Two experts on the life of Butch Cassidy say new evidence points to a surprising possibility: the famous Old West outlaw allegedly killed in a Bolivia shootout may have survived quietly into old age, the Associated Press reports.
Brent Ashworth, a rare books collector from Utah, and Larry Pointer, a Montana author, say a newly uncovered manuscript of a book called Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy, which dates back to 1934, may reveal that the work could actually have been an autobiography cleverly disguised as historical fiction.
Historians had been aware previously of an edited-down version of the book, by an author named William T. Phillips, which is twice as short and dates back to 1936.
The new manuscript, Pointer says, has details only Cassidy could have known. In one of the accounts in the manuscript, for instance, the author describes how a judge visited Cassidy in prison in 1895. The judge offered Cassidy a handshake and a possible pardon from the governor, but Cassidy refused.
Pointer explained that documents available to the public show the judge who sentenced Cassidy wrote a letter that same year about Cassidy's ill-will towards another judge named Jay Torrey, who visited Cassidy in jail. Documents also show that Cassidy sued Torrey two years earlier for allegedly stealing his cattle.
"What's really remarkable to me is that, who else cares?" Pointer told the AP. "Who else would have remembered it in that kind of detail... about an offer of a handshake and refusing it in a prison in Wyoming in 1895?"
Pointer and Ashworth aren't the first people to claim that the author of "Bandit Invincible," William T. Phillips, who died in Washington state in 1937, is actually the famous bandit himself. Phillips' adopted son, who has since died, told Pointer that he believed his father was Butch Cassidy.
But at least one historian remains unconvinced. The claims that Phillips was Cassidy are "total horse pucky," said Dan Buck, a historian who has studied the bandit's life. "It doesn't bear a great deal of relationship to Butch Cassidy's real life, or Butch Cassidy's life as we know it."