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General Who coined the phrase "murder hobo"


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GameWyrd

Explorer
Early '80's sounds about right. I know it goes back to when I was playing AD&D about that time. Don't remember if it was 1e or 2e or maybe even OD&D.

Yea, that's a poorly researched article. Interesting, but 2007 is decades too late.

I would look at some of the first Dragon and Dungeon magazines. I suspect the term will show up there pretty early on. Maybe even some of the original TSR pamphlets or the early Gen Con publications might mention the term.

Feels like the article was about right. No? The first evidence of the term being used on the internet was 2007 but probably used offline by old gamers for years before that.
 

No it isn't.

I clearly remember the term in use before then, because I remember people I haven't seen since 2006 introducing me to the term when I talked to them in person a decade and a half ago. It was a term that was in use, I have no idea about how widespread it was online, but I know actual meatspace humans were using it in conversation.

I'm not going to go around digging through the archives of the web for some reference to something. . .when for all I know it wasn't in widespread use on the internet and was a term my friends were using.

It's possible the term was created independently by several different groups offline before it caught on online. Or they could have met at conventions and the term spread from there.

I know the term existed before then. I don't feel the need to prove it to anyone.

What this thread has taught me is:

1. The term became a LOT more popular in the 2000's, and spread online via messageboards in the early 2010's.
2. Some people think if they can't verify it in a quick internet search, and that what's in Google, UseNet and Dragon Magazine archives is a complete and infallible archive of gaming culture and that anyone disagreeing with it must be lying.
Agreed, you are (and so am I) PRIMARY SOURCES, we were actually there and witnessed the use of the term. I'm QUITE sure it was in use at least in the early 90's because I pretty much stopped playing 2e around C. 1995, and didn't play a lot of D&D or read D&D groups, etc. again until around 2008 when 4e came out. I did play a few times, here and there, but very little. I never even SAW a 3.x book until about the time 4e came out.
So, it virtually had to be a pre-1995 thing. Now, memory is a funny thing, and its quite possible me thinking it dates to 10+ years earlier is just plain wrong. Still, between you and I we have at least 2 first-hand recollections of its use by the early 2000's at the very latest, probably earlier, maybe much earlier.
While it is certainly great to get more corroboration, and print is gold, 2 witnesses would generally hold up in court, or in a history text. ;)
 

You—as in you, personally—don't have to prove a thing. However, in the context of the history of TTRPGs and the terminology associated with it, determining the origins of this term is important, and in that, scholarly rigueur is required. Most of of here that think that this is a topic worthy of research agree that a wider net needs to be cast if we want to collaborate (or reject, if the evidence isn't there) hearsay.

While I agree that non-internet sources need to be searched, I find that your premise that lack of pre-2009 (not, 2000, as you state) internet results doesn't discount widespread non-internet usage to not be compelling. TSR and other gaming companies already had an established footprint on the internet in the early/mid 90s. By 2000 (and the advent of 3e and Erich Noah's original website), TTRPG gamers had already created established communities beyond AOL and Usenet. If a term was widespread at that point, it beggars belief that there is no evidence of it in any TTRPG community prior to 2009. You're essentially saying that it was widespread, but no one used the term (or at least in uncontracted form) in online conversations before 2009 for reasons and that it wasn't until 2013 that, for reasons, that gamers decided that it was okay to now use.
Trust me, archives are spotty and not all well-indexed! I know of significant web sites which I built pre-2001 which are utterly obliterated from any record, yet were fairly significant, widely trafficked and had content that made the rounds of other media. It just happens. I don't know the specific Usenet archive that was searched, but Usenet archives are HUGE (they were too big to fit on hard drives back in the 80's already, though the drives were small then). So VERY VERY FEW of these archives extend back into even the 90's, or at best they are fragmentary. In fact the way Usenet works means there IS NO CANONICAL USENET. It is simply a collection of different 'feeds' originating with and republished by, various sources. Any 2 Usenet servers, and their archives, may hold different contents. So it is utterly feasible that something could show up there for years, and your archive has no trace of it. It was quite rare, back in the day, for Usenet servers to hold really old stuff too, often it was truncated (see above about bigger than hard drives).
I think that even a reasonable declaration of non-existence would require some pretty thorough searches. I would also note that other major chunks of history are now gone, like Yahoo Groups (not as old, but still held a lot of stuff). The Internet is not good at remembering its history, terrible in fact. I think people are actually MORE reliable when it comes to this kind of question!
 

This What are murder hobos and where did the phrase come from? GENERALLY parallels the earlier discoveries, but pushes the actual exact phrase back to 2011 on RPG.net.

So, there are definitely earlier citations than the original search (but it was a pretty nice search, thx).

I'd also point out it gives a source, which means there is at least a chance we could go ask them where THEY heard it, "celebrityomnipath" might still be around or findable.
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
I don't want to completely dismiss people's recollections (since there are several). Although it is telling that the phrase doesn't appear online in any searchable form even though there is reliable data on here, usenet, and rpg.net going back to the early 2000s.

I mean, it is curious that literally NO ONE used the phrase at all on rpg.net from the year 2000 up to 2007 (and only then in a variant form), and it doesn't resurface again until 2010.

That tells me that either A) this phrase originated from some specific locality and was known only to a handful of people (and all of them, apparently, have weighed in on this thread here espousing such an opinion) OR B) you're all simply misremembering in the same way that people swear that Vader says "Luke, I am your father".
 

That user Sage Genesis appears to still be active on rpg.net. Not sure I have an account over there. Maybe I'll register and PM him to find out if he invented it then, or if he got it from somewhere else.
Interesting, I know that user. I'm pretty sure they are still reasonably active. Maybe also has an account here? I get the two forums mixed up sometimes... Anyway, should be fairly easy to track down!

EDIT: Pinged them over there, we shall see...
 

You gloss over 3e and the d20 boom that began in 2000. The origins of this very website started in the lead-up to 3rd edition in 1999.

Personally, I did not hear the term until 2009 or 2010. I fully believe that the term may have been in limited/regional oral use for many years before that, but I do find it hard to believe that it would not have found its way onto the Internet in some way before then unless this usage was extremely localized and insulated from the digital world.

For those who know the term from the 1980s or 1990s:
Where was this that you heard this? What country/region?
When did you and your fellow users of this term begin using the Internet?
Did you use or see this term used on the Internet prior to 2007?

An additional avenue of research might be to consider other distinctive "D&D-adjacent" terms and find the earliest references to them in the online records.
I was 'around'. I first played D&D around Dayton, Ohio in the mid-70's, and then in Central Texas in the late 70's, and then in NW Vermont until pretty recently. I don't recall it from the OLD OLD days, so I could have most likely heard it in Vermont in the 1980's.

And for those who can remember, there WAS Usenet, often via FIDONET BBS back in the late 80's. I bet archives DO exist somewhere, but they are unlikely to be complete, and BBS/Usenet was not super common, so its hard to say that something would be there if it existed.

OTOH the argument that it would be hard for it to be missing between say 1998 and 2011 when it first appears on the 'net, is a decent argument. I don't really have an answer for that, except perhaps that there really are still a lot of people, who play D&D no less (some are my friends) who are utterly not online...
 



This search definitively indicates the term was used online as 'murderhobo' as early as 2007 in its current sense. It refers to a page on TVTropes, which has doubtless been modified many times since, but still contains the same text snipped in the search link.
Given that this is TVTropes, this indicates that the term was ALREADY in wide-spread use SOMEWHERE.
 


DNDWIKI also seems to have had a reference to 'murderhobo' in its glossary since 2007, although again it is not really possible to know what it said exactly (maybe the wayback machine would help here).
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter

This search definitively indicates the term was used online as 'murderhobo' as early as 2007 in its current sense. It refers to a page on TVTropes, which has doubtless been modified many times since, but still contains the same text snipped in the search link.
Given that this is TVTropes, this indicates that the term was ALREADY in wide-spread use SOMEWHERE.
TV Tropes Munchkin entry in 2007 did not have Murderhobo.


If you have the DNDWIKI link we can pull that one up too.

THIS Stan Lee To Launch 1821 Comics At NYCC indicates Stan Lee using the term in 2011. It certainly didn't originate then. Doesn't push it back any, but does indicate it was common currency already by then.

Where do you see Murder Hobo on that page?
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
Interesting, I know that user. I'm pretty sure they are still reasonably active. Maybe also has an account here? I get the two forums mixed up sometimes... Anyway, should be fairly easy to track down!

EDIT: Pinged them over there, we shall see...
I already PM'd them. No response. They do appear active, though perhaps they are simply ignoring us for some weird reason.
 

TV Tropes Munchkin entry in 2007 did not have Murderhobo.


If you have the DNDWIKI link we can pull that one up too.



Where do you see Murder Hobo on that page?
I am going by the dating of search results by Google, where it shows the word 'Murderhobo' showing up in that page in 2007. Not disputing you, just doesn't seem like the two match up...

Yeah, I'm not sure what the deal is with the comic book reference, I saw a couple other references like that too, none of them seem to really lead anywhere.

So, we have some potential references, not 100%. I couldn't find anything else trolling Google results filtered back to the early 90's, but there's really very little there which is that old at all (you would probably conclude D&D didn't exist on that basis in the 90's basically).
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I am going by the dating of search results by Google, where it shows the word 'Murderhobo' showing up in that page in 2007. Not disputing you, just doesn't seem like the two match up...

Google dates are often really hinky... I haven't figured them out. You can sometimes get a news story from today when you try searching for that topic with the date restriction set to a few years ago or older. That one I gave is the link to the page from that date from internet archive. I don't think there's any usual way for those to be wrong (assumign the page is there).

Yeah, I'm not sure what the deal is with the comic book reference, I saw a couple other references like that too, none of them seem to really lead anywhere.

So, we have some potential references, not 100%. I couldn't find anything else trolling Google results filtered back to the early 90's, but there's really very little there which is that old at all (you would probably conclude D&D didn't exist on that basis in the 90's basically).
It certainly existed on usenet :)
 

Google dates are often really hinky... I haven't figured them out. You can sometimes get a news story from today when you try searching for that topic with the date restriction set to a few years ago or older. That one I gave is the link to the page from that date from internet archive. I don't think there's any usual way for those to be wrong (assumign the page is there).


It certainly existed on usenet :)
LOL, I sure hope so, I was there! Actually I didn't really post much on Usenet, maybe a couple times. This would have been more like the very late 80's though. Mostly it was just HARD to get good access back then, you needed a University account, or else you could hope your friendly local FIDONET BBS would manage to pick up the groups you wanted (probably not, unless you knew the sysop).
I've heard that The Well was an active RPG hub, and Together Net (in Vermont) had a few enthusiasts. There just wasn't really social media back then, even around '95 when everyone started to really get online it was mostly email, or GeoCities sites (don't ask, they were terrible). That and AOL/Compuserve, but those were fairly closed off from everything else.
 


I'm going to go a different direction here and posit with no proof that "murder hobo" is actually a mutation of the term "homicidal hobo", which is a decades old term to describe literal hobos of the rail-riding tradition that commit murder.

The phrase "homicidal hobo" goes back really far. The earliest reference I can find to it is the title of an episode of the radio show "Calling All Cars" from 1938:
I suspect there may be earlier cases, but that's as far as I'm going to bother looking. "Homicidal hobo" continues to appear in literature for years, including this example of a section of the story collection "The Charge is Murder" from 1965: The Charge is Murder

In more modern history, "homicidal hobos" start showing up outside of fiction in the late 80s through the 90s. The term seems to gain popularity with reference to the Freight Train Riders Association of America (Freight Train Riders of America - Wikipedia). The FTRA was formally started in 1984, and was basically a hobo's alliance known for a lot of violence. This article (from 2007) specifically notes how the LA anti-gang squad in the late 80s referred to this group as "Homicidal Hobos": The Freight Train Riders of America Also, noted serial killer Robert Silveria was a member of the FTRA; he was arrested in 1996 for 14 homicides while living as a hobo.

Another famous serial killer, Angel Resendiz was nicknamed the Railway Killer. He was featured on Americas Most Wanted and plenty of other news outlets both before and after he was caught in 1999. He was referred to as a "homicidal hobo" by many members of the media. Here are a few examples:
I married a serial killer
https://crimeindetroit.com/documents/062399 Serial Suspect has State Arrest.pdf

Clearly, "homicidal hobos" were talked about a lot before the 2007 date that "murder hobo" has been found. I think it's highly likely that some people who remember the term "murder hobo" from long ago are actually thinking about "homicidal hobos". It's also likely that "murder hobo" is a more colloquial term, and that "homicidal hobo" is a more "proper" or "literary" version that made it through editors to print in surviving texts. This last part is especially true when you consider that "murder" has not typically been used as an adjective. The proper adjective would be "murderous". The use of "murder" as an adjective is more recent in language, and is probably related to a trending of "verbing" nouns on the internet.

Just my late night thoughts.
 

I'm going to go a different direction here and posit with no proof that "murder hobo" is actually a mutation of the term "homicidal hobo", which is a decades old term to describe literal hobos of the rail-riding tradition that commit murder.

The phrase "homicidal hobo" goes back really far. The earliest reference I can find to it is the title of an episode of the radio show "Calling All Cars" from 1938:
I suspect there may be earlier cases, but that's as far as I'm going to bother looking. "Homicidal hobo" continues to appear in literature for years, including this example of a section of the story collection "The Charge is Murder" from 1965: The Charge is Murder

In more modern history, "homicidal hobos" start showing up outside of fiction in the late 80s through the 90s. The term seems to gain popularity with reference to the Freight Train Riders Association of America (Freight Train Riders of America - Wikipedia). The FTRA was formally started in 1984, and was basically a hobo's alliance known for a lot of violence. This article (from 2007) specifically notes how the LA anti-gang squad in the late 80s referred to this group as "Homicidal Hobos": The Freight Train Riders of America Also, noted serial killer Robert Silveria was a member of the FTRA; he was arrested in 1996 for 14 homicides while living as a hobo.

Another famous serial killer, Angel Resendiz was nicknamed the Railway Killer. He was featured on Americas Most Wanted and plenty of other news outlets both before and after he was caught in 1999. He was referred to as a "homicidal hobo" by many members of the media. Here are a few examples:
I married a serial killer
https://crimeindetroit.com/documents/062399 Serial Suspect has State Arrest.pdf

Clearly, "homicidal hobos" were talked about a lot before the 2007 date that "murder hobo" has been found. I think it's highly likely that some people who remember the term "murder hobo" from long ago are actually thinking about "homicidal hobos". It's also likely that "murder hobo" is a more colloquial term, and that "homicidal hobo" is a more "proper" or "literary" version that made it through editors to print in surviving texts. This last part is especially true when you consider that "murder" has not typically been used as an adjective. The proper adjective would be "murderous". The use of "murder" as an adjective is more recent in language, and is probably related to a trending of "verbing" nouns on the internet.

Just my late night thoughts.
Meh, we never used the term "Homicidal Hobo" in reference to PCs in an RPG. I don't especially remember it as being anything notable as a cultural term back in the day either, though I have dug up a number of references to it, along with other similar terms, in reference to actual hobos back in the day.
Anyway, the term 'hobo' itself is of FAIRLY recent coinage, only dating AFAIK back to the Dustbowl/Great Depression era, or perhaps a bit earlier in the early 20th Century (the Intertubes relegate it to the 1890s). The point being "murder" (etc.) "hobo" isn't like some ancient term, though it certainly COULD long predate D&D, as could its cognates.
 

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