Christopher Syn was a brilliant scholar who also possessed many swashbuckling skills such as riding, fencing, and seamanship. He was content to live the quiet life of a country vicar in Dymchurch-under-the Sea under the patronage of Sir Charles Cobtree, the father of his best friend Anthony Cobtree, until his beautiful young Spanish wife Imogene was seduced by and eloped with Nicholas Tappitt, whom Dr. Syn had considered a close friend.
Christopher Syn set out on a quest for revenge, always managing in a deliberate campaign to reach the eloped pair's destinations ahead of them just in time to terrify them against landing and facing him. While sailing from Spain to America in pursuit of them, his ship was captured by the pirate ship The Sulphur Pit, commanded by the Negro pirate Captain Satan. In a one-on-one fight, Syn defeated and killed Captain Satan to take command of his ship and crew, among whom was Mr. Mipps, a former Royal Navy ship's carpenter with whom Syn had become friends back in England after rescuing Mipps from the Customs men and who had sworn loyalty to Syn from that time onward.
With Mipps at his side, Dr. Syn turned to piracy and became a great success, but when his crew refused to allow him to leave them, Syn and Mipps quietly slipped away in one of the ship's boats; unknown to Syn, Mipps had arranged a convenient "accident" in the ship's powder hold with an exploding barrel of gunpowder, eliminating all witnesses who could tell of Syn's piratic acts.
Mr. Mipps then joined Dr. Syn in his quest for revenge, pursuing Tappitt and Imogene throughout the thirteen American colonies (supposedly to preach the gospel to the Indians) and around the world (as part of a whaling voyage) afterwards, and was with him in the Caribbean when Dr. Syn turned again to piracy, assuming the name of Captain Clegg (taking the name "Clegg" from a certain vicious biting fly he had encountered in America), hijacking his enemy Tappitt's own ship and crew and sailing off with them (renaming the ship the Imogene) to become the most infamous pirate of the day.
However, a mulatto who escaped the destruction of Syn's previous ship stowed away in Clegg's ship and accused him before the crew; Captain Clegg quelled the potential mutiny by having the mulatto's tongue cut out, marooning him on a coral reef and violently killing Yellow Pete, the ship's Chinese cook, who represented the crew in their wish to rescue the mulatto. Afterwards, realizing that Captain Clegg had become too notorious, Dr. Syn decided to abandon his quest and return to England, and Mipps set up a second "accidental" explosion to destroy the Imogene and her crew.
Christopher Syn returned to England on the night of a terrible storm which wrecked the brig he was traveling on off the coast of England just within sight of Dymchurch, leaving him the only survivor. He managed to reach the shore safely and that same night turned up at the house of his old friend (and now Squire) Anthony Cobtree. When news came that that the local vicar had drowned while trying to save victims of the shipwreck, Squire Cobtree offered the post to Christopher Syn. Syn accepted and settled down to a more respectable life as the vicar of Dymchurch and Dean of Peculiars in Romney Marsh, Kent, resuming his original name.
Soon after, Mr. Mipps arrived in Dymchurch with the intent of settling down, and Doctor Syn made him the village sexton upon condition that Mipps "remember to forget" (that Syn had been Clegg and that they had known each other before), and that Mipps never get involved with the local smugglers.
Dr. Syn soon became aware that his parishioners were smuggling goods from France to avoid the extravagant customs duties the government charged. Learning from Mr. Mipps (who, contrary to Syn's orders, had become a leader of the smugglers) that certain townsfolk had been ambushed and captured during a smuggling run, Christopher Syn purchased the great black stallion Gehenna from a band of gypsies and raced to their rescue. A suit of clothing borrowed from a scarecrow made an improvised disguise, and Syn and Mipps were able to rescue the townsfolk from the Dragoons.
After this, Doctor Syn decided that he could only protect his people by becoming their leader. He created a more elaborate scarecrow costume, complete with eerie luminous paint. At night riding Gehenna, the respectable Dr. Christopher Syn became "The Scarecrow", the feared head of the smugglers. Together with Mr. Mipps, he organized the smugglers into a well-organized band of "night riders", called "The Devil Riders" with macabre disguises and code-names.
Syn's cunning was so great that the smugglers outwitted the government forces for many years. A hidden stable watched over by Mother Handaway, the local "witch" (who believed The Scarecrow to be The Devil in living form), was the hiding place for the horses of The Scarecrow and his lieutenants Mr. Mipps and the local highwayman Jimmie Bone (who, being as good a horseman as Dr. Syn, was sometimes called upon to impersonate The Scarecrow when Dr. Syn either had to be elsewhere or seen in the same place as The Scarecrow).
Shortly after the first appearances of The Scarecrow, Nicholas Tappitt (using the name "Colonel Delacourt") and the ailing Imogene returned to England, ending up in Dymchurch. Recognizing Syn as Captain Clegg, Tappitt realized that Syn and The Scarecrow were one and the same and helped the authorities set a trap for The Scarecrow, hoping to both rid himself of his enemy and claim the reward for The Scarecrow's capture. The trap was sprung, but Squire Cobtree's daughter Charlotte, who had fallen in love with Dr. Syn and also learned his secret identities as both Captain Clegg and The Scarecrow, was the tragic victim when she dressed in The Scarecrow's disguise and was fatally wounded in Syn's place. Tappitt was then suspected of being The Scarecrow, and a Customs officer and three constables came to arrest him. In the ensuing fight, Tappitt killed the Customs man and the constables subdued and arrested Tappitt for murdering the Customs officer.
After Imogene's death in Syn's arms (during which she revealed to him that he had a son by her who was missing somewhere in America), Syn fought a final duel with Tappitt in his jail cell, defeating him. Syn then struck a bargain with Tappitt: If Tappitt confessed to being the notorious pirate Captain Clegg, then Syn would look after and care for Tappitt and Imogene's new-born infant daughter (also named Imogene). Tappitt agreed, and "Captain Clegg" was hanged and later "buried without benefit of clergy at a cross-roads hard by the Kent Ditch."
Many years later, Captain Collyer, a Royal Navy officer assigned to smash the local smuggling ring, uncovered the deception and Dr. Syn's true identity, thanks in part to the tongueless mulatto (who had been rescued by Collyer years before and who had been serving Collyer as a "ferret" seeking out hidden contraband) who recognized Syn as Captain Clegg. Syn evaded capture while at the same time making sure that Imogene and Squire Cobtree's son Dennis (who had fallen in love with Imogene) would have a happy life together (they were eventually married), but was murdered in revenge by the mulatto, who then mysteriously managed to escape, leaving Syn harpooned through the neck. As a last mark of respect, Collyer ordered that Syn be buried at sea, rather than have his body hung in chains.
Mr. Mipps escaped in the confusion of Syn's death and disappeared from England, but it is said that a little man very much like him is living out his days in a Buddhist Monastery somewhere in the Malay Peninsula, delighting the monks with recounting the adventures of Doctor Syn and the eerie stories of the Romney Marsh and the mysterious Scarecrow and his night riders.
In 1787, Doctor Syn became a member of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He worked alongside other stalwart adventurers including Lemuel Gulliver, Percy and Marguerite Blakeney, Mistress Hill and Natty Bumppo. Syn's likeness (along with those of the other League members) is represented in a painting located in the secret League annex at the British Museum.
- Christopher Syn is a fictional adventurer created by author Russell Thorndyke. He appeared in a series of novels, the first of which was entitled Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh, written by Thorndyke in 1915. It is fair to assume that the comic book version of Christopher Syn shares the same history as that of his literary counterpart. To date, no material has been provided which directly challenges the original source material.
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