He employed over 1000 gunmen in his service, up to half
of the city's police force was on his payroll, and he had "in his pocket"
dozens of aldermen, state's attorneys, mayors, legislators and even
congressmen. His organization's domination of Chicago and such suburban
areas as Cicero was absolute. When he wanted to control elections, he did so
when threats and terror and he placed many people into power who would look
the other way. During his time, Capone controlled a crime empire worth
millions of dollars.... but he didn't start out that way.
Capone was born in Brooklyn in 1899 and attended school
through the sixth grade. After that, he learned his lessons in the streets
with tough street gang members like Johnny Torrio and a kid who would remain
a close friend throughout his life, Charles "Lucky" Luciano.
When Capone was in his teens, he was hired by Torrio to be a bouncer in a
Brooklyn saloon and brothel. Capone was slashed by a hood named Frank
Galluccio and he ended up with a huge scar on his face that would later
inspire his hated "Scarface" nickname.
In 1920, Torrio left New York and moved to Chicago to work with his uncle,
mobster Big Jim Colosimo. He brought Capone along with him. Torrio had
plans to gain control of the booze market, now made illegal by Prohibition.
Colosimo stood in his way so he and Capone had him killed. The two of them
worked together to wipe out all opposition in the city, including the 1924
assassination of Dion O'Banion, the head of the Irish north side mob. This
move resulted in an all-out war in Chicago and got Torrio nearly killed. He
turned business over to Capone and went back to Brooklyn.
Capone was now 26 years old and had in his control a
crime empire worth over $30 million. He became the top man, employing over
100 people with a weekly payroll of over $300,000. His secret of success was
to limit the mob's activities to those rackets which had a strong demand
from the public... liquor, gambling and prostitution. He have the people
what they wanted and they loved him for it. Capone became a local celebrity
and was even cheered when he went to a ball game.
But of course, not everyone loved Capone.... he had surrounded himself with
men that he could trust but there were still many assassination attempts. In
September of 1926, the O'Banion's sent an entire convoy of cars loaded with
machine-gunner's past Capone's
headquarters. They poured over 1000 rounds of hot lead into the building but
Capone escaped injury.
Capone appeared to be invincible, but he was doomed to fail when he ordered
the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in an attempt to get rival Bugs Moran.
See our section on the history and the ghosts related to the massacre.
After this, the public would have had enough of the savage bootleg
wars and Washington would apply immense pressure to shut Capone down. It was
during this time that Eliot Ness and his band of "Untouchables" would come
In the end, it would not be murder or the Prohibition laws that would get
Capone... but tax evasion and he was sentenced to the Federal Prison in
Atlanta for 11 years.
In 1934, Capone would be transferred to the most brutal
prison in American, Alcatraz, and this would finally signal the bitter end
to his career. Alcatraz was a place of total punishment and few privileges,
using terrible methods to exact vengeance against the prisoners. One of the
most successful methods of punishment were the prison's "holes", places that
were little more than dungeons and where prisoners could be severely beaten
for the slightest infractions.
Capone spent three stretches in the "hole" during his years at Alcatraz. The
first years of the new "escape-proof" prison were known as the "silent
years", for no prisoners were allowed to speak to each other, sing or even
whistle. Talking was forbidden except for three minutes during the morning
and afternoon recreation periods and on weekends for two hours.
Capone, of course quite arrogant when he arrived at the prison, had no idea
the rule of silence applied to him. He found himself in the "hole" for two
stretches for this offense and once more for trying to bribe a guard for
information from the outside. On all three occasions, Capone returned from
the "hole" just a little worse for wear.
Eventually, it would break him. Many of the Alcatraz prisoners went insane and Capone was
possibly one of them. The attempts on his life, the beatings, a stabbing and
the prison routine began taking a terrible toll on Capone. After several
attempts on his life in the prison yard, he was excused from going outside
and later joined the four-man prison band. Gifts to Alcatraz inmates were
forbidden, but musical instruments were allowed, so Capone's wife, Mae, sent
him a banjo. He would often sit in his cell and play when the other
prisoners were outside.
After five years, Capone's mind snapped and there were times when he would
refuse to leave his cell and go to the mess hall to eat. Sometimes he would
crouch down in the corner of his cell and babble to himself in baby-talk.
Another inmate recalled that sometimes Capone would stay in his cell and
re-make his bunk over and over again.
He spent the last portion of his time at Alcatraz in the hospital ward. He
was being treated for an advanced form of syphilis, which he had been
carrying since his youth. He left Alcatraz in 1939.
Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, who was running the mob in Capone's absence, was
asked by a reporter if Capone would take over control again after his
release. "Al, " said Guzik, "is nuttier than a fruitcake."
Strangely, although the ghost of Al Capone has never been
rumored to haunt, a ghost researcher who was gathering evidence about the
haunting of Alcatraz, spoke to a National Park Ranger (the prison is now a
National Park site) about something strange that happened in one of the
The ranger had no idea who had once been housed there, but he was sure that
he had heard spectral banjo music coming from inside of the chamber.....
The cell had once belonged to Al Capone. After his release, Capone retired from the public view to
his mansion in Miami Beach, accessible via
flights to Myrtle beach. It was said that he spent the next eight years
wavering between lucidity and psychosis. Some believe that it may have been
the ghost who actually drove Capone to insanity. Those who scoff would say
that Capone's early senility had produced the so-called phantom, but Capone
actually spoke of it years before.
While Capone had once killed off most of his enemies, he could not get rid
of one of the spirits. It was the ghost of James Clark, the brother-in-law
of Bugs Moran and a St. Valentine's Day Massacre victim, who Capone claimed
hounded him from 1929 to his grave. There were many times when Capone's
employees would hear him begging for the ghost to leave him in peace... and
this was in his lucid pre-Alcatraz days. On several occasions, his
bodyguards broke into his rooms, fearing that someone had gotten to Capone,
only to have their boss tell them of Clark's ghost.
Could Capone have created this ghost out of guilt for his many misdeeds?
Possibly, but for a man who had been responsible for the deaths of more than
500 people... why create only one ghost?
And again, for those who believe the ghost was created out of Capone's
madness.... why did he contact a psychic named Alice Britt to get rid of the
ghost.... in 1931, years before the ravages of the disease would effect his
Many believe the ghost of James Clark followed Capone to his grave. The
ex-crime boss of Chicago died on January 25, 1947 of bronchial pneumonia and
a brain hemorrhage in Florida. He was returned to Chicago and buried in Mt.
Olivet Cemetery. Later, he was moved in secret to Mt. Carmel Cemetery, where
he remains today.
Al Capone left a great imprint on the city of Chicago and
perhaps the spirits of his victims, and maybe even Al himself, has left one
too. Take a walk through Mt. Carmel some day, and perhaps along Clark Street
past the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre..... you just never know
who you might meet.
Mt. Carmel Cemetery is located in Hillside, Illinois,
a western suburb of Chicago. The easiest way to find Capone's grave is to
enter the cemetery off of Roosevelt Road and take the first turn to the
right. The grave site is along this road and the memorial markers are
located in front of a tall stone marker with bushes in front of it.
© COPYRIGHT 2006 BY
TROY TAYLOR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.