This article is missing information about the character's appearance in other media, reception, and interpretation. Please expand the article to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page.(May 2015)
Judge Holden is purportedly a historical person, a murderer who partnered with John Joel Glanton as a professional scalphunter in the mid-19th century. To date, the only source for Holden's existence is Samuel Chamberlain's My Confession, an autobiographical account. Chamberlain described Holden as well-spoken, intelligent and physically quite large. He also described Holden as perhaps the most ruthless of the roving band of killers led by Glanton.
A fictionalized Holden is a central figure in Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian. In the novel, he and Glanton are the leaders of a pack of nomadic criminals who rob, rape, torture, and kill across the border between Texas and Mexico. Throughout the novel, he murders scores of people, including children. Finding verification of Holden's existence has been a hobby for some Cormac McCarthy scholars.
In 2002, Book magazine rated Holden, as appearing in Blood Meridian, as the 43rd greatest character in fiction since 1900.
As depicted in Blood Meridian, Holden is a mysterious figure, a cold-blooded killer. Aside from the children he openly kills, he is seen enticing children with sweets, and a child often goes missing when he is in the vicinity. Further, at one point in the novel he is seen with a naked 12-year-old girl in his room. Holden displays a preternatural breadth of knowledge and skills—paleontology, archaeology, linguistics, law, technical drawing, geology, chemistry, prestidigitation, and philosophy, to name a few.
He is described as seven feet tall and completely bereft of body hair. He is massive in frame, and enormously strong, capable of holding and wielding a howitzer cannon much like a regular gun. His skin is so pale as to have almost no pigment. This strange appearance, as well as his keen, extremely fast reflexes, strength, apparent immunity to sleep and aging, and other abilities point to his being something other than a conventional human being.
In the final pages of the novel, McCarthy makes more direct reference to the Judge as a supernatural entity, or even as a concept, personified.