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Outlaw Town

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In an Outlaw Town, one should expect a Joker Jury.

A Sub-Trope of Wretched Hive, an Outlaw Town is a town (or other settlement) run specifically for the benefit of criminals on the run. It gives them a place to lay low till the heat is off, and spend or store their ill-gotten gains.

Typically the people running the town will demand a portion of the criminal's loot in return for offering safe haven. Paradoxically, these settlements are often not lawless, as the people running the town will crack down hard on behaviour that might attract the attention of outside authorities.

An Outlaw Town differs from a normal city with high levels of corruption in that the Outlaw Town is entirely run by criminals and all of its inhabitants are criminals. Unlike a corrupt city, there will be no honest citizens sick of the corruption, no honest cops battling the system. Any inhabitants who are not on the run themselves will be knowingly providing services and shelter to wanted criminals (which makes them criminals themselves) and any 'law' that exists will be the personal enforcers of the boss of the town. Also Outlaw Towns will often not 'officially' exist on any map; being located in remote locales and their existence known only to the underworld.

Compare and contrast with Totalitarian Gangsterism, in which although the town is run by criminals, the civilians are not criminals (which can cause conflict). An Outcast Refuge is a non-(explicitly)-criminal version run by peoples escaping from oppression.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Roanapur from Black Lagoon is an excellent example.
  • In Heavy Object, the Faith Organization city of Lost Angels devolved into this over time. Due to the presence of an Object repair facility, the other supernations infiltrated the city and had their spies pose as rival gangs complete with typical gang behavior such as running guns or drugs. Actual criminals and opportunists came to profit from the conflict while ordinary civilians fled. By the time of the story nearly every person in the city is either a criminal or a member of a supernation's military posing as one.
  • Rising × Rydeen: Old Town is a town that's a safe haven for outlaws since laws don't exist there. Unfortunately, it's right next to New Town where all the civilians live.
  • Ravens, the town of thieves which Ban grew up in in his youth in The Seven Deadly Sins.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: The Mountain's Lions are outlaws living in a town in the mountains. It's an odd take as the only two members whose criminal origins are known are a former noble who chose to save his eventual wife from an Arranged Marriage to another noble she wanted no part in and a boy who is still a young teen and was briefly a pirate before the pirates sold him into slavery due to his looks. The Lions also go out of their way to fight far more villainous criminals and the only known case of their partaking in criminal activity was the previously mentioned teen kidnapping someone who he thought was in the same boat he had once been in without their leader's knowledge.
  • One particular story from Tekken Chinmi Legends revolved around such a fortress town. At the end of the storyline, the leader of the outlaws mentioned that while the town became the hideout of many outlaws, it also existed to 'protect those who lost their place in society'.
  • Crash Town from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds may qualify as this.

    Comic Books 
  • Puerto Blanco, the setting of Barracuda , is a small island in the Caribbean, free from the control of any of the colonial powers, that is a haven for pirates, slavers and smugglers.
  • Batman encountered one in "Outlaw Town, U.S.A." in Batman #75.
  • Bomb Queen: After Bomb Queen takes over New Port City, superheroes are banned and all murderers, rapists, child-molesters, militant racists, cannibals and every other criminal in the US flock to New Port to enjoy themselves, turning New Port City into a lawless place that becomes more and more absurd as time goes on.
  • The Bastion of Copperhead is an outlaw fortress settlement that seems to follow only two rules: anarchy and kill all the cops.
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #13, Indy runs afoul of a mobster who is constructing a new version of 'Hole-In-The-Wall': an underground settlement for criminals on the run. Unfortunately, he is building in it inside Pueblo ruins of archeological importance which brings him into conflict with Dr. Jones.
  • Halo: Escalation has Karava, an Elite colony world where less reputable warriors stay.
  • Jonah Hex found his father acting as sheriff of an outlaw town, called Outlaw Springs, in "Christmas in an Outlaw Town".
  • In Kid Colt, Outaw #101, Marshal Sam Hawk's daughter convinces Kid Colt to rescue him from a town run by outlaws.
  • The Lucky Luke album Dalton City was an attempt by the Daltons to rebuild the earlier and successful Fenton City and rechristen it with their name. Let's just say that they failed.
  • Madripoor — the Marvel Universe's version of Singapore, sort of — is like this occasionally. It certainly was in the past, being a haven for pirates and other outlaws, and in the present day it can vary depending on who's in charge. Regardless of who's in charge, the place does not extradite criminals, and seedier parts of are thick with crime and lawless activities. (It briefly crossed the line into Wretched Hive when HYDRA took over. Fortunately, they were ousted by Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D.)
  • Postal is set in the town of Eden, where everyone is a criminal, yes, that also includes The Sheriff.
  • The Abode of the Damned — a city of thieves, mercenaries and assassins — infiltrated by Conan in The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #11.
  • Superman: Bokos, the Isle of Thieves, which existed on the planet Krypton.
  • Show up once in a while in Tex Willer, usually as small settlements of a half a dozen buildings or less-plus the occasional attempt of some corrupt hick to turn an actual town into this.

    Fan Works 
  • Codex Equus: The sky-city of Elysium is this. Founded by retired Pegasus crime lord Blood Money, Elysium was originally conceived as a way to enjoy a quiet life without being hounded by authorities. Over time, it evolved into a hidden sanctuary where the criminal elites can retire in complete seclusion, protected by elite private armies of pegasi mercenary soldiers/mages, artifacts, and multiple layers of illusions and glamours. Its only redeeming trait was its strong anti-bigotry stance, something notably shared by the fabled Club Homeostasis ran by Symvíosi, a Grand Primeval. However, Elysium slowly grew stagnant from its successes and collective confidence in never getting caught, which led to its downfall as various benevolent governments would team up to end its existence once and for all. The illusions and glamours hiding Elysium would be destroyed through combined effort from Truth (demi-)deities like Princess Veritas, Prince Clear Voice, and Prince Written Word, allowing heroic forces like those led by Prince Night Shade and Princess Radiant Rapier to storm the place and arrest the entire criminal population.
  • Urban Wilds: The Roost is a small settlement, practically a town, hanging beneath Canterlot's platform for criminals to perform illegal activities and make illicit trades, slowly built up over the centuries. Although hidden by illusion spells, the Roost's existence is an open secret; Bitterroot speculates that it hasn't been destroyed because keeping it around keeps all the criminals in one place to be easily monitored.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Against All Flags, Diego Suarez is a port run by and for pirates, and ruled by the Council of Coast Captains. The British Navy is desperate to put it out of operation, but needs to neutralize its defences before they can do so.
  • In the western comedy Cat Ballou, "Hole in the Wall".
  • In Desperate Living, Mortville is an outlaw town under the capricious rule of Queen Carlotta, the Big Bad, who enjoys putting her "subjects" through a never-ending Humiliation Conga.
  • The Ghost Market in The Good, The Bad, The Weird: a fair-sized settlement where criminals gather to sell stolen goods.
  • The Island (1980): On an uncharted island in the Bermuda Triangle is a colony of pirates inhabited the descendants of the French Buccaneers of Hispaniola. This secret enclave has been in existence since it was established by Jean-David Nau a.k.a. François l'Olonnais during the seventeenth century.
  • Las Majeres in Outlaw Women is a borderline example. While not everyone in town is an outlaw, the town's lack of law enforcement, and the policies of the town boss Iron Mae, allows the local outlaw gangs to the town as a place of recreation and resupply.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: "Shipwreck" — the city built out of pirate ships used as headquarters for the pirate council.
  • In The Quick and the Dead, Herod runs Redemption as his own personal fiefdom and provides safe haven for outlaws; taking 50 cents on every dollar spent in the town.
  • In Rancho Notorious, Altar Keane runs a horse ranch named Chuck-a-Luck that is really a cover for a hideout and base of operations for outlaws on the run.
  • Pueblo Plata is a settlement run by Tarp where Comanches come to trade stolen horses for rifles, ammunition and whisky in The Revengers.
  • Most of the action of Straight to Hell takes place in one of these. A name for the town is never given.
  • Star Wars: Mos Eisley spaceport, a place where people like Han Solo, and Boba Fett can hide and do shady work away from Imperial eyes. Especially since the planet is controlled by the Hutts.

  • Amberlough: The entirety of Amberlough City qualifies, though the Theatre district is particularly bad.
  • The thieves' city that Myrren and her friends encounter in the Veiled Lands in Arc of Fire.
  • Bab-el-Shaitan ("the Gate of the Devil") in the Robert E. Howard story "The Blood of Belshazzar".
  • In The Candlemass Road, Liddesdale is run by and for the Elliots, one of the most powerful reiver clans. Riccarton is the seat of the Nixons, and several other reiver clans have their own towns as well.
  • Simon Green's Deathstalker books had Mistworld, an entire planet populated by thieves and political fugitives, left more or less to kill and prey on each other in peace since the empire found an orbital blockade cheaper than the effort required to clean the place up or even nuke it from orbit.
  • A settlement dedicated to smuggling criminals and illicit goods in and out of the country features in the Doc Savage novel The Mountain Monster.
  • An outlaw town named Hell featured in two of J.T. Edson's western novels: Hell in the Palo Duro and Go Back to Hell.
  • Deconstructed in Jim Thompson's novel The Getaway. The hidden town of El Rey in Mexico presents itself as such but is designed to extract all the money from the people who go there. Once the money's gone they're forced to do menial labour for the town's owners or to prey on newer arrivals. Sometimes literally.
  • Greenglass House: The setting of the books, Nagspeake, is 100% this. Mostly for smugglers and thieves, less of the violent variety of crime.
  • Halo: The Thursday War: Venezia, which is populated by not only human rebels, but rogue Jackals, Grunts, and Brutes. At one point a Skirmisher and a human rebel are even seen driving around in a truck chatting.
  • A subversion in the Honor Harrington books: Erewhon is a planet founded by an alliance of Mafia families hoping to set up shop outside the reach of any existing law enforcement agency. Over the centuries, they evolved into a planet that was still run by those families, and still carried with it many of the old traditions, but which also had some of the strictest law enforcement in the galaxy.
  • The Iron Teeth web serial has Daggerpoint, a town in the wild north founded by and for bandits and their fences. It's divided up between several bandit lords, who compete with each other for influence.
  • Dashiell Hammett liked this trope, using it in the short story "Nightmare Town" and later expanding it into Red Harvest.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, the cities of the Floating Isles (Deadend, Freelife, and Raidaway) are the crime capitals of Tellos, serving as bases for numerous Sky Pirates and many other criminal types. Dayless made the effort to raze them entirely, but they always ended up rebuilt, so he eventually gave up trying.
  • Shardik has Zeray: an outlaw town whose inhabitants are stuck there due to a combination of natural barriers and hostile neighbors who don't want criminals entering their lands. While theoretically a safe haven for outlaws with nowhere else left to go, conditions in Zeray are brutal and even the strongest rarely survive there longer than three years. It begins to improve under Bel-Ka-Trazet's leadership, but he dies before he can make a lasting difference. Fortunately his vision is later carried out under the combined leadership of Elleroth and Kelderek.
  • The Spider novel Secret City of Crime has one hidden below a city block in New York City.
  • Starship's Mage: Darkport, where the Blue Jay goes to lay low from both Protectorate law and the bounty hunters that have been plaguing her crew.
    The rules of Darkport are simple. This station is run by the Falcone Family. You fuck with Falcone affairs, we kill you. You risk the atmo integrity of the station, we kill you. You break the bounty ban, we kill you. Your safety and the safety of your goods are your problem.
  • The Undertaker encounters an Outlaw Town in Funeral by the Sea, the third book of The Western series The Undertaker by George G. Gilman.
  • Jackson's Whole in the Vorkosigan Saga was initially a hijacker's base and along the way became "governed" by a loose connection of crime families specializing in specific crimes (sex slavery, arms dealing, etc.). It is ultra-capitalist and has no real laws to speak of- a handshake is as good as a contract, and you are as good as dead if you aren't under the protection of one of its crime families.
  • Lagrimas Negras in the Young Bond novel Hurricane Gold is a haven for criminals hidden in the Caribbean. As long as they have money to pay, they can live there in an neverending party. However, once they move there, they can never leave.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The town of Twin Butte, in The Cisco Kid episode “Haven for Heavies”, was run by a sheriff that granted immunity to outlaws that settled there.
  • The Fugitive. Clark City in "A Clean And Quiet Town". It's being used as a haven for a Not Quite Dead Mafia boss; unfortunately his son owes the One-Armed Man a favour, causing trouble for Kimble when he pursues him there.
  • Justified: Harlan County is a Wretched Hive, but the township of Bennett is a true Outlaw Town, ruled by marijuana kingpin Mags Bennett. With her son Doyle acting as Chief of Police, and her other sons, Dickie and Coover, controlling the town's drug-trade, Mags is the uncrowned Feudal Overlord of the town, using it as a front for her drug operations, which extend throughout Harlan County, Kentucky, and beyond.
  • The Lone Ranger faces one in "Outlaw Town".
  • The Musketeers has the "Court of Miracles" where Porthos grew up.
  • Roy and Pat pose as outlaws to infiltrate an outlaw town in The Roy Rogers Show episode "Outlaw's Town''.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series had a Planet of Hats that purposefully based their culture on the Prohibition Era Chicago Mob.
  • Whiplash: In "Convict Town", Big Tom Ledward is as ex-convict who went bush after his sentence was up and founded the settlement of Ledward Bore, which is open to anyone on the run from the law. As such, Big tom will do anything to stop Chris Cobb from putting through a new stage road that will bring civilization and the law in its wake.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Blue Rose: The settlement of Serpent's Haven within the Veran Marsh is run primarily by smugglers and criminals moving goods and refugees between Jarzon and Aldis.
  • Cerulean Seas: Wreckage is a pirate city, a bastion for thieves and cutthroats. When you need an assassin, black market goods, or even just cheap stolen goods, Wreckage is the place to go.
  • Several in The Dark Eye:
    • Phexcaer, the formerly secret holy city of the God of Thieves, started out as an Outlaw Town but has pretty much gone respectable in recent decades.
    • Sylla and Charypso are both pirate havens in the same general geographic area, and that's about all they have in common. Each embodies one side of the main Pirate trope: Charypso is almost entirely type 1, while Sylla is largely type 2. Needless to say, they don't like each other very much.
    • Uhdenberg is a town run by mining cartels. Its "police" force openly employs orcs because they're about the only thing that can get some respect out of the locals.
    • Wehrheim used to be known as a city of law and order until it got razed to the ground by demonic war machines. Now the ruins are inhabited by a mixture of bandits, refugees, outcasts and mercenaries, with one of the mercenary bands providing the closest thing to a central authority.


    Theme Parks 
  • The main setting of the western scene on The Great Movie Ride. Even Ethan Edwards attempts to warn the riders not to go in there.

    Video Games 
  • Lawenilothehl in the roguelike Ancient Domains of Mystery is a town run by outlaws. Everyone in there is a bandit of some form.
  • Arabians Lost has Gilkatar, an outlaw nation that's on the map but so dangerous that no one would dare to bring normal justice to it.
  • The free villages in Dark Sun: Shattered Lands are an inversion, of sorts — good places in an evil world. You know, "When freedom is outlawed, only outlaws have it". Averting such features of an Outlaw Town as corruption, but retaining secrecy, living off illegal schemes and the local laws largely reflecting the leader's views. The game is about helping them survive an open war against the nearest city-state.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII the town of Pickem is run and mostly inhabited by thieves and bandits.
  • Evolution Worlds: Pine Village, Carcano's hideout, is just a big town over the water fully inhabited by thieves.
  • Fable has Twinblade's Camp. Fable II has Bloodstone. Fable III has the Mercenary Camp. (The camps may or may not count, depending — they play and operate just like the towns in the rest of the game, but no one ever refers to them as towns. Bloodstone is a straight example, however.)
  • Fallout:
    • The Den in Fallout 2, which is home to the Slaver's Guild that controls the slave trade in New California, and also relies heavily on drug trafficking.
    • Paradise Falls in Fallout 3 is a town of slavers. Likewise, Evergreen Mills is a town run by raiders.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has the NCR Correctional Facility run by the convicts, the Powder Gangers, who took it over, as well as Vault 19 which is inhabited by the original founder of the Powder Gangers and his men. There is also Vault 3, occupied by the drug-crazed Fiends, led by Motor-Runner, who slaughtered the original inhabitants. Nipton was one of these before the Legion pillaged and burned it.
    • In the Nuka-World DLC of Fallout 4, the area around the entrance of the titular amusement park has been taken over by an alliance of raider gangs, who enslaved the former settlers. They were prepared to take over the rest of the park, but were unable due to a combination of it being infested by various dangerous creatures and machines as well as their Overboss getting lazy. While it's primarily populated by raiders, they are willing to do business with outsiders provided that they have money.
  • Far Cry 3's Badtown is a shanty village full of shady individuals.
  • Much like Privateer, pirates and other outlaws in Freelancer usually conduct their operations in any given system in bases concealed in debris fields and gas clouds away from trade lanes and areas populated by law-abiding folk. Two of the largest outlaw factions - the Corsairs and the Outcasts - even each have an entire planet to call their own, way off the beaten path deep in uncharted space.
  • Due to the way Jailbreak (Roblox) is designed, most of the world is more inclined towards Criminals, as they have an easier time robbing places unless when it comes to experience grinding to reach level 50 to launch nukes.
  • Kenshi:
    • The town of Shark in The Swamp. Its remote and dangerous location makes it ideal for many gangs to set up a hideout there. The town is wholly controlled by criminals. Their main export is drugs. Walking around the bar may lead to your party getting bullied and extorted.
    • The Hub is a former Holy Nation town that has been ransacked by the Sheks and taken over by the outlaws. The belief that the town is corrupted by demonic influence keeps the Holy Nation from touching it, creating a safe haven for criminals. It's a downplayed example, however, because other than a criminal tavern and a base for the local thief clan, the town has no other infrastructure. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from restoring the ruined buildings out of your own pocket and fill the town with your own gang of criminals, thus playing this trope straight.
    • Mongrel is another example, full of criminals from all over the continent, though it's far more united than Shark. When you are trapped in a place swarmed with fogmen, you have no choice but to rely on everyone you can find, regardless of their background.
  • Lunar: The Silver Star has Reza, home of the Thieves' Guild.
  • The space station of Omega in Mass Effect 2.
  • Dejeh in Meteos is a planet-sized version of this trope, run by a massive gang as its central authority. There are apparently other planets like Dejeh, which go to war with each other, with Dejeh being one of the few remaining ones. The criminals who live on Dejeh form an Enemy Mine when the Meteos blocks target them for planetary annihilation though (but not an Enemy Mine enough to ally with most of the galaxy's other civilizations for the mission to destroy the Meteos threat once and for all).
  • Regna in the old Might and Magic verse was a pirate country, kept operating because their Empire of the Endless Ocean was the single strongest naval power. When we got to visit Regna Isle proper in VIII, there were exactly two inhabitants who expressed any sort of dissatisfaction with the state of affairs... one of which was an idealist and powerful mage who moved to Regna specifically to try to educate the inhabitants in the wrongness of their ways (beyond his survival, it wasn't working), and one lady who had nothing against the piracy as such, but thought the current top dog and toast of the town was too reckless with his methods.
  • New Vegas Bounties: Sergio's goal is to build a neutral zone south of the Mojave, which would be totally free from NCR and Legion influence, to serve as a haven for trade, without any rule. You can point out to him that it mostly looks as a haven for raiders and slavers.
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire: Dunnage, the home island of the pirate republic Principi sen Patrena. The new blood, meanwhile, have taken up residence in an abandoned Vailian fortress they call Fort Deadlight. To emphasize this, Dunnage's sole listed export is "pirates".
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon has Po Town, a small town that Team Skull has taken over as their own. Being that they are a couple of dumb punks, they have run the place down to the ground to the point that every building is dilapidated and they have the only Pokémon Center that charges for their service simply because they're that broke.
  • In Privateer, Space Pirates often operate out of abandoned mining stations, which are often located in an Asteroid Thicket to make things even worse if you're not friendly with the pirates operating out of those stations. However, gameplay-wise their operation isn't really all that different from "legitimate" stations, with the only real exceptions being that you can find illegal commodities to purchase in the market note  and the lack of Merchant's or Mercenary's Guild offices.
  • Red Dead Redemption has Thieves' Landing, a bayou town with no law enforcement at all.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has Blood Bath Bay, a town inhabited by the most stereotypical, anachronistic pirates you could imagine...and they're also Funny Animals.
  • Star Citizen: The "planet" Spider, a titanic collection of shipwrecks in an otherwise planetless system run by Space Pirates.
  • StarCraft II features Deadman's Rock, an entire outlaw planet.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Raider's Cove, the primary settlement on the planet Rishi, is basically a Space Pirate haven. The native Rishii are more or less okay with the situation provided the pirates stay out of their way (not difficult; since the Rishii are bird-people, humans don't often want the parts of the planet they occupy anyway) and true authority rests with the Nova Blade pirates. In addition to its assorted criminals, the planet is playing host to a Cult with galaxy-wide ambitions, who are using the Nova Blades as their proxies.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Blades of Light & Shadow, Flotilla is a traveling orc pirate town made up of several ships lashed together.
  • Distant Shores: Chapter 2 has the Poseidon's Revenge take port in Tiburon, which serves as the crew's safe haven. They donate their plunder to the villagers and they pretend they never saw them.

  • Gang Rule Town in A Path to Greater Good and its reboot Hero Oh Hero.
  • The starport and orbital station of Ghanj-rho in Schlock Mercenary are havens for smugglers, pirates, and slavers. It's also where Tagon's Toughs hired most of their non-Terran troops, and it's Sergeant Schlock's homeworld (though he was one of the "primitive natives" and left years earlier as a slave).

    Western Animation 
  • Blackwater asteroid in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. It was thought to be an Urban Legend by law enforcement until a delirious Cody Carson (a shady quasi-ally to the Rangers) proved it wasn't by all but kidnapping Doc and Niko and taking them there.
  • The Adventure Time episode "City of Thieves" is a Parody of this trope. It doesn't work: everyone is always cheating someone else, so there's no order.
  • 'The Floating Market' is a haven for pirates, bandits and thieves in The Deep.
  • Boot Heel, Montana from Roger Ramjet, who Roger was sent in to clean up. It's portrayed as a classic Western outlaw town despite the episode taking place in the 1960s!
    Narrator: Where the men were men, and the women were men and that got pretty old after a while.

    Real Life 
  • Port Royal, Tortuga and Libertatia (assuming it actually existed) were "pirate republics" - settlements inhabited almost exclusively by pirates.
  • Hot Springs, Arkansas was this through the 1930s. The town had been a center of illegal gambling for a century before Prohibition. When NYC gangster Owen Madden visited the resort town for his health (really; he'd heard about the restorative powers of the eponymous waters), he put the word out that Mayor Leo Mclaughlin's political machine was glad to provide a safe haven for mobsters. These included "Public Enemy #1" Alvin Karpis (leader of the Barker-Karpis Gang — Barker being "Ma" and her boys — that was terrorizing the rural Midwest), Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky and Al Capone.
  • The Kowloon Walled City was nominally a Chinese possession surrounded by British Hong Kong, but in reality the densely populated district had virtually no government or police presence. It was a haven for criminals and was for all intents and purposes ruled by Triads. Over time increased government utility infrastructure and police raids diminished the presence of organized crime, but it was still a free zone of illegal business practices, mainly unlicensed doctors and dentists.
  • Skagway, Alaska, during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, boomed from a one-cabin homestead to a town of 10,000 people in only a few months. Due to its rapid growth, there was no time to set up any real government or law enforcement in the town, which left power mainly in the hands of con artist Jefferson "Soapy" Smith and his gang.
  • The Hole-in-the-Wall from the days of The Wild West was more of an outlaw village than a town, but it otherwise fit the bill at its height, with cabins and a stables to provide for the criminals who used it as a base. Over the years, it hosted a number of famous outlaws, such as Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Black Jack Ketchum.