As the legend goes, the Buckriders were a gang of ruthless robbers who made the Overmaas region (the current South-Limburg and the Land of Herve) an unsafe place to live from the 1730s to the 1780s. It was said that the members had made a pact with Satan and rode through the sky on the backs of goats.
According to legends and superstition, the Buckriders were goat-riding spirits. This superstition was taken advantage of in the 18th century by a gang of thieves and burglars, so as to frighten the population; particularly in South Limburg. These "Buckriders" were a gang of robbers that terrorized the regions of Overmaas (now Dutch Limburg, Belgian border region and Land of Herve) and the region around Liège the areas just across the German border and roamed the Kempen. The raids were generally directed against farms and rectories.
The Buckriders were first mentioned in the book Oorzaeke, bewys en ondekkinge van een goddelooze, bezwoorne bende nagtdieven en knevelaers binnen de Landen van Overmaeze en aenpalende landstreeken (Causes, proof and discoveries of a godless, sworn gang of night-thieves and extortionists in Overmaas and bordering regions), written in 1779 by SJP Sleinada (a pseudonym of Father A. Daniels - read the name backwards). He was pastor of the parish of Schaesberg, now part of Landgraaf. He knew several gang members personally and was well aware of how their business went. Legend had it that the robbers had made a pact with the devil and moved around on goats at night. Allegedly, the goats would fly when they used this invocation: "Over house, over garden, over pole, and that to the wine-cellars of Cologne!" Once a year they rode to the Mookerheide (near Mook) to visit their master, the devil.
Later, all kinds of stories and mysticism surrounding the gang, gained the Buckriders a Robin-Hood-like status. Nowadays it is believed that there have been several gangs which committed burglaries and robberies. It is also thought that many of the 600 people arrested and convicted were in fact innocent, due to the fact that confessions were obtained by torture.
The Buckrides went to the cultural heritage of Limburg. The phenomenon occurred in the eighteenth century and especially in the Meuse shires: the old Duchy of Limburg, the Countries of Overmaas and the old county of Loon, what we now call the Euroregion.
The trials of the goats riders distinguished from an ordinary criminal procedure when a "wicked oath 'for came: I swear to god, and the devil ..." This "godless oath" in the tradition typical buck riders came in Overmaas (Henry Becx in Nieuwstadt 1743) and blew over to Loon. Here the name 'riders bucks "for the first time. By condemning people because of a godless oath or their alleged alliance with the devil, that one can speak of a late form of processes that resemble those of alleged witches appear. The prosecution was relentless, even by the standards of that time. More than 90% of those convicted received the death penalty. Most confessions were extracted under torture, or the fear of that.
Based on oath from the goats riders, there are seven distinct periods of persecution. The first dates from 1743 to 1745, the last from 1793 until 1794.
Apart from the processes in the process of 1774 in the Hesbaye Wellen, "buck riders' was first openly used. In 1774 John Muysen shoved letter under the door of farmer Wouters Ulbeek, saying his house was going to be burnt down. His house would be burned if he would get money. In that letter Muysen volunteered himself as a member of the goats riders, and three times he used the word devil. In Overmaase processes, the term "buck riders' very late for the influence of events in Wellen. Here emerges, however, the word 'goat' for the first time in the processes. Mathijs Smeets Beek claimed in 1773 that at night they agreed with 42 people to fly on a large goat through the air to Venlo, there to commit a crime.