On May 25, 2023, ChatGPT, the Open AI chatbot, was asked to write a short biography of “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, the subject David G. Thomas’ just published “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, Billy the Kid’s Most Feared Companion.
ChatGPT produced the following paragraphs:
“Rudabaugh’s criminal career was marked by frequent run-ins with the law, and he had several narrow escapes from capture. He was known to travel and operate under various aliases, making it difficult for law enforcement to track him down. However, his luck eventually ran out, and he was arrested and imprisoned multiple times.”
“In December 1886, Rudabaugh was captured after a shootout with law enforcement in Mexico. He was extradited to the United States and sentenced to life in prison for murder. He spent the remainder of his life behind bars, attempting several unsuccessful escapes from prison.”
“Dirty Dave Rudabaugh’s life of crime and violence came to an end on January 30, 1888, when he was killed in a failed escape attempt from the prison in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Despite his short and brutal life, Rudabaugh’s legacy as an infamous outlaw and gunslinger of the Wild West era continues to fascinate and captivate historians and enthusiasts of Western lore to this day.”
The only true facts in ChatGPT’s bio are that Rudabaugh did have several run-ins with the law and was arrested several times. He did not travel and operate under various aliases.
He was not captured in December, 1886, in Mexico after a shootout with law enforcement. He was not extradited to the United States. He did not spend the remainder of his life behind bars, attempting several times unsuccessfully to escape.
He was not killed January 20, 1888, in a failed escape attempt from prison in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The actual details of Rudabaugh’s death are given in “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, Billy the Kid’s Most Feared Companion.
On February 18, 1886, Rudabaugh was killed by a Winchester rifle shot to the chest in Parral, Mexico, by a grocery man named José. Following his killing, Rudabaugh was decapitated by José. His head was placed on a pole and paraded around the Parral plaza. Present at Rudabaugh’s beheading was Albert W. Lohn, a nineteen-year-old photographer.
Lohn took four photographs of Rudabaugh’s decapitated head. The two negatives he printed were confiscated by Mexican authorities. The other two negatives remained in Lohn’s files for 57 years, entirely forgotten by him. The story of how these two negatives were acquired by an avid collector of Western memorabilia is given in Thomas’ book.