"Death is no more than passing from one room into another." – HELEN KELLER

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Couples all over are celebrating the love they share on this day. However, the day of love shares a gruesome past with one of the bloodiest murders in history. On Valentine's Day in 1929, five members of the North Side Irish gang as well as two nonmembers were murdered in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago's North Side.

Gangs will always rival one another. However, Prohibition steered this one to a climax. Leaders Al Capone and Bugs Moran battled to lead the primary bootlegging operations in Chicago for about five years. Everyone involved felt the tension as it increased. Before it was over, one if not both would be dead. A plan was formed allegedly by Al Capone. Bugs Moran along with members of his gang would be dubbed in to believing a hijacked shipment of whiskey was going to be delivered at a garage on Clark Street or for whatever reason. There, the men would take their last breath. Unfortunately, things didn't go exactly as planned.

Al Capone hired lookouts spread around the property. They would give the signal upon Moran's arrival. The only problem is Bugs Moran never stepped foot inside the warehouse that day. Sometimes being fashionably late can save your life. Seven men were present for the elusive meeting: Johnny May (ex-safecracker turned mechanic and nonmember), Frank and Pete Gusenberg, James Clark (Moran's brother-in-law), Adam Heyer, Al Weinshank, and Reinhardt Schwimmer (Optometrist and nonmember). All excluding May were dressed in their finest clothes. This fact disputed the theory the men were waiting for a hijacked whiskey shipment. Who unloads a truck in their Sunday's best?

Why would the alleged hit take place without Bugs Moran inside? Some could argue Moran was not the intended target but an alternative theory may provide such a plausible explanation. Albert Weinshank is approximately the same height, built and even resembled Moran. From a distance, one could confuse the two. Thus, the green light was given. A police car pulled up to the warehouse. The men inside clueless to their arrival. Two men in police uniform along with three civilians, burst through the door. At gunpoint, the men were lined up against the north inside wall. What happen during those final few moments of life? Did they beg for the lives? Taunt their would be murderers in to speeding up the process? Or perhaps they remained silent, welcoming their fate. A fact only the killers would know. The sound of machine guns filled the room, each shot multiple times. After the deed was done, all five men fled the warehouse. Frank Gusenberg was the only person to survive the massacre, but his continued life measured in hours. The only soul left for life was a German Shepard named Highball, barking frantically from his tether. He provide the signal flare that led a fellow boarder to the scene.

Despite speculations, the actual shooters may never be known. Al Capone was believed to be the man behind the hit. However, he was in Florida at the time of murders. Whether he was ever actually involved or not is also a fact we may never know. However, the speculation alone led to his downfall. Many believed he had gone too far. He was arrested in Philadelphia for possessing concealed weapons. He was sentenced a year at Eastern State Penitentiary. It was in his private cell that this story takes an interesting turn. Capone believed the ghost of Moran's brother-in-law James Clark haunted him. Reports from his fellow inmates stated Capone could be heard screaming from his cell, begging for "Jimmy" to go away. Capone believed Clark's ghost haunted him to the grave.

The story doesn't end there. The north warehouse wall gained fame as well. In 1949, a couple, unaware of its bloody past, turned the front end of the S-M-G Garage in to a antique furniture storage business. Unfortunately, they saw more tourists and gawkers than customers and closed up shop soon after. In 1967, the warehouse was demolished. Today, the spot where the warehouse once stood is now a fenced-off lawn, occupying a few trees. It's owned by a nearby nursing home and does not allow trespassers. However, those who happened to be walking by have reported hearing screams and gunshots from the location. Some have been overcome with a sense of indescribable fear. Animals either bark and howl or submit to fear and whine. Many believe that piece of property didn't escape a curse of its own.

The 417 bricks used to build the north inside wall were sold to Canadian businessman George Patey outbidding several others. Each brick was taken down and numbered. Then shipped to Canada. It is uncertain as to what Patey actually did with the bricks. Supposedly, the original plans were to use them in a restuarant he was representing. However, the owner was not thrilled about the idea. Some say he resembled the wall in a wax museum until it went bankrupt. Others say he toured shopping malls and exhibitions with the wall in the United States. In 1971, Patey opened a 20s styled nightclub.

The infamous bricks were reassembled in the men's bathroom with only a piece of Plexiglas to come between them and onlookers. The club closed a few years later and the bricks went in to storage. Patey attempted to sell the bricks, one-by-one. He soon realized the ones he sold were being sent back. It seems anyone who owned one of the bricks stolen from the lot after it was demolished were faced with financial ruin, illness and even death. George Patey died on December 30, 2004. It is unknown as to what happened to the bricks although several allegedly belonging to the infamous wall have turned up over the years.

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Jessica Penot said...

Great story. Are there any interesting follow up stories on what happened to the people that got the bricks?

Above the Norm said...

I saw a documentary on this. I'm thinkin' that Capone was behind the massacure especially with his odd behavior while at Eastern State Pen.

Andrea Allison said...

Jessica - I was wondering that myself. I searched but couldn't really find anything. That is until I stumbled upon this associated content article. Supposedly the writer owns some of the bricks from the wall:

Julie - So do I. It seemed like he had the biggest grudge against Moran.

Anonymous said...

That's ridiculous. How could someone suddenly have bad luck just by owning a brick?

Let me explain why. I ...... (cough) ..... I suddenly got a pain in my chest ...... oh, chit, I can hardly breathe ...... I think I'll call ...... 9 ..................

Anonymous said...

Of course Capone was behind it. I never knew he was haunted by one of the victims. Great movie idea, huh?

Anonymous said...

would you happen to know how to find eye wittness testimonys on this?

Anonymous said...

Witness testimony of what? The massacre? People who claim they got financially ruined by the bricks? Just who do you want to talk to? You must be very, very dumb.

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