Buckriders

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The Buckriders (called the bokkenrijders in Dutch) is a legend of Limburg. There are however as many versions of the legend as there are story tellers.

The legend

As the legend goes, the Buckriders were a gang of ruthless robbers who made the Overmaas region (the current Limburg) an unsafe place to live from the 1730s to the 1780s. It was said that the members had made a pact with Satan and rode through the sky on the backs of goats. Recent historical research seems to discard the truthfulness of that story entirely. The gang of the Bokkerijders would appear to be a myth, deliberately made up by the law enforcers of those days, as a pretext for torturing suspects while investigating some ten burglaries. Suspects would be tortured to the extent that they would release new names of the 'members' of the gang. This would lead to hundreds of people receiving the death penalty for only a few thefts in total. The reason of the law enforcers and judges to take these extreme measures in fighting these petty crimes is unknown.

There are two periods in which the Bokkerijders were said to be active, around the 1740s and the 1780s. Between 1773 and 1774, 37 Goat Riders were held captured in the Schelmentoren (the local prison next to the Pancratiuskerk church in Heerlen) and executed on the Heesberg (a hill now part of the city).

Alternative versions of the legend portray the Bokkerijders primarily as a sort of Robin Hood of the Low Countries.

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