The famous crook Mandrin hid out in La Balme caves

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Mandrin - ©Leipzig University Library / Public domain Mandrin - ©Leipzig University Library / Public domain
La Balme caves Natural cavity Robbery Financial criminality Louis Mandrin

Mandrin the smuggler

A cave is very useful to take shelter. The famous bandit Mandrin, in the 18th century, knew it well! He completely transformed the caves of La Balme into his headquarters! Louis Mandrin was born in 1724 in a haberdasher family from Saint-Etienne-de-Geoirs (Isère).

France wasn’t fine at all, at that time: taxes weighted too heavy on the backs of poor French people. Louis became ″general captain of smugglers″ and recruited rebelled and angry men in the area. He became the leader of that little gang.

A Robin Hood

Like Marion du Faouët in Brittany, he considered himself as a benefactor: for about 10 years, he plundered the area, riding his loyal black mare (he shod her upside down in order to mislead the police after him).

But he always slipped through the net. He redistributed to the poorest one the money he considered as the ″overpayment of taxes″. He also minted false money in the most remote places… like La Balme!

Like Marion du Faouët, Mandrin didn’t kill or hurt anybody. And ladies loved him, in the area! Louis was so handsome, brown hair with grey eyes, tall and beefy, with a fine figure.

He was the Robin Hood from Rhône-Alpes, like the bandit Gaspard Besse in Provence… Yes, but one day, one of these women denounced him: arrested, he was executed in Valence in 1755. Louis was only 30 years old...


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