Ordinary citizens woke up one morning and had enough of the crime and violence in their neighborhoods. Sadly, the police are powerless, and the politicians are corrupt. They had no other option but to take matters into their own hands. The only way to stop crime is to become a superhero. No, that’s not the plot of Marvel or DC comics’ next superhero blockbuster. Indeed, these are real life vigilantes that decided to tackle crime.
Of course, these real-life vigilantes and superheroes don’t have any superpowers, but they all have unique origin stories. For instance, some are regular citizens that don a mask to fight crime in their city. On the other hand, various groups form to protect citizens and hunt criminals. In many situations, parents become vigilantes to avenge a child’s murder. To be fair, law enforcement doesn’t approve of vigilantes and would prefer they call the police instead. Regardless, the real-life vigilantes just want to take a bite out of crime.
13 True Stories About Real Life Vigilantes
1. Phoenix Jones
The real-life vigilante Phoenix Jones, aka Benjamin Fodor, has a simple origin story. A local bad guy broke into his car in broad daylight. Later, his young son cut his hand on the glass. Later that night, Jones put on a ski mask and intervened in a public assault. This led to Fodor becoming the crime-fighting superhero Phoenix Jones. He’s a skilled mixed martial artist that built quite the super suit, which includes a bulletproof vest, stun gun, handcuffs, first aid kit, pepper spray, and a stab-proof vest.
Jones has intervened in public fights, prevented a bus hijacking, and chased off a car thief. He did end up in court after pepper spraying a group of people. Jones continued his crime-fighting ways and even joined the vigilante group Rain City Superhero Movement. In 2020, the police arrested Jones after he tried selling MDMA to an undercover officer.
2. Black Shadow
In the late 80s, a vigilante group called Sombra Negra began striking back at criminals in El Salvador. They felt that law enforcement was powerless against the criminals, drug dealers, and gangs. Rumors suggest the death squad consists of military members and police officers. They often wear costumes, bandanas, and masks to disguise their identities as they target violent criminals. However, Sombra Negra uses violent torture tactics, including removing a criminal’s hands and tongue.
3. Rain City Superhero Movement
The Rain City Superhero Movement brought all the real-life vigilantes in Seattle together. They’re basically real-life Avengers but without the superpowers, technology, and stunt doubles. The crime-fighting brigade consisted of Phoenix Jones, Purple Reign, Buster Doe, Thorn, Prodigy, Green Reaper, No Name, and more. The group saved the day a few times, including helping a blind man during a robbery, preventing car hijackings, and chasing down a sex offender. The Rain City Superhero Movement disbanded in 2014.
4. Marianne Bachmeier
Marianne Bachmeier is Germany’s most famous vigilante. On May 5, 1980, Bachmeier’s only daughter, seven-year-old Anna, was sexually assaulted and murdered by 35-year-old butcher Klaus Grabowski. Grabowski admitted to the murder but constantly blamed the victim, claiming she tried to extort him for money.
A devastated Bachmeier carefully considered her options as she listened to her daughter’s killer blame Anna. Eventually, Bachmeier heard enough. On March 6, 1981, she snuck a Beretta into the courtroom and shot Grabowski in the back of the head seven times. Bachmeier served three years of a six-year sentence. She died from cancer in 1996.
5. Purple Reign
Purple Reign is a real-life superhero active in Seattle a few years ago. After being a victim of domestic abuse, Purple Reign donned her purple costume to fight against domestic violence. Unlike other real-life vigilantes, Purple Reign focuses on her website, charity work, and social media to help the victims and bring down the abusers. She also worked with several non-profit organizations, such as Northwest Family Life.
She was even a member of the Rain City Superhero Movement and briefly married fellow crime-fighting vigilante Phoenix Jones. Later, she left the group and divorced Jones. Regardless, she raised awareness of domestic abuse independently, although she’s been inactive for the last few years.
6. Eduardo Gallo
Eduardo Gallo was a simple man running a consulting firm in Mexico. Everything changed when three gang members broke into his house and kidnapped his 25-year-old daughter Paola. Gallo agreed to pay the ransom, but they killed Paolo anyway. The police arrested two robbers, but the man who pulled the trigger got away.
Gallo was devastated after his precious daughter’s death. He shut down his consulting firm and dedicated his life to tracking down Paolo’s killer. Gallo’s investigation led him into the dark and disturbing world of kidnapping in Mexico. However, he tracked his daughter’s killer to a pay phone. Gallo informed the police, and they arrested the killer without incident. Gallo finally got justice for his Paolo.
7. Master Legend
Master Legend is one of the best-known real-life vigilantes. His popularity exploded in 2008 when Rolling Stone Magazine wrote an article about him. Born in the late 60s, Master Legend first donned the mask at the age of 16. He’s always looking out for the little guy and does charity work. The crime fighter often teams up with his sidekick, The Ace, and co-founded Team Justice and the Justice Crusaders. Recently, Master Legend moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he continues to fight against crime and help the weak, innocent, and poor.
8. The Town of Skidmore
Throughout the 70s, bully Ken McElroy terrorized the town of Skidmore, Missouri. He committed various crimes, including statutory rape, assault, arson, and child sexual abuse. However, McElroy avoided conviction each time. In 1981, he shot the local grocer, 70-year-old Ernest Bowenkamp, and prison seemed unavoidable. However, McElroy somehow appealed the sentence and got out on bail.
The residents of Skidmore had enough of McElroy and confronted him at a local bar. The large group of vigilantes shot and killed McElroy in his pickup truck. Despite the large group of witnesses, nobody has gone to jail for McElroy’s murder. Indeed, nobody even called an ambulance for McElroy after being shot by at least two different guns.
9. Dark Guardian
New York City is the type of place a real-life vigilante can flourish. Enter the Dark Guardian, aka Christopher Pollack. During the day, Pollack is an ordinary MMA instructor, but at night, he becomes a real-life superhero. He even has an impressive super suit with a bulletproof vest. Indeed, Dark Guardian saved the day a few times when he stopped muggers and broke up a fist fight. At one point, he took on local pot dealers to stop the flow of cannabis.
10. New York Initiative
The real-life vigilantes of New York came together to form the crime-fighting supergroup New York Initiative. The original co-founders were Zero, Zimmer, TSAF, and Lucid. The group would use bait patrols to trick criminals and entrap them. However, they branched out and started doing more community outreach. In 2011, they offered to train sex workers in martial arts and weapons training after a serial killer murdered ten sex workers. The group is still active in the New York area.
11. the Guardian Angels
In 1979, Curtis Sliwa created the non-profit Guardian Angels to fight crime in New York. The main goal was to patrol the subways and keep the people safe. None of the members carry a gun. However, they all learn martial arts, CPR, conflict resolution, and first aid through an extensive training program.
The Angels soon expanded beyond patrolling the subways into education programs as well. The Guardian Angels usually wear a bright red jacket with a beret. The group spread worldwide with chapters in Canada, The United Kingdom, Mexico, and Japan.
12. Mr. Extreme
The real-life hero Mr. Extreme spent years protecting the people of San Diego. He decided to become a vigilante after suffering abuse as a child. Eventually, he grew up to become the crime-fighting Mr. Extreme. His extreme super suit takes inspiration from the Power Rangers and features a helmet, goggles, bulletproof vest, and a utility belt.
In 2006, he founded the Xtreme Justice League, which included The Grim, Midnight Highwayman, and Violet Valkyrie. They often patrolled the streets of San Diego, preventing crimes. In 2020, Mr. Extreme announced he’s hanging up the utility belt and retiring from crime-fighting.
13. Bernhard Goetz
Bernhard Goetz is one of the most infamous and polarizing vigilantes in New York history. In 1984, Goetz shot and severely wounded four black teenagers while riding the subway. He claimed he felt threatened and had to defend himself. However, the four boys claimed they were simply panhandling when Goetz fired on them. He even shot one of the boys, Darrell Cabey, multiple times, making him a paraplegic and causing brain damage.
Initially, Goetz had a lot of public support, but the public turned against him after the details started coming out. Indeed, it seemed that racial issues played a role in the event. Eventually, he was charged and served eight months of a one-year sentence. In 1996, Cabey won a $43 million civil trial against Goetz.