other side of the tracks in a sense historically in this series of portraits of notorious Canadian Villains.

I just wanted a few bad guy portraits, is that so wrong. Geez.

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Background History on the Characters found in this Series of Drawings


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AGNUS McVEE

Little is known about her early life but by the mid 1880's, Agnus McVee had become the sole proprietor of a three story rooming house just outside of Dawson City. Miners would stay there, young runaways came, mail order brides came, railroad men, and of course panhandlers and miners,  people of all sorts came looking for fortune in them hills and stayed at Agnus' Hotel.  All too many sadly never left alive.

The people who had traveled up for the gold rush in the Yukon would often frequent her well kept and comfortable establishment. It was the nicest place in the area.  Little did the guests know, nor could they have imagined the truth about what was happening inside those walls.

Friendly old Agnus would secretly imprison many young women who had been guests at the Hotel. Tying them up in her large dungeonous basement cells. Later selling these unfortunate people in many cases to lonely miners as slaves, only after she had tortured them into obedience. She murdered an unknown number of the people for their gold, cash or horses, for whatever they had.  In the surrounding area, over a 5 year period prior to her capture, the police reports showed 59 bodies found floating and in various states of dismemberment in and around the nearby lakes and hill sides which they would later come to the realization all matched McVee's signature and M.O.

In the winter of 1885 one of her captives managed to daringly escape and ran naked in the mid-winter freezing cold to report to the Mounties station what was going on at the McVee Rooming House. The Mounties hadn't completely  believed what the survivor was telling them, but they quickly moved in on McVee just in case the wild story was true. There inside the basement of the seemingly peaceful rooming house, they were flabbergasted to find 8 badly beaten young women tied up, who all later recounted the same story to the Mounties. Amazingly inside Agnus' office the Mounties found $200,000 worth of gold and cash. An unbelievable sum in those days. Her account books had entries marked “loot” of which the amounts had apparently been hidden by her, in and around the surrounding area of the hotel. The books showed over $250,000 of 'loot' listed in the accounts but only $8500 was ever found of it.

An often over-looked, but major factor in this story, is that men who wished to get a gold claim in the Yukon needed to have a wife to do so. The RCMP Commissioner Sam Steele stated and placed into law; “if you wish to stay and mine one needs one ton of goods and a wife”. In a deranged fate McVee had helped those men who wanted to stay and find their fortune, but lacked a wife… for a price.

After arrested she admitted to having killed a staggering number of people.  Traveling Madams from houses of ill-repute, farmers, merchants, miners, mail order brides, teachers, doctors, children, the infirm, and so on and so forth had all been done in by McVee she happily announced. She loudly and proudly admitted that she had not a hint of remorse for doing so.

She managed to somehow poison herself in prison a month later, on the eve of her trial, February 17th 1885.

Arguably one of the most prolific and terrifying serial killers of all time.  Agnus McVee went to her grave leaving us little understanding of the scope of her crimes.


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THE MAD TRAPPER

In the winter of 1932 hunters in Rat River, Yukon had complained that their traps were being disrupted. The police in the area, the Mounties, all two of them, set out to talk to a man who the locals called Johnson. Once at his small cabin door, Johnson pretended not to be home, despite smoke coming from the chimney when the Mounties arrived. It was 40 below and the Mounties freezing, wisely returned to Aklavik to get reinforcements.

A two days trek later the Mounties returned with 2 more officers, bringing the total to 4, this time with a search warrant for the cabin. The Mounties knock at the cabin door was answered with a shot, which wounded two of the officers badly. Forced to retreat back to Aklavik again, a 14-hour sled ride away, only one injured Mountie survived the long road back to town.

Returning the next time 4 days later, prepared with 9 men, 42 dogs and 40 pounds of dynamite, they intended to get The Trapper this time dead or alive. Surrounding his cabin a torrid gun fight erupted. The Mounties  threw the lit dynamite at the cabin, blowing it to bits. Or so they thought. It was night by the time the Mounties entered the destroyed cabin to remove what they thought would surely be a corpse, but the Trapper suddenly popped up alive, a shotgun in each hand, fired and killed two more Mounties. A 15-hour standoff between the Mounties and the single Trapper took place. With food running short, and with a number of them wounded and dead the Mounties again travelled back to Aklavik to contemplate their next move. As they retreated they claimed to hear an “evil laugh coming from the trapper”. The news hit the airwaves across the country in the first live broadcast of a man hunt. It was heard and became news throughout the world.

A number of days passed before the Mounties were able to return to the cabin. It was the middle of winter in torrid blizzard conditions but upon arrival they realized the Trapper had fled his ruined cabin fortress. For 2 and half weeks they chased him in 50 below temperatures, yet he continually managed to evade capture. The Mounties by this point employed native guides to assist the almost 80 officers now hot on the trail of “The Mad Trapper”.

Fifteen days passed before the Mounties caught up to him and once more there was a shootout. Another Mountie lay dead, a shot through his heart, and miraculously the Trapper again made good his escape, this time by climbing a impassable sheer cliff in the dead of night.

The Mounties said “He seemed capable of fantastic feats and was crafty beyond belief”. The Native guides employed to help capture him said “he is able to snowshoe 2 miles for every 1 mile a dog team could, he must be able to travel in the wind”. They wondered if he was really a man at all. These quotes and his actions were continually being broadcasted live around the world, and by this time the public was enthralled with “The Mad Trapper”.

Evading capture for almost 4 further weeks, traveling almost 40km a day, in terrible white out conditions. One would wonder how he could accomplish this. Its a mystery!

Where and what did he eat? How did he dry his snow covered wet clothes? He could not have made a fire as it would have given his position away and if he could not have made a fire how did to keep himself from freezing at night. How is it possible that he survived all those freezing nights? It can’t really be explained, and is very difficult to even believe. But its all true.

He was witty and daring. He had even backtracked in larger and larger circles for over a month, confusing the already not looking too good, police officers and Mounties. By this time, hundreds of men were now tracking him. He had guns, but couldn’t use them to hunt as they too would have given away his position. He must have built shelter somehow, perhaps in snow drifts maybe,  but that surely would have made his clothes wet from perspiration and the elements, and then would've required a fire to dry them.
Which again he could not do.

His route led him to traverse yet unconquered mountains high in the Northern Yukon. During the worst of the raging blizzard the Trapper had climbed a 7000 foot mountain with what could only have been a small amount of food and no climbing gear with the visibility at near zero. The locals had told the Mounties that trying to climb the sheer cliffs of slippery ice in the mind numbing cold would have been impossible to do even with climbing gear and proper food.  But the Trapper loved to surprise.

Finally after 6 weeks on the lamb, the famed Canadian pilot named “Wop” May was hired to fly a specially constructed plane to aid in the search. Notably this was the first plane equipped with ski’s rather than wheels. After several days, the WWI Ace eventually caught sight of the Trapper, running at high speed over on the surface of the frozen Rat River.  May quickly directed the Mounties to his location and they closed in.  A raging gun battle ensued. After shooting yet another Mountie, the heavily outnumbered Trapper finally succumbed in a hail of gunfire, 8 bullets in his body in all, ending the almost nine week long ordeal.

On the Trappers body, the Mounties found $3000 in American and Canadian currency, which incidentally was a very large sum in 1932, enough to easily buy a house in any city. It was discovered that he also had very expensive and extensive dental work done in a time when only the very wealthy would have access to such a thing.

When he died, in his possession were found:
•    Numerous gold nuggets
•    A broken compass
•    A straight razor
•    A hunting knife and rifle, 2 shotguns, and a pistol.
•    Several fish hooks
•    Some wood nails
•    A dead squirrel
•    Beecham’s laxatives pills
•    Numerous human teeth, that were strangely not his own, and of unknown origin

And little else.

Nothing notable was found on or with him that could establish his true identity.

Who was this man really? Where did this person come from? Who or maybe more importantly, what really was he? Some say he was a Chicago mobster who was escaping a hit and hiding out in the woods till it cooled off back home. Or maybe he was an escaped mental patient from Scandinavia who had travelled to the Yukon to be free of human contact.  Both were theories in those days.  Imaginations 'ran wild'. Pun intended.

We'll never know the answers. His fingerprints had been purposely scrapped off and no one ever came forward to claim the body.  During the manhunt the Mounties never heard him speak a word.

Its really hard to wrap your head around the story of our wildest wildman. This Super Wild Man. The Mad Trapper of Rat River.

Buried under the name Albert Johnson, the assumed name he had used upon his arrival, in a shallow grave just below the permafrost, in the largest town in the area Aklavik. He was presumed to be about 35 years old at the time of his death.

As the years pass by, it is now quite clear, the only thing we can really know and understand now for sure is that he will likely never be reliably identified and it might just be better that way.



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EDWIN ALONZO BOYD


Born in 1914, the son of a Toronto Police officer, young Eddie had an undoubtedly hard childhood. He lost his mother and two brothers, who all died of scarlet fever when he was only 12.  That year was a turning point in his life. It was the year he had his first brush with the law. For a time growing up in Toronto he had scraped out a living driving a TTC street car on Queen Street  and some other odd jobs, all the while illicitly spending his nights committing escalating crimes.  Eventually while on the run from police he signed up to join the Canadian Army.  He ended up spending WWII in the Royal Canadian Regiment First Division Canadian Army, the special forces of the time. He was by all accounts a very good soldier who successfully survived and completed many secret missions into Nazis occupied territory.  During the war he married a French girl who he had met in Normandy while behind enemy lines.  He had a son born in France with her.  When the baby was only weeks old, during an air raid drill at the hospital, a nurse accidentally dropped his newborn son who tragically died in the incident. Later distraught when he was discharged from the Army and returned to Toronto he claimed he was unable to find reasonable employment.  Now with a wife who was pregnant again, this time with twins, he felt he needed to do something drastic.  He brazenly robbed a North York 'Bank of Montreal', and followed that with six more banks in the city within the next three months. He managed to form a gang of robbers, later dubbed “The Boyd Gang” by The Toronto Star, who were quickly becoming infamous around the country for their exploits.

Eddie Boyd was a fast talking, good looking, extremely intelligent man, who fancied himself immensely and had a movie star quality and luck or talent for getting what he wanted.  What is rarely discussed and quite interesting and somewhat bizarre, is the fact Boyd seemed to enjoy dressing in women's clothing and wearing a women's wig and face make-up as a choice of disguise to aid in his many get-aways.

Eventually all 'The Boyd Gang' were cornered and caught after their numerous successful and large bank robberies. They were all sent to the Toronto's notorious Don Jail.  They were strangely and unwisely placed in a-joining cells.  Soon enough Boyd hatched their escape plan, amazingly involving the use of a hack saw blade that one of his gang members always kept in his fake leg.

On the lamb, and in the wind......another robbery spree began, including the largest in Canadian history, still to this day.

Months later Boyd was eventually discovered, after an exhaustive man hunt by the Police, sound asleep in bed beside a bag full of money and five loaded pistols. Amazingly the gang was placed once more in the Don Jail, again right beside each other in the exact same cells they had previously escaped from (Not sure who thought to do that, but wow). This time Boyd's strategy had to be more complex.  It involved him charmingly buttering up and making friends with the guards.  The silver tongued Boyd jokingly one day snatched the key from the guard, pressing the key firmly in his palm for a few seconds before handing the keys back, leaving an impression in his skin which he used as a template to fashion a key of his own. Then slowly at night, over a 3 1/2 week period, he would open his cell door with his make-shift key and use the hack saw still kept safe and sound inside his gang members fake leg, of which the guards hadn’t caught onto.  Sawing slowly and quietly through the outside window's bars, bit by bit, over each night methodically preparing their eventual final escape. When the morning came he simply would just return to the cell unnoticed by the prison guards, and lock it back up again behind him. To fit through the small hole he was going to be able to cut, the gang needed to literally starve themselves for a month. It came down to the night before they were to stand trial when they all escaped the Don Jail for a second time.

The biggest man hunt in Canadian history ensued. The newspapers had a field day, Boyd’s gang made headlines across the country, North America and the world.

When he was eventually recaptured again months later based mostly on leads from sightings from the public who now recognized his well publicized face.  He  was found by police, once again sound asleep beside a large pile of money, ending the greatest criminal manhunt in the Dominion’s history.

Boyd received 8 life sentences for his numerous crimes, but in Canadian Law at the time, the 8 life sentences somehow equaled only 14 years total in jail.  Hard to believe, but true. He did his stretch quietly this time.  Upon release Boyd, assumed a new identity and moved to British Columbia and became a Bus Driver for the disabled for over 12 years.

After his death, audio tapes were found amongst his possessions, recorded by Boyd himself years earlier, possibly in preparation for a biography of some sort.  On which he left an oral account of war stories, bank robberies and many of his crimes that were far more serve than he had previously ever admitted to and were far more brutal then he had been thought to have committed, including a number of horrendous murders in the High Park area of Toronto in the early 1940s.

One of our most notorious, and infamous criminals and fascinating characters in Canadian History died in his bed at the ripe old old age of 92, in May 2001.



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ALVIN KARPIS

Alvin Karpowicz was given the nickname “Creepy” by his cohorts and it was well deserved.  It was said because of his sinister smile he would wear after killing someone and he would wear it a lot. Born in Montreal in 1907.  He became a bootlegger and an escalating worse criminal by the age of 10.  As a teenager he was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Hutchison, Kansas for burglary. (No relation). He escaped the prison, changed his name to Karpis and relentless as ever, proceeded to go on a two year long crime spree, interrupted for only a month while he was staying with his parents. Caught stealing a car while on the run, he was sent back to prison where he met Fred Barker, son of Ma Barker, and leader of the infamous “Barker Gang”.

Upon release they formed the Karpis-Barker Gang, one of the most formidable criminal gangs of the 1930’s. They seemingly didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who got in their way, even innocent bystanders. They robbed banks, hijacked mail deliveries and turned kidnapping into a lucrative business. Lead by Karpis, the Gang netted over $400,000 from kidnapping and ransom alone. J. Edgar Hoover, feeling the public pressure and because the gang had kidnapped a close personal friend of President Roosevelt, the FBI was instructed to name Karpis the new "Public Enemy #1". He was the fourth man and last to be so named and was the only one to have not been killed by the FBI. The FBI had even created a “flying squad” of agents that traveled the country in airplanes searching him out, which was a first for law enforcement.

Eventually tracked down in Atlantic City, the FBI and Karpis had a brutal shoot out that resulted in the death of Karpis’ 8 month pregnant girlfriend who had been hiding out with him.  He however, escaped alive and continued his crimes and within a week even managed to pull off an “Old West” style hold up of a train, which resulted in $47,000. The last notable train robbery in history.

While on the run, ever cocky, he dared to send taunting letters to J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover furious, publicly declared war on Karpis and stated he would arrest Alvin Karpis with his own hands (which would actually have made him the first and only person Hoover ever personally arrested). The FBI located Karpis eventually in New Orleans on a ship that was docked and was preparing to leave for Montreal. Hoover flew in and placed himself in charge of the arrest but as the FBI stormed Karpis’ ship with over two dozen men J. Edgar Hoover waited in the car and only exited its safe confines once Karpis was captured. Hoover always the self promoter, rushed to Karpis'side and pronounced to the growing crowd and his alerted media, “You’re under arrest. Put the 'cuffs on him boys”. Embarrassingly, none of the Agents had thought to bring handcuffs as it was not common practice to do so then and they must have been under the impression they would never be taking in anyone, especially Karpis, alive. He was eventually tied up with a necktie and taken into custody.

The final capture of Alvin Karpis essentially ended the time of big named depression era criminals. Sentenced to life in prison, he was incarcerated at Alcatraz, despite being a Canadian citizen, and was there until the Government closed it. He was then moved to Leavenworth. And years later transferred again, now to McNeil Island Penitentiary where his cellmate was to be a young 18 year old, named Charles Manson. He taught the teenage Charlie how to play the guitar and even promised to set Manson up with a job as a singer in Las Vegas club upon his release, through his mob contacts, though Charlie Manson it appears never took him up on the offer, he instead went to California and got into other things.

Released on parole in 1969 Alvin Karpis was then deported back to Canada. Once back in Canada he found out he was no longer able to obtain a passport.  He was denied this due to the fact he had had his fingerprints permanently removed in a procedure done years before, early in his Chicago days, by infamous underworld physician Dr. Joseph Moran.

Alvin Karpis went onto published his memoirs in 1971 and then strangely again in a slightly different revised version in 1979. Decades after his release from prison the ever resourceful Karpis managed to travel, somehow without a passport, to Spain. Was he once again on the run maybe. We'll never know.  He died the day he arrived, under mysterious circumstances in the summer of 1979. Was there a conspiracy or a cover-up. Possibly.  Little is known about his last days and there was conveniently no autopsy done by the Spanish authorities.  The body was buried quickly the day after his death, in an unmarked grave leaving the end of his life a mystery.... And his story even more amazing that way!


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ALEXANDER KEITH JR.

“Sandy” Keith from Halifax Nova Scotia was the nephew of the brewer Alexander Keith. He had added the name Jr. himself in his twenties to capitalize on his famous Uncle's name. He had been a Confederate Army secret agent during the American Civil War where he and his friend Luke Blackburn came up with the infamous plot to send infected yellow fever blankets to the northern states to kill civilians and their army.  Later, his diabolical plan was also infamously carried out by the US Government on numbers of their native population, killing hundreds at the hands of this new form of chemical weapon.

Later, he swindled some well-to-do associates out of large sums of money. Which forced him to go into hiding from his former friends.  He married a German girl under an assumed name, one of many he used.  He and his wife lived the high life. Hobnobbing with Europe’s wealthy socialites under the alias William King Thomas (who makes up an alias with King in it) the couple eventually began to run out of money. He concocted yet another devious plot, this time to blow up passenger ships at sea with the dynamite he would hide in shipping crates and then collect on false insurance claims of expensive goods he claimed were onboard the same ship. In reality, of course, all that had ever been inside these crates he had placed aboard those ships were the time bombs that would destroy the ships and killed dozens and dozens in the process.

After carrying out this dastardly deed as many as 9 times, and being responsible for hundreds of deaths, he watched a docked ship from a distance as one of his packages was being loaded onboard, but the explosion went off prematurely, killing many in the busy Harbour.  This time however it was different for Keith.  He had actually seen his destruction first hand. He walked directly to his fancy hotel, went to his state room and unsuccessfully tried to kill himself with a shot to the head. He died in terrible pain a week later in 1875 as arguably the worst mass murderer in Canadian and possibly the world’s history.


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All images Copyright © Andrew R. Hutchison 2000 - 2014