Historical Masked Criminals

Rarely does anyone ever see masked criminals being involved in murder, a mass heist or some other highly punishable form of activity. However, some have seen it in the past, within their own lifetimes or their ancestor’s lifetimes. 


The Ku Klux Klan, or the KKK, are depicted wearing their signature long white cloaks that stretch down to their feet, and pointy cone hoods with eye-holes cut out of them.

Photo from Flying Tiger Antiques
Photo from Western New York Heritage

This group of people terrorized, tortured and lynched mainly African American and Black Americans since the mid-19th century. They usually carried out their attacks at night, so rather than dressing in black robes to signify the death of something, wearing all white might have lit up their existence or arrival to their victims or targets while enlightening their ultimate goal in the reestablishment of white supremacy through the use of Democratic victories according to the History Channel. They made this especially easy to do because they had members of the KKK in Congress, authorizing them legislative power over certain issues that favored them.

al-Qaeda (ISIS) & November 11, 2001

Another group that infamously terrorized others through the use of disguise and slipping through the cracks of the American airline security system were the Arabic terrorists, hijackers responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers or World Trade Center back on September 11, 2001.

According to passengers on the plane and in referencing official governmental documents from the FBI, the hijackers were affiliated with the terrorist organization named al-Qaeda. Affiliated with I.S.I.S. They wore red and white checkered headbands and bandanas and carried knives allowing them to force their way into the cockpits of U.S. airlines, eventually colliding with the towers in New York City.

While the color red could mean or affiliate with their terrorist organization, there might be other reasons behind their mask choices, or just an easy and convenient way to cover up their faces. Referring back to the COVID-19 pandemic, at the beginning citizens of each country would use what they had on hand to cover their faces; including bandanas and ski masks which are also linked to criminality. Convenience is a big factor when it comes to hiding your face, quickly.

Photo from Wikipedia

The very common misconception after the attack on New York, as well as the Pentagon and other major governmental buildings, is that people who look like those depicted in the picture above are all linked to the same terrorist organization because they have the same appearance as them. If someone of that religious belief, region, ethnicity or nationality are wearing similar articles of clothing does not automatically affiliate with those who purposefully terrorized The United States of America.

If a woman is wearing a hijab, for example, does not mean that she is going to terrorize or harm someone or something. It is part of their religion and part of their identity. Again with the Semiotics of Identity, others may perceive how they want to perceive others with whom wear masks. But the wearer has an intention of their own, whether good, bad, normal, or part of their every day lives. For example, a child in a hospital with an autoimmune disorder has to live in a bubble with a mask on all the time. Her intention is to not get sick. Her intention is to keep others safe from her and her safe from others. She is not actively trying to commit a crime and shouldn’t be placed inside a stereotype because she has to wear a mask each day of her life. Maybe one day if she heals, she can take off the mask. The same goes for Arabic women once they are wed. But then again, it is within their choice to wear their hijab or not based on how strongly their religious beliefs, societal standings and marital position is within her own life. 

But then again, there is good versus evil here just like in the comic books. While al-Qaeda (I.S.I.S) made an attempt to break the U.S., the men and women of the health and protection services (i.e. nurses, doctors, firefighters, policemen and policewomen, etc) were wearing their masks to aid New York in their time of need.

As hopeful as that last sentence sounded, the KKK and al-Qaeda caused a lot of harm during their times in the spotlight, yet no-one was able to damask or uncover immediately who they actually were; no-one proved their identities. By the time they escaped the clutches of the American government and its people, they would have already gotten away with what they wanted in the first place.

The Brink’s Robbery

Another real life event dealing with mask usage during a criminal moment in time was the infamous Brink’s Robbery in Boston, Massachusetts in 1950. According to information from official FBI records on their governmental website, the history of the Brink’s Robbery is considered the “perfect crime” due to each robber’s specific skill sets and their accomplishments in getting away for six years after the initial robbery. 

With five to seven men entering 165 Prince Street on January 17, 1950, ultimately resulting in burlap sacks filled with $1.3 million dollars in cash and $1.5 million in checks, money orders and other securities. Overall, they made out with over two million dollars. 

However, after those six years, O’Keefe finally confessed and gave up all the information on this successful mass heist. He gave up the premeditated plans, the blueprints for the bank, their disguises and the other men involved in creating this master plan for over two million dollars. 

Six of this criminal gang including Baker, Costa, Geagan, Maffie, McGinnis, and Pino (who was the brain of the whole operation), were all arrested and held in lieu of bails for one-hundred thousand dollars a piece. O’Keefe and Gusciora were already in prison for other charges against them and Banfield had passed away. Two other robbers, Faherty and Richardson, fled to avoid apprehension and were placed on the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list which was an impressive list to gain access to. However, their runaway plan only lasted a few months. The FBI found them in an apartment in Massachusetts, which was dumb of them to stay in the same place they stole millions of dollars from. But that’s just a personal opinion. 

After everyone involved was put behind bars and placed in a courtroom, finally on October 9, 1956, the jury slammed down his gavel and exclaimed all were guilty of the Brink’s Robbery. The eight men remaining had received life sentences for robbery, two year sentences for conspiracy to steal, and sentences of eight to ten years for breaking and entering at night. 

Photo from Google

However, McGinnis who was not at the scene of the crime that night, received a life sentence on each of the eight indictments which charged him with being an accessory before the fact in connection with the Brink’s Robbery.

After everyone had been convicted, after years of running and hiding from the laws in which they broke under their hidden faces in the dead of night, they money that they stole had been dispersed by others in other states such as Baltimore. Counterfit money had also been printed off of what they had stolen in the first place. But it is a mystery to this day where the rest of that two million dollars is. The majority of it had not been recovered since they had all been convicted. 

So the main question is, where is the money? Do you think it’s still around today? I can honestly imagine some sort of booty for criminals looking to cause some trouble. 

As for the actual fashion aspect of the Brink’s Robber’s disguise and mask usage. All robbers,

“Wore Navy-type peacoat, gloves and chauffeur’s caps. Each robber’s face was concealed behind a Halloween type mask. To muffle their footsteps, one of the gang wore crepe-soled shoes, and others wore rubbers.”


The robbers were also given pistols before entering the bank. Not only were the masks useful in the way that they protected their identities, but they were also used in a manner that benefited them in the stealthiness of their operation. I guess you could also consider the dark of night being another form of mask usage and stealth; they covered themselves pretty impressively. The Halloween-type mask depicted below is supposedly that of Captain Marvel from the Marvel Universe; from older comic book versions of the character. Personally, I see more of DC’s version of Wonder Woman from the older comic books, but I guess people can visualize this mask as a different character either way.

Photo from the official FBI Governmental Website

This sort of cheap, rubber material used in Halloween masks have been depicted and used in several movies and television shows as depicted above. Halloween-type masks, in general, have been seen disguising villains and real life criminals because it’s what’s available to them without looking or seeming suspicious. Who knows, maybe they could have been going to a costume party! But even then, masks from the horror movies are terrifying, so the threat of someone holding you at gun or knifepoint and restraining you while wearing a creepy mask like this to protect them from their identities is still horrifying.

Oh! Remember how ideas have to come from somewhere mentioned in my previous blog post titled, Familiar Masked Creatures? Well, the Brink’s Robbery in 1950 inspired director William Friedkin to make a movie based on the events that took place on January 7, 1950 in Boston Massachusetts. The movie was released on December 8, 1978; based on the real events of this infamous, perfect crime.

Photo from Wikipedia

The Wrap Up

In the past, previous countries have made an effort or spoken of banning the use of masks for criminality prevention. The criminalization of the Burkina in France, for instance, gave them cause to argue,

“That burins should not be worn because of public security reasons legitimacy, for the same line of logic should outlaw any article of clothing that hinders proper identification.”

Jung, 2016

Which makes sense in terms of criminality, crime rates, and mask usage. If someone is covering up their face not due to specific and understandable reasoning, such as medical or employment excuses, then why are they even wearing one in the first place? 

Profiling someone based on the types of accessories and clothing is one thing when it comes to judging someone on the street, but it’s easier to do so for people who have no reason to wear things that mask their identity. It is suspicious and uncauseworthy.

However, those who want to wear a mask or any article of clothing they want, they can. They have the free will do do as they please, and even if they’re told not to do something, do you really believe criminals who cannot follow society’s laws, will follow not wearing a mask to cover up their identities? Very unlikely.


Jung, C. (2016). CRIMINALIZATION OF THE BURKINI. Harvard International Review, 38(1), 6-7. Retrieved April 16, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26445655

Pollock, D. (1995). Masks and the Semiotics of Identity. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1(3), 581-597. doi:10.2307/3034576


Familiar Masked Creatures

As far as small investigations linked around criminal ghosts within crowds of normal people just following state and national guidelines against COVID-19, masks and criminality are mostly linked to comic books and fictional elements within film and television industries. Most notably movies like DeadpoolV for VendettaFriday the 13th (Jason), Halloween (Michael Myers) and television shows such as Money Heist on Netflix.

Photo from IMBD
Photo from Pinterest
Photo from alternativemovieposters.com
Photo from Amazon.com
Photo from Netflix

The above movies and television shows are mostly based on fictional elements meant to entertain specific audiences, inspiration of mask usage spans not only within criminal interest and protecting their identities, but fandoms that interact with conventions such as cosplay. Also, masks that form out of movies such as these make for great Halloween costumes. Children might wear them on October 31 to run around neighborhoods and receive candy from their neighbors. Teenagers might mess around and tp and egg houses and terrorize little kids in Jason and Michael Myers masks. I’m only giving these examples because I’ve seen it happen.

Usually, these movies or any movie or television show that depicts a form of disguise or mask is turned into a product in which others will wear on occasions that are most appropriate. For Halloween as their favorite character, for a themed party, or for committing a crime without seeming suspicious when purchasing one of these mass produced, movie or television based mask in a department store.

The reality of these fictional and made up stories have to originate from somewhere. Most fictional elements are based on real events. 

“Superhero comics, like so many other genres of popular culture may not depict the real world, but they do mediate it; that is, they respond to, comment on, the world around us.”

Stromberg, 2011

In Spider-Man Homecoming released in 2017, starring Tom Holland, one of the beginning scenes depict four robbers with plastic masks the four Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor. Of course, the fictional element within this scene is the outer space technology they received from the first Avenger’s movie released back in 2012. However, this scene might as well depict how some robbers disguise themselves in real life.

Photo from Fandom.com


Stromberg, F. (2011). “Yo, rag-head!”: Arab and Muslim Superheroes in American Comic Books after 9/11. Amerikastudien / American Studies, 56(4), 573-601. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23509430


Relating to COVID-19, Masks and Criminality

Heres to the heroes of the Coronavirus pandemic. Thank you to all the nurses, doctors, police officers, military personnel, firefighters, etc on aiding the world in this global, ongoing catastrophe.

On New Year’s Eve, 2019, I had the feeling that 2020 would be great. Just like every New Year felt. But more sentimental in the fact that my childhood was over. The decade I grew up in had ended and 2020 felt like a fresh start to my new adult life, in my 20s. I guess you could say it was the best of times and it was the worst of times, because it actualy was. There was an equal amount of good and bad that happened in 2020, and honestly, it helped me grow as a person.

Although the Coronavirus started in 2019, hence COVID-19, it really put the gas petal to the floor when 2020 rolled around. As mentioned previously, quarantine felt like an eternity, the economy had been destabilized, family and friends were separated for everyone’s health and well-being, schools, work, and business were all closed, there were travel restrictions and so on. 2020 felt like a crazy rollercoaster of new guidelines, COVID tests, and the uncertainty that society would go back to “normal”. But as much as we’d all like to be out of this mess, we’re still in it.

When we all had to start wearing masks towards the end of March and beginning of April of 2020, different people reacted in different ways. Different beliefs within different groups of people and within individuals divided us even more so than we already were; as a society. However, we all had to wear masks for the safety of others. There are so many different varieties of masks such as disposable medical masks, cloth masks, paint and ski masks, N95 respirators that healthcare workers use, and face shields for example. 

Nurses and Firefighters, for example, wear a form of facial covering to protect themselves from sickness, disease and smoke and smog within their daily lives. Just as criminals might wear masks to protect themselves and their identities from the law.

According to a scholarly source based on the Masks and Semiotics of Identity,

“The ways in which masks take up the conventional means is throughout how identity is displayed or hidden.”

Pollock, 1995

However, displaying mask wear-age is up to the wearer; their intentions are their own. In the end, nurses present their mask wear-age as a sign of aid and health. Firefighters present their masks as a sign of aid and public service. Criminals who rob a bank with a mask on, present themselves as hiding their identities and breaking the law.

On May 18, 2020, Don Babwin and Stefanie Dazio from WUSA9 News reported William Rosario Lopez on holding a cashier at gunpoint in a convenient store in Connecticut. I know this may sound very stereotypical, but these types of situations aren’t uncommon. Even before the pandemic. But according to police chief of Frackville in Pennsylvania,

“Criminals, they’re smart and this is a perfect opportunity for them to conceal themselves and fit right in.”

Richard Bell, Chief of Police in Frackville, PA

With the coronavirus mandating masks with businesses requiring masks to enter not only protects those from others in this weird point in time, but also gives masked criminals the perfect opportunity to blend in and do whatever they want without being completely recognized. That’s just the gist of it.


Babwin, D., Dazio, S. (2020). Coronavirus masks a boon for crooks who hide their faces. WUSA9 News.


Pollock, D. (1995). Masks and the Semiotics of Identity. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1(3), 581-597. doi:10.2037/3034576


From a first person point of view, blogger Ellie Haak, will first discuss her experience of the beginning (to present) of COVID-19, her mask usage, and finally into Masks & Criminality.

On March 11, 2020, everything started changing. It started off as any other normal spring day at college; sunny and warm. I had woken up, grabbed my phone and started scrolling though my media platforms, like I do every morning. I checked the news which covered so e new virus that had infected some people in different parts of the world. Then I checked Snapchat and sent a couple of messages to the boy I was talking to. We had plans to go on a date. I put my phone away, rolled out of bed with my messy bun and baggy pajamas.

I strolled out of my residence hall down the paved walkways to grab a blueberry, peach, mango smoothie and proceeded to head to my communication class in one of the older buildings on campus. After meeting with my classmates for an in class assignment, the professor carried on with the lecture. Until everyone’s phones started ringing and buzzing at the same time. Looking from above, this scene could be compared to something you see in an apocalyptic movie. We all checked our phones and quiet murmurs began around the room. Out of the blue, the Governor of New York had tweeted,

“Starting March 19, @CUNY and @SUNY will move to a distance learning model for the rest of the semester. This will help us reduce the speed of the virus #COVID19.”

Andrew Cuomo, March 11, 2020

This meant that all students of the SUNY and CUNY system were cutting their semesters short and going home. Shortly after class had ended, I had rushed back to my dormitory. Several emails were sent out by the college’s administration board claiming their unknowingness of this statement provided by Governor Cuomo and their next steps that were being determined.

My friends and I screamed at the top of our lungs from the lack of information our college administration had given us, the confusion of what we contemplated on doing next, and the stress from the schoolwork backing our uncontrollable problem. But we weren’t the only ones. This unpredicted tweet meant the entire SUNY and CUNY system, so everyone else attending a state school were most likely feeling the same things.

I called my parents crying over the phone and I remember my father telling me,

“It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. So, pack everything up.”

Tim Haak, May 11, 2020

The last week we were all there, was a blur. Fraternities and Sororities crossed their new chapters in earlier than expected, the general student population partied the entire weekend, and packed up all their belongings a mere three days before moving out completely. We said goodbye to our sophomore year freedoms and said hello to a ton of news coverage, CDC guidelines, speeches from [former] President Donald Trump, and new rules society had to follow in order to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

It’s hard to recall 2020 since it flew by so quickly, although quarantine made it feel like an eternity. Even though I had the luxury to stay home with my dog, do my homework in a queen sized bed instead of an extra-long twin, and got to binge watch Outer Banks on Netflix while sipping on my whipped iced coffee, it was still a hard transition.

Everything was closed, travel was put on pause, nobody attended work or school, stimulus checks were handed out to stimulate the economy, and updates regarding the pandemic were daily on each news and media platform. There was nowhere on the internet, within word of mouth, or one’s own thoughts that were not COVID related. It reprogrammed our society. But when the world reopened its doors to let in some fresh air, there were guidelines that followed behind.

On April 3, 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended mask wear age and a six-foot social distancing guideline to the global population. At that point, most people had taken three sides…

1. Those who immediately obeyed to the mask mandate

2. Those who did not want to wear masks and brought up their [American] Rights

3. Those who didn’t care, but wore a mask anyway

To protect myself and others, I followed the recommendation and eventually most of the population also caught on as well. Although there are still some stragglers that still refuse to wear masks today, even though it’s been a year later. I’ll get into that later.

I wore a mask in public when I was around others outside my immediate household. That included my friends, my co-workers and bosses, and distant family members I don’t see quite often. I didn’t take my mask off unless I was by myself in a closed space, far enough away from others, or if I was around someone who felt comfortable without masks being worn. 

Towards the beginning of the mask mandate, I would social distance from my family members outside of my mom, my dad, and my younger sister, but that broke almost immediately since I am around them all the time anyways; they feel the same way.

One of the first masks I was was from one of my college friend’s mom. Her mom made homemade cloth masks from cotton fabrics she had purchased from Michael’s before the pandemic. She made them from whatever she had on hand. Tina (my friends mom) sewed in elastic bands through the fabric to stretch around the ears to stay in place. I tied mine because they were a little loose. Her masks resembled medical masks with pleats and a small opening to place another layer inside for extra protection. They came in a variety of colors and patterned fabrics. Tina instructed her customers to wash before wearing because, at that point in time, we didn’t know how contractible the virus was.

Unfortunately, I have lost contact with Tina’s daughter because of pandemic guidelines and keeping everyone safe. That’s another thing about this forever pandemic, even though this is a little off track. So many have lost precious connections within their social circles. Remember that boy I was talking to before Governor Cuomo sent out the tweet back on March 11, 2020? We had planned on going ice skating and out to dinner in Rochester, but that quickly got canceled. If anything, it postponed our first date until the middle of July. He’s my boyfriend now, but I guess I’m luckier than most.

My five year old cousin, Allie, attended preschool before the pandemic, made new friends and even had her first boyfriend! Then after schools were closed, and kids were kept in side for at home, distanced, online learning, she came up to me one Saturday morning at my Grandparent’s house sobbing and said,

“I want to back to school! I miss my friends!”

Allie, Age 5

It’s heartbreaking to see that, at such a young age, kids do not have the proper connections most did growing up. It makes a lot of sense how schools closed for everyone’s safety and well-being, but there’s nothing saying that everyone’s well-being is better than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also with kids, its hard to make social connections and putting names to faces when half of someone’s face is covered up. For me, at least, It’s difficult remembering names and faces. COVID stepped that problem up a bit. Relating back to Mask & Criminality, I guess because everyone else is wearing a mask and following COVID-19 guidelines, criminals who wore masks in the past are more likely to be overlooked because everyone is wearing them now.

There are so many different varieties of masks. But for me, I personally wear themed cloth masks from Wegmans’ grocery stores. They fit closely to my face, comfortably sit on my nose, and stretch from my chin with a seam crease down the center. Since I live in Buffalo, NY, they have a little buffalo mark on the side of the mask with holidays to match:



-Valentine’s Day

-St. Patrick’s Day

-Bill’s Mafia

Wegmans also sells them in solid colors or the died colors, restocked and rotated every month, that I’ve noticed. These represent the Buffalove Collection that all Buffalonians know (and love). These masks come in an adult and children sizes. Before COVID, you would not be able to find them because they were made when the pandemic hit. I like to wear them because they’re pretty, they match my outfits, they’re easy to wear and the styles are fun. Not to mention they show where I’m from. I’m almost positive that Wegmans sells the same masks at all their other stores, but with different imprints on them such as Buffalo, Rochester, and so on.

I also work at a popular donut shop in Upstate New York. I work long hour days most of the time, so instead of potentially getting sugar, powder and frosting all over my nice cloth masks, I wear the provided disposable masks to cover me while I’m at work. Since the disposable masks are light and comfortable, hotter temperatures by a frier or under the summer sun is easily withstand-able. They keep to your face more closely with the small, bendable metal band where it bends over the nose. They are usually blue in color, but I’ve seen them that also come in green, pink, purple, and yellow.

Mask wear age was annoying at the beginning of 2020 when the CDC recommended them and when you needed to take one with you everywhere you went. They gave me acne when I had to wear them over the long, hot, summer days at work. Like I said, COVID altered the way society functions and thinks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to walk inside a store and forgot my mask. But this past winter, they were helpful with not only keeping everyone safe, but it kept my face warm from those nippy, negative temperatures New York tends to have.

But, like I said previously, not everyone complies with the mask mandate which shocks me to this day. It’s been over a year since the coronavirus walked to center stage, and just because you don’t feel comfortable wearing a mask, have freedoms, or are just stubborn, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. For the sake of you and everyone else’s health and safety. 

If I have learned anything from this continuous global pandemic and mask wear age is people’s significance in following the rules. We were taught wince we were young that following the rules is a good thing, and when they need to be broken, to do so in a manner that won’t harm anyone else. Not wearing a mask potentially harms others and puts them at risk of contracting the virus. If we all just wear masks and persevere through this pandemic, for however long it takes, we’ll protect ourselves and our loved ones in the long run. Those who wear their masks are the superheroes and those who don’t are the villains/criminals keeping this global pandemic going.