Al Capone’s History: Ghost, Murders and Madness
Here’s the thing about Chicago, apparently Capone’s ghost is on a very strict appearance commitment with the Chamber Of Commerce. He’s so famous and makes so many frequent cameos around town that he’s basically become that joint’s mascot. Everyone plus their grandma has seen Capone’s phantom. Every-two-bit tour, ghost, historical, or just a crockpot with an Airbnb XP page and a tin-foil hat, will tell you:
“At night people have spotted Scarface’s specter roaming this very spot… And quite possibly that bench over there by the park… and that swanky room at the hotel across town… Did I mention he has a box? Loves to see the Bulls play.”
Capone is Chicago’s poster child. Disney has Mickey. London has Harry Potter. Chicago has Al Capone. And, even though the fella’ went the way of the dodo a long time ago, he’s still making the runs and, more importantly, greasing the wheels of commerce. Capone is still hot…
“Al, on Tuesdays and Thursdays you have Chicago. I want you in tip-top shape for Miami by the weekend. On Monday you have Cuba, try to use the shirt we got you, the pink one with the pineapples. And Wednesday it’s off to Milwaukee… Yeah, I know you never visited the Cream City but I made ‘mucho dinero’ off that guest appearance; try to say something nice about the skyline and bring me a beer while you’re at it.”
So, who exactly was Capone?
Capone A Quick Rundown
- Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born on January 17, 1899, and went off to the big all-inclusive in the sky – *cough, cough, cough down in the pit* – on January 25, 1947.
- Capone was a Gangster. That with a capital G… he was an old school gangster.
- During the nation’s big dry spell – The Prohibition Era – Capone founded the Chicago Outfit.
- His seven-year reign as Capo di Tutti Capo ended when he went to prison at the age of 33, for Tax Evasion; you can steal just as long as you give Uncle Sam his pound of flesh.
The Early Years
Capone was spawned, like the devil child he turned out to be in Brooklyn, New York to two Italian immigrants Gabriele Capone (1865–1920) and Teresa Capone ( 1867–1952). His pop was a barber and his mum was a seamstress, that had immigrated from a small commune outside of Naples.
Back in those days, folks didn’t have any Netflix so in their downtime they basically did the horizontal tango and procreated. Gabriele and Teresa had eight other children. I’m not going to name all of them but I will pinpoint some out: Vincenzo Capone, who later switched his name to Richard Hart and became a Prohibition agent in Homer, Nebraska; Ralph “Bottles” Capone, Salvatore “Frank” Capone who took charge of his brother’s drink enterprise.
Ralph and Franks would be pivotal to Al’s success. They were instrumental in not only prepping Capone but in introducing the mischievous kid to the world of crime.
As a kid, he showed promise. He was an intelligent and charismatic student who had a way with words and numbers. Nonetheless, Capone had a mean streak and would not follow the rules at his strict parochial Catholic school. Capone was booted out from his educational academy at the age of 14. Why? He went postal on a female teacher and started slapping her silly in front of everyone. After that incident, he went to work at odd jobs around Brooklyn, including bowling alley attendant and candy store clerk. From 1916-1918, Capone played semi-professional baseball and his skill with a bat attracted the attention of known gangster Johnny Torrio. Torrio needed an enforcer, someone handy with a stout stick, and Capone fit the bill.
These Mean Streets
Capone became involved with a small-time gang of hoodlums in his teens; hellions with too-much time on their hands and a couple of switchblades. His climb up the mafioso corporate latter began when he joined the Brooklyn Rippers and then the powerful Five Points Gang.
During this period Capone was mentored by the best crime lords out there. The legendary racketeer Frankie Yale; big shot kingpin Johnny Torrio; and just about anyone with fingers in illegal pies.
Capone obtained a Harvard worthy education on how to smuggle goods, run a betting joint, scam storeowners, and break the bank with a VIP brothel at Mob Coney Island.
It was also during this time that Capone obtained his nickname – Scarface. Al insulted a woman while operating the door at a Brooklyn night club and was slashed by her brother Frank Gallucio.
Sweet Home Chicago
In 1919, Capone left New York City for Chicago at the request of Johnny Torrio. Capone started out as a bouncer in a cathouse, here, he contracted syphilis an STD that would follow him to his grave.
By 1923, Capone was already making headway in Chicago. He began appearing as a boxing promoter on the sports pages and people were already taking notice of his cut-throat attitude. In 1920, Torrio became Chicago’s main mob boss – the former had been murdered; Capone was the main suspect in that early retirement deal.
Torrio managed the Italian organized crime of the city, with Capone as his right-hand man. There was a bitter rivalry between the Italians and North Side Gang. Torrio, going against Capone’s advice, had their leader Dean O’Banion executed on November 10, 1924. This little outburst would in turn place Hymie Weiss at the head of the gang, backed by Vincent Drucci and Bugs Moran. The aforementioned trio swearing a debt to avenge O’ Banion and make Torrio and Capone pay in blood.
Capo Di Tutti Capo
In 1925, Torrio was coming back from a shopping trip when he was shot several times. He somehow recovered, but reading the writing on the walls, effectively resigned and handed control to Capone. Torrio was aware that he had made a grave mistake in killing O’Banion, he needed to throw cool water on that bonfire and apace Weiss, Drucci, and Moran… He conceded in giving Capone, a man that up to this point was doing everything to put the brakes on a possible gang war, the reigns of the Italian branch of organized crime in Chicago.
Capone, a savvy businessman, instantly bought illegal breweries and created a transportation network that reached Canada.
Capone, flipped a switch after he became the boss. He passed from a calming almost peaceful force of cooperation and brotherly mobster love to a power-hungry despot with a quick temper and an itchy trigger finger. Capone started using rampant violence to increase his revenues. He instigated shot-outs, assassinations, human trafficking, and even bombings.
When he was asked about his activities by the press, Capone merely responded:
“I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want”; and, “All I do is satisfy a public demand.”
By 24 Capone had everyone in his pocket. He had city council officials elected to do his bidding, he had the police swimming in protection money, he had State Senators cashing in checks. When the carrot didn’t work, Capone was quick with the stick; by 26 he had a file brimming with blackmail material. What he couldn’t buy, he would extort, those he couldn’t extort, he would kill.
Capone was untouchable. The cops couldn’t target him; The other mob bosses wouldn’t dare make a play on his life, and the government was too chicken and up to their eyeballs in dirty dealings.
For years, mobster took out their frustrations on Capone’s underlings and acquaintances. Owners of restaurants Capone frequented were kidnapped, tortured, and killed. Capone’s drivers were tossed over bridges with cement shoes. His tailors – Capone was a dapper man that loved fine suits – were constantly being harassed, their fingers crushed to a pulp.
And, if someone was foolish enough to make a play at the big-guy, Capone would somehow survive – like a cockroach – and come back with the equivalent of a Biblical reprisal.
Valentine’s Day Massacre
Capone, up until early 1929 was a media sensation. Gangsters back then were as famous as movie stars, the public loved outlaws. That all changed on February 14, 1929.
Capone, tiring of Bugs Moran and the North Side Gang, went off the handle and damaged his reputation beyond repair. In a brazen attack, Capone initiated a “police raid.” Capone shipped in out of towners, button men from other states, and had them dressed up as cops. On the morning of the 14, on Valentine’s Day, the “faux police” interrupted a known Moran warehouse, lined all the workers against the wall, and gunned them down in a shower of bullets.
The public had enough. The pictures of the massacre hit the national press and the pressure was on; Capone had gone too far.
Capone, after this milestone, was arrested multiple times. He couldn’t go out of his house without being picked up for “vagrancy charges”. Everything plus the kitchen sink was tossed at Capone; concealing a weapon in a courtroom, perjury, contempt of court, etc.
In 1929 he was run out of Miami Beach by the governor, that same year the Chicago press demanded that all his property should be seized and he in turn bolted out of the state.
Capone had a running bail tab at the justice department and he was stretching his defense team to a breaking point. Still, thanks to some legal gymnastics, nothing stuck. Capone was a smart cookie and he created dozens of cutaways between himself and every crooked deed dirtying the street done on his behalf.
Then, came the sucker punch.
Assistant Attorney General Mabel Walker Willebrandt realized that mob figures openly led extravagant lifestyles yet never filed tax returns, and thus could be sentenced for tax evasion without needing hard evidence to get testimony about their other crimes.
Capone’s lawyers did everything in their power to throw the case out but a diligent IRS investigation proved beyond a doubt that Capone was guilty of Tax Evasion.
Capone was sentenced on three counts of income tax evasion on October 17, 1931, and was convicted a week later to 11 years in federal prison, fined $50,000 plus $7,692 for court costs, and was held liable for $215,000 plus interest due on his back taxes.
Capone’s throne was handed down to Frank Nitti – who instantly started forming shell corporations so he could file his taxes on time.
Capone the Final Years
Capone was remanded to Alcatraz Prison – another ghost-filled tabernacle – where he served 8 years. He was released in 1939 when his mind started to go wonky on account of syphilis.
For the remainder of his life, Capone passed the time swatting invisible flies and being carted around like a stuffed icon, in his Palm Beach residence. His mind had taken a hike.
In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist examined him and concluded that Capone had the mentality of a 12-year-old child. Finally, January 25, surrounded by his family in his home, Capone died after his heart failed as a result of apoplexy.