1284 — The Pied Piper plays Hamelin

The legends are very specific: in the year 1284, the town of Hamelin, in the in Lower Saxony region of Germany, was overrun with rats. Hordes of rats. One day, a piper claiming to be a rat-catcher appeared in the town. A deal was soon struck: he would play his pipes and draw the rates away, the townspeople would pay him handsomely.

The piper led the rats into the nearby Weser river, where they drowned. But then the townsfolk reneged on their part of the deal. This was decision-making roughly on a par with saying “oh, what a lovely wooden horse, let’s drag it into the middle of Troy.”

The piper returned on the feast day of Saints John and Paul. He played once more, and this time, he enchanted the children of the town. 130 children followed him, leaving behind only one or two (accounts vary). Accounts also disagree over what happened to the children – some say he drowned them like the rats, some say they were safely returned after he was paid several times his original price. So it’s six to five and pick ’em whether the Pied Piper was a mass murderer, or merely a staunch advocate of contract law.

Referenced in:

Pied Piper — Jethro Tull
Pied Piper — The Saw Doctors
Symphony of Destruction — Megadeth
People Call Me the Pied Piper — Donovan

1975 – The Pine Ridge Shootout occurs

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an Oglala Lakota Native American reservation located in the U.S. state of South Dakota. It was the sight of the notorious Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, and a similar, though much smaller scale, uprising in 1975. After years of deteriorating relations with the federal government, some residents of the reservation, along with allies from the American Indian Movement, engaged in a shootout with FBI agents on June 26, 1975.

One Indian and two FBI agents were killed in the raid, and although three men were tried for the deaths of the latter, only one was convicted, the courts upholding the self-defence pleas of the other two. Life on this rez remains difficult for the Indians and controversial to just about everyone.

Referenced in:
Crazy Life — Toad the Wet Sprocket

1996 – Veronica Guerin is shot and killed

Veronica Guerin was an Irish journalist whose beat was crime. This did not sit well with the criminals whose exploits she covered, even though she used psuedonyms (mostly in order to avoid trouble with Irish libel laws). She received threats to her life and wellbeing, but did not allow this to deter her.

A particular foe of hers was mob boss John Gilligan, who threatened to kill her and rape her son after she confronted him about his wealth and apparent lack of legitimate income. On June 26, 1996, men from his organisation (although, according to Gilligan, acting without his knowledge or consent) shot and killed Guerin in her car.

The murder weapon was never recovered, but an investigation led to several convictions for her murder and for other charges related to their involvement in organised crime. Gilligan was not convicted of the murder, but was put away for drug-related charges.

The most lasting legacy of Guerin’s murder was the formation of the Criminal Assets Bureau, which conducted precisely the sorts of investigation that Guerin had advocated and that led to her death.

Referenced in:

Veronica — Christy Moore
Veronica 1337 — Paul Bowen
Easy To Lose Hope — Eleanor McEvoy
Complaint in the System (Veronica Guerin) — Savatage