Al Capone was a leader of a Chicago-based organized crime syndicate during America’s Prohibition era. His vast operation raked in tens of millions of dollars yearly through gambling, bootlegging, prostitution and other illegal activities and was dominant in the organized crime circles for almost a decade.
The Nickname “Scarface”
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1899 to Italian immigrant parents, it is not clear the circumstances that led him to relocate to Chicago.
It was in Chicago that he would achieve prominence as a feared gangster and get the nickname Scarface. It was a nickname that the press gave him because of scars he had on his face.
The scars were as a result of a fight at the Harvard Inn after he had insulted a female patron. The patron’s brother retaliated by slashing him and left him with three indelible marks on his face.
Capone’s Vast Syndicate
Soon after moving to Chicago, he became friends with Johnny Torrio and later became Torrio’s bodyguard. At the time, Torrio was heading a criminal syndicate that dealt in the illegal supply of alcohol during the prohibition era.
In 1925, after surviving an assassination attempt, Torrio left Chicago and chose Capone as his replacement.
Capone expanded the organization and made a name as one of the country’s leading mobsters. Some estimates show that his syndicate was pulling in up to $100 million daily.
At the prime of his power, he had almost half of Chicago’s police force and up to 1000 gunmen on his payroll.
The Beginning of The End
Capone continued to rise untouched by the law, helped by both law-enforcement and political protection. He was using his deep pockets and fearsome reputation to influence elections, and vicious violence to push his illegal alcohol business.
But the events of the morning of February 14, 1929 would change the landscape forever.
With Capone still dominating the trade in illegal liquor, another gang led by his long-time rival George “Bugs” Moran, known as the North Side Gang, was on the rise and was vying for a piece of the pie.
Capone felt threatened and decided to deal with Moran decisively.
Seven men from the rival North Side Gang were lined up against a wall and sprayed with bullets, but Moran had managed to escape.
It was an attack carried out by Capone’s men who had posed as police.
The attack that came to be known as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre was the final straw for influential citizens and Capone’s political allies and it was decided that his lawlessness had to be curtailed.
But without any evidence linking him to the massacre, the police had to find other charges to bring him in and in May 1929, he was arrested on a gun charge and sentenced to one year at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
“Jimmy” Torments Al Capone
While in prison, Capone enjoyed special privileges due to his connections. He had an easy chair, an antique desk, a rug and a radio among other things. He was even conducting business via a prison warden.
But no one could have foreseen that Capone would degenerate into a haunted man screaming in fear every night.
Inmates reported that they heard him screaming at somebody by the name of “Jimmy” to leave him alone.
Many assumed he was pleading with the ghost of James Clark who was among the men murdered in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. James Clark was brother in law to George “Bugs” Moran”.
The torment continued even after he left Eastern State Penitentiary. In fact he even enlisted the services of a psychic by the name Alice Britt in 1931 to try to ascertain what Jimmy’s demand was, but without success.
In 1934, he was sentenced for tax evasion and sent to Alcatraz which hugely affected his mental health. Jimmy continued to haunt him during his time there.
Was it “Jimmy” or Syphilis?
Some have given a different theory to explain his torment. Al Capone contracted syphilis at the age of 20 while working at a brothel as a bouncer.
Due to non-treatment, the disease advanced into neurosyphilis which led to dementia.
After his release from Alcatraz, Capone went to live in his mansion in Miami Beach, and he spent the next eight years suffering from Psychosis from time to time.
On January 25, 1947, Capone died of a brain haemorrhage and bronchial pneumonia. The “ghost” most likely followed him to the grave.