Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Wilkes Booth: The Story of Abraham Lincoln's Murderer

Colossus of Rhodes

"Ambition should be made of sterner stuff..."

Julius Caesar

"Of the Seven Wonders of the World, can you imagine how famous a man might be who could pull down the Colossus of Rhodes?"

Such was the meandering of 10-year-old Johnny Booth, whose quixotic upbringing by an overpassionate mother and an insane Shakespearean father were, inadvertently, already stirring rabid visions of fame, glory and immortality in his head.

By early adulthood, John Wilkes Booth became one of the most popular actors of his day, respected by men for his swashbuckling reputation and adored by women for his handsome face, but those boyhood dreams of fame were never satisfied. That is, until an opportunity finally presented itself in the form of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Here he found the chance he had been craving, where he could fashion real scoundrels and heroes from air, both becoming so vivid and definable. Choosing the side of the underdog Southern Confederacy, he opted to become their Brutus and, like that character in Shakespeares Julius Caesar, dethrone the despot who wielded an unjust scepter. The "despot" in this case was Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.

By pulling down this Colossus of Rhodes, Booth believed his name would parallel with folklores most romantic heroes. He failed to foresee that his immortality would, rather, be cast front-row into the chorus of the worlds greatest villains.



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