10 Deadly Gangs From History
For centuries, like-minded criminals have been forging gangs all over the world and participating in felonious activities. Whether it stems from personal gain or sheer hostility, millions of gang members and innocent people have had their lives cut short by these unlawful syndicates. Gangs are everywhere and they employ hundreds of thousands of the most ruthless individuals on the planet. Most of these vicious groups are associated with the same atrocities, but there are a handful that are more terrorizing than the rest.
Les Apaches were a violent criminal gang that terrorized the streets of Paris, France during the early 1900s. This deadly gang thrived due to the police force in Paris being outnumbered by almost double the amount of mobile gang members.
The name “Apaches” was adopted from the Native American tribe, whom the Europeans at the time viewed as brutal savages during periods of war. None of the members of the Les Apaches were actually Apache, but carried the same type of brutality to their criminality. They gained particular notoriety for attacking unsuspecting victims on the streets with self-styled weapons. The gang members used various forms of close-range combat; often resorting to their bare hands or personal belongings to cause harm to their victims.
Despite the legend of violence, modern scholars view Les Apaches as a group of outcasts who practiced a subculture of dandyism combined with violent crime. Members of the gang typically sported stylish hats, thoroughly polished shoes, bell pants, and an unzipped jacket that was worn on top of a jersey or t-shirt. There was also a dance that was practiced solely by members of the syndicate that emulated a type of “street swing” that was known to be violent as well. Combining their elegant and violent image, people were often heavily injured and even incurred fatal injuries while being thrown across local bars or being struck by mistimed blows.
9Forty Elephants Gang
Forty Elephants was an all-female gang that gained notoriety in London in the 19th century. The group is responsible for heists that resulted in thousands of pounds worth of stolen luxury goods. During the time this gang was terrorizing London, high-end business owners and their employees erupted with fear and panic when one of the Forty Elephant members were seen near their store. The gang’s strategy, which was always formulated by the “Queen” of the sisterhood, included having all of the gang members bum-rush their target location, looting as much merchandise as each member could hold, and scattering through various exits to overwhelm security. Members beat and even kidnapped those who attempted to thwart their efforts.
The gang, sometimes also called the Forty Thieves, eventually entered additional criminal activity, including posing as maids at wealthy households before robbing them. The group also greatly profited from getting romantically involved with men and blackmailing them later. Due to the nature of their various crimes, member turnover was high so younger, better looking, and better conditioned women could replace weaker members of the gang and maximize profits.
Yakuza refers to organized crime syndicates in Japan, very similar to the mafia. These gangs have been organized since the 17th century and have remained active through modern times. Ironically, even though Japan notoriously sports one of of the lowest crime rates in the world, the Yakuza is one of the largest and most riveting criminal organizations in history.
The syndicate consists of three main families: the Yamaguchi-gumi, Inagawa-kai, and the Sumiyoshi-kai. Gang wars have happened sporadically throughout the years, but one of the most prominent took place during the 1980s. There was a dispute between members within the Yamaguchi-gumi regarding who would replace a deceased Kazuo Taoka, the family’s third chairman. Dozens were killed and even more were injured as hundred of shootings took place over a 4-year period.
The Yakuza is involved in racketeering, illegally trafficking firearms, and carrying out hits. The syndicate has been responsible for thousands of casualties, including a handful of prominent figures, but they have remained immune to authorities because of the power and tenacious influence they demonstrate in Japan.
Thuggee, or Thugs, were a secret cult of roaming assassins in the 19th century during British Empire in central parts of India. British administrators became alarmed when they found a series of travelers disappearing and later being found murdered in a gruesome manner. They concluded that this was a handiwork of the members of a deadly gang that they called Thuggee, which was spread all across the country.
The word Thuggee roughly translates into “deceit” and it suggests the cunning nature of the gang members and their methods. This gang roamed in groups posing as merchants, pilgrims, and soldiers in an effort to befriend people and earning their trust before striking at the most opportune time. The most intriguing and notorious part of their killings was that they murdered their victims in a bloodless manner. The typical approaches to their slayings included poisoning, neck-breaking, or strangling their victims with the yellow rumal that each member of the gang wore tied around their wrist.
The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s after refugees fled from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador by cause of foreign Civil War destruction. These exiles formed competing groups amongst themselves, the toughest of which formed the Mara Salvatrucha alliance.
With thousands of members in various cliques throughout the world, this deadly gang has been known to be heavily involved in black market gun sales, contract killing, human trafficking, assault on law enforcement and innocent civilians, and drug smuggling. Members are notorious for killing their victims by shooting them in the head in broad daylight and stabbing and hacking them with machetes. The gang is also known for murdering anyone, including family members and spouses, that demonstrates indignity towards the syndicate.
5The Live Oak Boys
The Live Oak Boys was an Irish street gang founded by Bill Wilson in 1858, who hid a kitchen knife in his beard for any unexpected emergencies. Based on Gallatin Street in New Orleans, the gang acted as a loose cannon, often times killing and stealing from each other because of their lack of organization and command. Law enforcement never patrolled their area alone, while often times avoiding it at all costs.
The Boys walked around and used wooden clubs as their primary weapon of choice. They would raid local businesses, particularly bars, clubs, and dance halls, while committing arson, assault, and substantial vandalism. They were hired by businessmen to act on competitors in attempts to boost their own patronage and putting others out of business.
All the murdering of fellow members within their own affiliation and imprisonment of another chunk of their membership left them vulnerable, and the gang quickly spiraled into irrelevancy after a little over a decade. New, younger gangs were established and persecuted them, ending a bloody era dominated by The Live Oak Boys.
4The Vorovsky Mir
The Vorovsky Mir was a criminal network based in Soviet Russia and are often referred to as the Russian Mafia. This gang’s hierarchy is comprised of solely criminals, as the only way to have a prominent position within the organization is to have multiple convictions. The Vors dominated the prison system and used it as their primary source of recruitment. Members accepted collective responsibility and swore to a code of “complete submission to the laws of criminal life, including obligations to support the criminal ideal.” They’re easily identifiable by their extravagant and elaborate tattoos, a custom that is still in practice to this day.
Branching out from their murdering activities, the Vorovsky Mir expanded their reach into money laundering, business and bank hacking, drug and human trafficking, and even cyber crimes. It has also been reputed that former Vory members have made their way into the Russian Parliament.
3Five Points Gang
Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Johnny Torrio, and Paul Kelly, all infamous and influential criminals in American history, were all associated with the Five Points Gang. The Five Pointers established themselves within the Five Points District in Manhatten’s Lower East Side, claiming territory within Chinatown, Chatham Square, and the Bowery. The gang was saturated with Italian immigrants that were required to dress in expensive designer suits. They became so prominent that many of their members were recruited by the Mafia.
The legendary mob possessed thousands of members, recruiting smaller and more youthful gangs to add firepower. Sophisticated robberies, racketeering, prostitution, and bloody turf wars were commonplace for members of the Five Pointers. Extensive gang battles occurred frequently with their archrivals, the Eastman Gang. Many times, hundreds of gangsters were involved in shoot-outs at a time, and mayhem broke out even more when just as many police officers arrived on the scene. Members were typically undertrained and weren’t well-acquainted with their weapons. This unfamiliarity led to an underwhelming amount of deaths than there should have been, but the tally of casualties linked to the Five Points Gang summed to many thousands.
This ruthless, predominately African-American gang was started in the 1960s by high school students Raymond Washington and Stanly Williams in Los Angeles, California. Approximately a decade later, the small-town street organization transformed into a cross-country arrangement. The Crips’ membership inflated to the point where smaller groups within the gang started forming. This led to the individual units engaging in battles with each other, which occurred alongside their intense and malignant combats with the Bloods.
Coincidentally, the Crips were formed with noble intentions, but started becoming violent as time went on. Crips affiliates became extremely aggressive and started getting involved in organized shoot-outs and drug trafficking. The reigning army in Los Angeles has also been known beat and shoot innocent bystanders, and even entering random houses, murdering anyone residing inside, and looting them.
Los Zetas are the biggest and deadliest part of the Mexican drug cartel. During the 1990s, an entire Mexican special forces unit deserted their homeland military and laid the foundation for one of the most intimidating gangs in history. Since then, the group has been responsible for some of the most disturbing and violent mass-murders the world has ever seen.
Unlike most gangs, Los Zetas have used high-powered weapons, such as rocket launchers, AK-47 rifles, and other guns used by the Mexican military. When former members betray the syndicate, rather than seeking out the deceiver, they take their weapons and raid their respective town or village and kill hundreds of civilians. It’s also typical of gang members to decapitate victims using axes or machetes.
In 2010, Los Zetas took part in the San Fernando massacre, a mass murder of approximately 190 people in Mexico. The gang hijacked various passenger buses in San Fernando, and people on board were kidnapped, killed, and then buried in mass graves. The passengers were forced into gladiator-like events where they had to kill others to save themselves. The “winners” of these battles were used as hitmen for the gang.
With roots dating back to 2011, Los Zetas carried out a Hitler-like mass extermination in Allende and surrounding towns; mass murdering and incinerating hundreds of civilians, using a network of ovens to try and mask the killings. The cartel had complete governmental control during the time, and the atrocities have remained undocumented due to the unknown details regarding the event.