Flickering candlelight danced across the faces of the three men playing poker in the military barracks at Prescott in Arizona Territory. But one cavalryman decided he had enough of losing. 


John Allman kicked back the chair and stood up, his hand already filled with his Colt revolver. He fired twice. Two army sergeants slumped to the floor dead.

Allman scraped up the pot of cash from the table and fled.

The 1877 killings triggered summer of violence that Allman waged across the Arizona Territory—a one-man killing spree that reportedly claimed between nine and eleven lives.

The rampage also left two young girls emotionally damaged. 

After the Prescott killings, authorities launched a manhunt for “Bad John” Allman.

When lawmen closed in on him, the Tennessee native managed to turn the tables and kill deputies Billy Epps and Dave Groat. Once again, he made a successful getaway.

Allman’s list of victims grew by two more when he ran across a couple of woodcutters he suspected of recognizing him. It didn’t matter to Allman whether they knew him or not. He took no chances and put bullets in them too.

After finding himself dead broke after a couple of months on the run, Allman rode into Yuma and stopped at a saloon, drew a gun on bartender Vince Dundee, and made off with all the cash along with a few bottles of whiskey.

To make sure no one picked up his trail, he killed Dundee.

While on the run, Allman shot and killed two men in separate incidents—Deputy Sheriff Ed Roberts in Williams, Arizona, and a sheepherder.

Frustrated and fed up with Allman’s killing spree, the sheriff of Coconino County decided to summon help from a group of bounty hunters calling themselves Outlaw Exterminators Inc. 

This group specialized in tracking down outlaws and bringing them in dead or alive.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Clay Calhoun of Arizona and Tombstone, one of the leaders of the Exterminators, picked up Allman’s trail and started closing in on the murderous outlaw. 

Allman eluded the law long enough to kidnap and rape a 13-year old girl named Ida Phengle and a 12-year-old Hopi girl. The incident prompted a Hopi war party to join the Exterminators in the hunt.

The incident proved so vicious, a Hopi war party joined the Exterminators in the hunt.

On October 11th, Calhoun—working alone—cornered Allman among deserted Indian cliff dwellings.

During the exchange of gunfire, Calhoun’s aim proved deadlier. Allman collapsed to the rocky terrain with bullets to his mouth, chest, stomach and groin.

Since all four wounds appeared in a neat vertical line lengthwise along his body, speculation arose that Calhoun may have shot the cold-blooded killer and child rapist while he slept.

But no one really cared about the details. Overriding any such concern was one, cold hard fact: Allman’s reign of terror was over, along with his life.


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6 comments to “BULLETS AND BLOOD”

  • Fred Matsch

    Excellent, concise, informative article. Good story on little known part of history of the wild west.

  • Thanks for the feedback, Fred. Good to hear you enjoyed it.

  • Another juicy historical episode to whet the imagination of any western fiction writer (such as myself) Tom. Or has it already? The killer being pursued by a posse partly made up of Indians, and run to ground in an old cliff dwelling featured in the 1948 movie COLORADO TERRITORY with Joel McCrea (although McCrea played a less unsavoury character than John Allman.)

  • That may be worth watching again. When I saw it, I didn’t know about Bad John Allman.

  • Roger McLaren

    Another great tale, Tom–the west really was wild and though justice wasn’t always swift, it was almost always final.

  • So true, Roger, thanks for the comment.

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