In honour of Valentine’s day, I thought it would be appropriate to write a story for valentines.In true Dark Hauntings style, it will not be a story of romance, hearts, chocolates or flowers, it’s not even going to be full of “I love yous,” but it will be full of blood, crime, Al Capone, & of course, ghosts. Sorry if I have disappointed you. So sit back as I tell you the story of The St Valentine’s Day Massacre.
This true story happened in a city that was so filled with crime in its history. There has been little preservation of the landmarks that were so important to the legend of the mob in Chicago. Landmarks such as the Lexington Hotel, where Al Capone kept the fifth floor suit to use as his headquarters . But most tragically, or at least to crime buffs, was the demolition of the warehouse that was located at 2122 North Clark Street. This was the place that, on Valentine’s day 1929, the most spectacular mob hit in gangland history took place.
The events of this day started five years before when Dion O’Banion, the leader of Chicago’s north side mob, was murdered. Control of bootleg liquor in the city raged back & forth from north side to south side which was ran by Johnny Torrio & his henchman, Al Capone. Torrio ordered the assassination of O’Banion in the November of 1924, & managed to start a war in the city. The north side was not standing for this almost killed Torrio outside of his own home. This was enough to drive Torrio out of the city, & left Capone in charge of the operations. The following month, Capone had his hitmen kill Hymie Weiss, who was put in charge of the north side mob after O’Banion was killed. His murder left Al Capone’s arch enemy, George “Bugs” Moran, in charge. Moran mainly stood alone against the Capone mob, since most of his allies had succumbed in the fighting. He continued to taunt his powerful enemy & looked for ways to destroy him.
Moran sided with Joe Aiello in another attack against Capone in early 1929. They reportedly gunned down Pasquillano, one of Capone’s men. This enraged Capone & he vowed to have him killed on february 14th & swore he would have a valentine’s day to remember.
Capone’s contact in Detroit arranged for someone to make a call to Moran & inform him of a special shipment of hijacked whiskey which will be delivered to one of Moran’s garages in the north side. Adam Heyer was a friend of moran’s & owned the garage which was a storage point for north side liquor. Moran received the call at the garage on the morning of February 13th & made arrangements to be there the next day.
It was D-Day on the morning of the 14th & a group of Moran’s men had gathered at the Clark Street garage. One of these men was Jonny May, who was an ex-safe cracker, hired by Moran as a mechanic. He was working on a truck that day, with his dog, a German Shepherd named Highball, tied to the bumper. There was also six other men waiting for the truck of hijacked whiskey to arrive. the men were Frank & Pete Gusenberg, James Clark, Moran’s brother-in-law, Adam Heyer, Al Weinshank, & Reinhardt Schwimmer, a young Optometrist who had befriended Moran & hung around the warehouse just for the thrill of rubbing shoulders with gangsters.
Georg Moran was supposed to be at the meeting at 10:30, but had not even left for the rendezvous. As the seven men waited, they had no idea that a police car was pulling up outside, or that Moran had even spotted the car as he was driving south on Clark Street. Instead of dealing with what he thought was a shakedown, Moran stopped on the next corner for coffee instead.
Five men got out of that car, two in uniform, & three wearing civilian clothing. They walked into the warehouse & within minutes they opened fire. Soon after, five figures emerged & drove away.
Mrs Jeanette Landsman was the Landlady of the next building & sent one of her boarders, C.L McAllister, to the garage to check it out. When he came out of the building moments later, he was pale & ran up the stairs frantically screaming for Mrs. Landsman to call the police as the garage was full of dead men!
Mrs. Landsman quickly called the police, & upon entering the scene, they was stunned by the carnage. Moran’s men had been lined up against the back wall & had been sprayed with machine guns. Pete Gusenberg had died kneeling, slumped over a chair. James Clark had fallen onto his face with half of his head blown away, & Heyer, Schwimmer, Weinshank, & May were thrown lifeless onto their backs. There was only one man who survived for a few hours at least, Frank Gusenberg, who crawled from the blood sprayed wall where he had fallen, & dragged himself into the middle of the dirty floor. He was rushed to the Alexian Brothers Hospital, barely hanging on. Police sergeant Clarence Sweeney, who had grew up on the same streets as Gusenberg, leaned down close to Frank & asked who had shot him, “no one-nobody shot me,” he groaned & died that same night.
Although the death toll reached seven, They did not realise that they had missed Moran. When the police contacted him that day, he apparently “raved like a madman.” The newspapers reported how Moran targeted Capone as ordering the hit. The news asked Capone for a comment on Moran’s accusation to which he replied, “the only man who kills like that is Bugs Moran.” At the same time, Moran was proclaiming that “only Capone kills guys like that.”
The murders broke the power of the north side gang & whilst there have been many claims as to who the actual shooters were that day, most likely they include John Scalise, Albert Anselmi, & “machine gun” Jack McGurn, all of whom were Capone’s most trusted men. All three men, including Joseph Guinta, were arrested but McGurn had an alibi & Scalise & Guinta were killed before they could be tried.
The massacre marked the end of any opposition to Capone, but it was also the act that started the fall of his empire. The most strangest part of this history was perhaps the fact the Capone had not seen the last of one of the men killed. Capone slipped out of town, in May 1929, to avoid being a suspect in the deaths of the shooters of Moran’s men. Capone & his bodyguard, Franky Rio, was in Philadelphia when they were arrested by the police on charges of carrying concealed weapons & was sentenced to a year in prison. They eventually went to the Eastern State Penitentiary.
Whilst in prison, Capone continued to conduct his business. He was given a private cell & was allowed to make long distance phone calls from the warden’s office & meet with his lawyers & Frank Nitti, Jake Guzik & his brother, Ralph all of whom made frequent trips to Philadelphia. He was released two months early on good behaviour, but when he arrived back in Chicago, he found himself branded “public enemy number one.”
Whilst Capone was incarcerated, Capone became haunted by the ghost of James Clark, one of the massacre victims & George Moran’s brother-in-law. The prison inmates often reported hearing Capone screaming in his prison cell, begging “Jimmy” to go away & leave him alone.
Capone took up residence at the Lexington Hotel where he would report his encounters with the ghost. Whilst there, Capone’s men would hear him shouting at the spectre to leave him in peace, & on several occasions, Capone’s bodyguards broke into his room thinking someone was trying to kill him. Capone would tell them of Clark’s ghost.
To Capone, his experience with the ghost was very real & made him reach out to a psychic, Alice Britt, to help get rid of the angry ghost. A seance was conducted soon after & Hymie Cornish, Capone’s personal valet, believed he too saw the spectre. When Cornish entered the room, he saw a tall, dark figure standing near the window, when he demanded to know his identity, the figure moved behind the curtain & vanished out of sight. Years later, Capone would insist Jimmy Clark followed him to the grave.
Chicago memorialised the warehouse where the massacre took place. The place became a tourist attraction & the tabloids even printed the picture of the dead victims upside down so readers would not have to turn their papers upside down to identify them. The front portion of the S-M-G garage was turned into an antique furniture storage business in 1949 by a couple who did not know what had occurred there. They soon closed the business down when they lacked customers but was frequented by tourists. In 1967, the building was demolished, but a Canadian businessman purchased the bullet marked bricks from the back wall. He opened a nightclub in 1972 with a 1920’s theme & rebuilt the wall, for reasons unknown, in the men’s toilet. Women was allowed to peek inside three times a week at this strange attraction.
The club continued to operate for many years, but the owner decided to close the club down & placed the 417 brinks in storage. He then put them up for sale with a written note of what happened. Each brick sold for $1000, but soon found he was getting back as many bricks as he sold. It seems that everyone who bought one of the bricks was suddenly stricken with bad luck in the form of illness, financial ruin, divorce or even death. It would appear that the bricks had become infected with a powerful negative energy from the massacre.
To this day people are still reporting paranormal activity on Clark Street. According to the reports, anyone who walks down the street at night, will hear screaming or the echo’s of the clattering machine guns as they pass by the site. The building has long gone but the area is marked as a fenced off lawn which belongs to the nearby nursing home. There are also five trees scattered in a line, the middle one marks the spot where the rear wall once stood. Passers by often report hearing these strange sounds accompanied with intense fear. Those walking with a dog have their fair share too…..animals appear to be especially affected by this piece of lawn, sometimes barking or howling, sometimes whining in fear.