The Evil Genius is a once a month series discussing true villains our beloved antagonists have been based from. I’d love to read your comments on what you think of the series, your thoughts on Moriarty, or on any Sherlock Holmes novel/movie/show!
Who was the man that Sherlock Holmes referred to as the “Napoleon of crime” and “a genius, a philosopher, and abstract thinker”? It turns out that Professor Moriarty was not just a figment of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagination; but a tried and true real-life criminal. It was during an interview that Doyle disclosed that the inspiration for Professor Moriarty was an obscure man named Adam Worth. A criminal mastermind who was loyal to his friends and abhorred violence saying once, “A man with brains has no right to carry firearms.”
Worth was the son of a German tailor and immigrated to the United States when he was fourteen years old. As a young man, he enlisted to fight against the Confederate army, and it was during this time where his life took a turn that would alter his destiny. Injured during battle, Worth suffered a mortal wound and was declared dead by the army doctor...only, he wasn’t dead. There had been a mix up with the paperwork and Worth was erased from existence.
He took the opportunity to become a professional bounty jumper, enlisting in the army several times under different aliases to collect the enlistment bonus, and would then abandon his assignment. After a while, those damn Yankees began to recognize him, so he decided to go ahead and switch to the Confederate side, until he ran into the same problem.
Adam Worth abandoned the bounty jumper profession to become a pick pocket and was soon arrested and sent off to Sing Sing to serve three years. But the walls of the prison could not keep in the genius that would later inspire one of the best antagonists of all time. During a guard change, Worth made his escape, thwarting the guards and climbing out of a sewer pipe (guess it doesn’t just happen in the movies).
Leaving his life and alias in Massachusetts, Worth whisked away his best friend and partner in crime, Bullard, to Liverpool to start a new life. In Liverpool, the men fell in love with the same woman, a barmaid who went by the name of Kitty. Kitty married Bullard, but had an open affair with Worth, who fathered two of her daughters. Worth and Bullard ran a bar featuring some illegal underground gambling, but the ambitious Worth was not content and began to plot for higher stakes.
The odd family of three moved into a local mansion, purchased by Worth. Adam Worth was intent on giving the appearance that he was a gentleman, and he pulled it off nicely with race horses, a collection of rare books, and galleries filled with beautiful art. Soon he was a member of high society.
Part one of Worth’s plan had been accomplished. Now, all he needed was a trusted secret gang to execute his devious criminal plots.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, The Evil Genius: The Real Professor Moriarty, Part Two.
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