Keeping with the tradition of this blog, and my self-respect as a taphophile. The abundance of “reputed” mobsters who’ve been laid to rest in many Chicagoland cemeteries, is for the most part on par with the cemeteries in and around New York City, and its five boroughs. With that being said, I’d like to present the readers of The Gravecast Blog, my own personal spin on “Five Gangland Graves in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.”
If you’ve never been to Chicago, or even if you have, and you enjoy the peaceful tranquility which cemeteries tend to offer. You might be interested in visiting Mt. Carmel Cemetery sometime in the near future. With The Windy City, being a notorious Midwestern hotbed for organized crime activity. The crime activity in the region, erupted into an all-out gang war, as the 1920s Prohibition era, was on the horizon, and then catapulted into more recent years. As it stands if you ever have the chance to visit Mt. Carmel Cemetery, in Hillside, Illinois a Chicago suburb. Please take the opportunity and visit the calming serenity of this beautiful suburban Chicago burial ground.
If you’re a bookworm like me, you might be delighted to find out that Arcadia Publishing. Published a book on Mt. Carmel, & Queen of Heaven in 2006. The book I’m talking about is Mount Carmel and Queen of Heaven Cemeteries, by Jenny Floro-Khalaf and Cynthia Savaglio. Another book that is definitely worth adding to your grave hunting/cemetery/taphophile library is Graveyards of Chicago: The People, History, Art, and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries by Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski. Both of these books which I’ve included links to can be found on the “official” Gravecast Blog Amazon Storefront.
Before we get started, & to keep things simple, (for newbies and seasoned taphopiles alike). I’m only going to chronicle five out of the dozens of gangland gravesites you will be able to find in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. The criteria I came up with for people to use this method of grave hunting. Include five of the easiest graves to find throughout the cemetery. One of the things I felt was integral to include in the criteria is the fact that you wont have to do a large amount of walking, or having to dig the headstones out of the ground which happen to be buried under an inch or more of grass. The concise list I’ve come up with, based on my own meticulous research, and countless hours over the years strolling around the sprawling sections in Mt. Carmel. Doesn’t include the “reputed” mobsters buried/interred across the street at Queen of Heaven. In the future I’ll include a blog article, chronicling the “reputed” mobsters who rest in Queen of Heaven.
Lastly, compared to the article I published on January 28th 2013 titled “10 Cemeteries You Must See Before You Drop Dead” the graves chronicled in this article are listed in no particular order of importance. Also aside from what I mention in concise form. I’ll provide links if you wish to do further research on the personalities mentioned in this list. So without further jibber jabber, let’s get started.
A visit to Mt. Carmel Cemetery would NOT be complete without visiting the graveside of one of the nations most notorious, yet seemingly popular mafia figures of ALL time. The fella, I’m talking about is none other than Alphonse Capone. Born on January 17, 1899, and passing away at the age of 48, on January 25, 1947 from cardiopulmonary arrest which was caused from years of suffering from the STD Neurosyphilis,.
Capone’s ascent to power began while growing up in the New York City borough Brooklyn. After dropping out of school in his adolescent years. He joined a small ragtag youth gang known as The South Brooklyn Rippers. Due to his astute skills with his fists, he’d eventually align himself with The Forty Thieves Juniors. The Forty Thieves Juniors were an adolescent branch of the infamous New York based Five Points Gang.
As Capone was growing older. He’d soon be summoned to Chicago, on behalf of Johnny “The Fox” Torrio. With Torrio’s keen, and calming tutorage. Capone would grow to become one of the most infamous crime lords America has ever seen. To make a long story short Capone’s downfall came about in the form of being tried, and convicted of Income Tax Evasion in 1931. After his conviction he was sent to the United States Penitentiary, in Atlanta. After a brief stay in Atlanta, he was transferred to the island mega fortress in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz in 1934.
As the Neurosyphilis which he contracted from years of a hard lifestyle, ravaged his health. His physical and mental stability for the most part deteriorated to the point that Capone’s private physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist performed examinations and concluded that Capone had the mental ability of an adolescent child. After this was noted, and Capone proved to not be a viable threat to anyone. He was released from Alcatraz, and lived out the remainder of his years at his Palm Island, Florida estate, under the care of his physician’s and family. During this time his heath and mental state continued to plunge. And as noted above he succumbed to cardiopulmonary arrest, which was brought on from years of suffering from Neurosyphilis.
The interesting thing about Al Capone’s, final resting place. Is that he was originally buried in Chicago’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery on the southside of the city. The Capone family would eventually move Al, several siblings, and his father to Mt. Carmel Cemetery in suburban, Hillside. Another thing I’d like to point out about the gravesite in Mt. Carmel (which is relatively easy to find BTW) is that for years the Capone name on this beautiful granite monument was obstructed by the planting of a large shrub varietal. The past few times I’ve visited the monument over the last several years, in Mt. Carmel. The planting of shrubs was no longer there. And as you will see below it looks like this today. If you’re interested in learning more about Al Capone’s life and times. Feel free to visit his Wikipedia biography, or the highly informative website owned/maintained by my friend and self-proclaimed Al Capone aficionado Mario Gomes. You can find Mario’s website by cruising over to My Al Capone Museum.
Lastly a few books that are definitely worth reading on Capone’s life are: Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone by John Kobler, and Mr. Capone: The Real – and Complete – Story of Al Capone by Robert J. Schoenberg. The last book to read on Capone’s life is Uncle Al Capone – The Untold Story from Inside His Family by Deirdre Marie Capone. The last book I have not read. But being that its written by a family member, I’m sure it provides some good insight on Capone’s life from his families perspective. The reason I’ve included it on this list is because it seemed to get good reviews on Amazon.
Continuing on with The Gravecast Blog, Mt. Carmel Cemetery tour. Another point of interest for taphophiles to checkout is The Genna Bros mausoleum. Chicago newspapers of the era, dubbed The Genna Bros “The Terrible Genna’s.” The Genna’s consisted of seven brothers most notably “Bloody” Angelo, Antonio “The Gentleman”, Mike “The Devil”, Peter, Sam, Vincenzo aka “Jim.” and finally the last brother Nicola, who stayed back in Sicily.
The Genna’s operated in the Taylor Street district of The Windy City, otherwise known as Chicago’s Little Sicily. They pretty much had an iron grip on the manufacture, and distribution of corn sugar alcohol. The brothers made their illegal fortunes by hiring newly arrived Sicilian immigrants, to produce the rotgut product in their tenement homes. Sometimes the alcohol stills would explode leading to the deaths of the poor immigrants operating them. With the risk of death involved because of the stills exploding. The Genna’s would pay operators the large sum of $15 dollars a day to run, & maintain the stills. While other operators were forced into the alky cooking business to payoff loans owed to the brothers.
To make a long story short. After the murder of Northside Chicago gang leader Dean O’Banion. The city would erupt into an all-out bloodbath ie gang war. With hoodlums from all sides dropping dead at the hands of an assassin’s bullet. The first of The Genna’s to be murdered was Angelo Genna. On May 27, 1925 Angelo who was being tailed by a car driven by The Northsiders, noticed what was about to go down, and hit things into high-gear. A high-speed car chase ensued through the streets of Chicago. As shots were fired during the car chase, Angelo crashed into a nearby light pole. Disoriented from smashing into the light pole. Angelo had no time to regroup, and defend himself for what was about to happen. George “Bugs” Moran of The Northside gang, exited the car pursuing Angelo, and proceeded to execute Angelo as he lay injured on the ground from the car wreck.
Not even a month later on June 13, 1925, Mike “The Devil” Genna, lost his life in a shootout with Chicago police. This murder took place after a brief gunfight with The Northsiders. The last brother to be deposed of was Antonio “Tony The Gentleman” Genna. On July 8, 1925, Antonio had a meeting, with a top Genna lieutenant Giuseppe Nerone (“The Cavalier”). As Antonio and “The Cavalier” shook hands, an unidentified gentleman emerged from the shadows and proceeded to shoot Tony five times in the back. Tony died several hours later at the hospital. Keeping with the code of omerta he never identified his assassin.
After the murders of Angelo, Mike, and Antonio. The remaining three brothers Jim, Sam, and Pete fled Chicago, and returned to Sicily. They would eventually reappear in Chicago years later and live relative quiet lives. While having little to no involvement in Chicago organized crime activity. They would pass away peacefully in obscurity. The six brothers are interred together in The Genna Family mausoleum, in Sec: 17 of Mt. Carmel Cemetery. If you’re interested in reading more about The Genna Brothers. Feel free to cruise over to my friend Mario Gomes website.
When I started grave hunting seventeen years ago. One of the very first mafia graves I discovered while visiting Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Was the graveside, and tall obelisk monument memorializing Chicago hoodlum Dean O’Banion. Around that time I was a fresh grave hunter, and very inexperienced in the hobby I’ve come to love, and respect. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t know the proper way to search for the graves of famous or otherwise notable people. As time went on I’d soon discover that this suburban Chicago cemetery, (Mt. Carmel) held the remains of a multitude of Chicago hoodlums, who at one time or another were enemies, or allied to the end. So that’s why Dean O’Banion is included on this list. Because he was one of the very first mafia graves I discovered. That discovery would lead me into the hobby, I’ve come to love and respect, not only that the people I’ve become lifelong friends with along the way.
Dean O’Banion, who was born on July 8, 1892, spent his adolescent years in the small central Illinois town of Maroa. After the death of his mother. O’Banion’s father, relocated with his motherless children to the Northside Chicago, section known as Kilgubbin. This area which was known to locals then, as “Little Hell” was a notorious section of the city, known for its crime, and other unlawful acts. Raised a Catholic from birth, O’Banion, would serve as a choir boy, at Chicago’s renown Holy Name Cathedral. As time went on O’Banion would lose interest in serving the Catholic Church. The street life in the Kilgubbin, section of Chicago, was a more appealing facet to his budding career.
An early nickname that was bestowed upon O’Banion was the name “Gimpy.” This nickname derived from the fact that his left leg was a few inches shorter than his right leg. The shortness of his left leg, compared to the right, was rumored to be due in part to a streetcar accident young O’Banion was involved in, as an adolescent.
As O’Banion grew older he joined other budding hoodlums in The Market Street Gang. This particular gang specialized in various forms of theft, and robbery. The members of the Market Street Gang, would eventually graduate to more explicit acts of thuggery. Most notably as “sluggers” for the newspaper circulation wars of the era. The Market Street Gang, aligned themselves originally with The Chicago Tribune, and then later switched alliances and went to work for The Chicago Examiner. The switching of sides so to speak was likely due in part because of a better offering to the gang at the hands of newspaper publisher Moses Annenberg. Through Annenberg, the gang became acquainted with safecracker Charles “The Ox” Reiser. With Reiser’s guidance the gang soon expanded to safecracking as a means of making money.
In 1920 as the dawn of Prohibition (which outlawed the manufacture, and consumption of alcoholic beverages) was on the horizon. O’Banion and his motley group of hoodlum buddies decided to try their hand at bootlegging. To get things started O’Banion made connections with Canadian beer, and liquor suppliers to ship various intoxicating beverages via different predetermined routs to Chicago.
As the roaring 20s were rolling on, and the money was no doubt rolling in. It’s alleged that O’Banion was raking in $1 million dollars a year on booze alone. Along with money and power comes loyal followers. Some of O’Banions most devout followers included: Samuel “Nails” Morton, Louis “Two Gun” Alterie, Vincent “The Schemer” Drucci, George “Bugs” Moran, Pete & Frank Gusenberg, & Earl “Hymie” Weiss.
In 1920, a meeting was held with all the prominent Chicago gangs in attendance. The topic of discussion was the slicing of the pie so to speak. What I mean by this, each of the gangs in attendance at the meeting carved out a specific territory for themselves in Chicago. It’s believed that there was enough money to be made in bootlegging, for all the gangs to get an equal piece of the pie. O’Banion agreed to this ruling on the condition that he was able to keep the northside rackets, and the highly lucrative Gold Coast region of the northside.
Everything was calm for about three years. Until some of the gangs on the southside decided to move into the Chicago suburb of Cicero. Needless to say O’Banion wanted a piece of the action. Southside crime lord, Johnny Torrio granted O’Banion some of the beer rights, and a 25% interest in a gambling establishment known as “The Ship.” The adventurous O’Banion then convinced several speakeasy owners in other territories to move their operations to his part of Cicero. This plan would have possible volatile ramifications. Torrio thus tried in vain to convince O’Banion to vacate his plans. In return Torrio offered O’Banion a percentage of southside brothel earnings. O’Banion would have none of it. Being a devout Catholic he loathed prostitution.
In 1921 after marrying Viola Kaniff, O’Banion bought an interest in the northside flower shop owned by friend William Schofield. The flower shop was located directly across the street from Holy Name Cathedral, where O’Banion, and Weiss attended mass. The upper level of the shop would act as O’Banion’s headquarters for his growing criminal endeavors. The main level would serve as O’Banion’s legitimate business venture. O’Banion was quite fond of flowers, he also had a keen sense of style when it came to floral arrangements.
Meanwhile, to further ignite to the already burning fire. The Genna’s (discussed above) began pushing their rotgut whiskey on the northside of the city. This territory encroachment infuriated O’Banion to the point that he complained about what the Genna’s were doing to Torrio. Torrio meanwhile didn’t do a damn thing about the O’Banion-Genna territory dispute. So what did O’Banion do? He decided to hijack liquor shipments owned by the Genna’s. As a retaliatory move, the Genna’s decided to eliminate the Irish thorn in their side once and for all. But there was one miniscule problem.
Michele Merlo the Chicago Chapter President of the Unione Siciliana who was dying of cancer, was still alive. With Merlo hanging on for dear life. He was the sole reason O’Banion was still walking the streets of the northside, without the fear of being assassinated. The thing is Merlo disapproved the use of violence to settle gang disputes, in Chicago and as such he wholeheartedly disapproved the murder of O’Banion while he was still alive. On November 8, 1924, Merlo passed away peacefully from Cancer. Two days later on November 10th 1924 O’Banion would meet his fate.
On November 10th, O’Banion was hard at work, in the backroom of the flower shop preparing floral arrangements. When in strolled reputed New York mobster Frank Yale, and the Genna murder twins John Scalise & Albert Anselmi. Yale was in town for Merlo’s funeral, Yale also served a dual purpose of offering O’Banion the coup d’état handshake that would cost him his life. As O’Banion came out of the backroom to greet his gangland visitors, he put out his hand to shake Frankie Yale’s hand. Yale put out his hand, as he was shaking O’Banion’s hand Yale put it into an ironclad grip. As this was happening Scalise, and Anselmi proceeded to pump two bullets into O’Banion’s chest, and two in his throat. The final coup d’état ended with a bullet to the back of O’Banion’s head. Promptly ending his young life. If you’re interested in visiting Dean O’Banion’s final resting place. You can pay your utmost respects to him in section: L of the cemetery. He’s very easy to find as his obelisk monument is one of the tallest in the cemetery, and the plot is along the road in the cemetery.
The interesting thing about the final resting place of Dean O’Banion. Is that he’s buried a mere several dozen yards from the private mausoleum of Michele Merlo, the man who kept him alive until his unfortunate death from cancer. Also buried nearby are Earl “Hymie” Weiss, and Vincent Drucci. Despite being denied a Catholic burial due to his status as a gang leader. O’Banion has a tall obelisk monument, and a stunning view of the Bishop’s Mausoleum. This particular mausoleum is the centerpiece of Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Many of The Windy City’s most beloved Catholic bishops, and cardinals rest inside this majestic mausoleum. If you’re interested in learning more about O’Banions life. A few websites that are definitely worth a visit are the Dean O’Banion page on the My Al Capone Museum website, and Dean O’Banion Online. If you’re into reading true crime Mafia books I highly recommend Guns and Roses: The Untold Story of Dean O’Banion, Chicago’s Big Shot before Al Capone by Rose Keefe. I read this book a few years ago. The book brings to light many factual tidbits about O’Banion’s childhood in Maroa, and his ascent to Northside Chicago crime lord. Highly informative and interesting.
If you take the opportunity to visit Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Another point of interest in Chicago gangland graves to checkout. Is the private mausoleum of Sam “Momo” Giancana. Growing up in Chicago’s “Little Italy,” Giancana got his start in Chicago gangland circles as a member of the juvenile Forty-Two Gang. The Forty-Two Gang was the starting point for a multitude of budding Chicago hoodlums. The gang was the brainchild of Chicago politician, and reputed mafioso Joseph Esposito.
Growing up Giancana would fine-tune three key features that would lead him to standout from other budding hoodlums. The first being in a time of dire need he was skilled at driving, second he was an exceptionally good earner, and third a ferocious killer. The mixture of these three things was a recipe for success for the budding young hoodlum. After the murder of Esposito, The Forty-Two Gang was morphed as the de facto extension of The Chicago Outfit. Due to Giancana’s leadership abilities, coupled with his aptitude for making large sums of money. These factors alone would eventually draw the attention of Outfit elders. Taking into consideration all these factors Giancana would be “made” into The Chicago Outfit in the 1930s.
Giancana’s ascent through the ranks of The Outfit began in 1945. After serving time at the Federal Correctional Facility, in Terre Haute, Indiana. Giancana convinced prominent Outfit member, Anthony Accardo, to stage a large-scale take-over of the African-American dominated policy rackets in Chicago. After the brutal murders, and close call assassination attempts of a few southside policy kings, at the hands of Giancana’s crew. The takeover was complete. The money Giancana brought in due to this takeover brought him further recognition to Outfit leaders. The policy rackets takeover is also believed to be a contributing factor in Giancana being “anointed” as the Outfit’s new boss when Accardo went into semi-retirement in 1957. As the 1960s were getting underway, Giancana along with several other nationally known mafiosi would be linked to a plot orchestrated by the CIA to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. I’d go into detail on this little tidbit but my time is precious and I think you should read the summary on Wikipedia, because I feel despite the source it gives a general overview of the Castro debacle.
With every ascent to power, usually comes an abrupt downfall. Giancana’s abrupt plunge in popularity came in the form of drawing too much attention due to his high-profile personality from various ventures he had going. Not only that the rubbing elbows with noted celebrities who also moonlighted as friends of politicians (JFK), didn’t really help his cause either. Another case in point Giancana refused to give his cohorts in the Outfit a piece of the action on several off-shore casinos he was a silent partner in. As a result, Giancana was deposed in the mid 1960s by Ricca and Accardo as the day-to-day boss, and replaced by Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa. After the demotion, Giancana hightailed it for Cuernavaca, Mexico and lived life lavishly while residing in a Spanish style villa. That is until Mexican authorities arrested and then deported him back to the states.
Upon touching down on American soil. Giancana promptly joined the FBI as a witness against Chicago’s organized crime faction. This would pretty much make Giancana a marked man. The FBI requested that Oak Park, police guard his palatial home in the event that the Outfit would make good on their promise to eliminate their former leader. As luck would play in the Outfits corner. On the night of June 19, 1975, for some odd reason the police detail assigned to guard Giancana’s home was dismissed from their post. This was the chance the Outfit was waiting for. As Giancana was frying sausages, and peppers. The lone gunman came up from behind him and shot him once in the head. As the former Chicago crime boss lay mortally wounded on the ground the assassin then turned his bloody cadaver over and proceeded to pump six more bullets into his face and neck.
One of the things I’d like to point out is the fact that Giancana was murdered shortly before he was scheduled to appear before a U. S. Senate committee investigating the supposed CIA and organized crime conspiracy in the alleged plots to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. So the question remains? Who murdered Giancana? Was it former mafia cohorts itching for revenge, for Giancana becoming a government witness? Or was it the government? This high-profile gangland murder remains unsolved to this day. If you’re interested in paying your respects to Giancana, you can find his private family mausoleum in section 38 of Mount Carmel Cemetery.
5. Joseph Giunta
The final gravesite you should make a point to visit is that of noted Chicago gangster Joseph Giunta. Not much is known about Giunta’s early life. What is known is that he was the lead conspirator in an attempt to overthrow Al Capone’s criminal empire. The plan went down like this. Giunta recruited the help of Albert Anselmi and John Scalise, to overthrow Capone’s empire. Giunta promised the murderous assassins high-ranking positions, and prestige in his organization, if they succeeded in overthrowing Capone.
To make a long story short the trio failed miserably. Al Capone got wind of what was about to unfold, and invited the trio to a soiree at a Chicago banquet hall. As the party was getting underway, guests were indulging in vast amounts of booze, and feasting on the never-ending supply of delectable Italian cuisine. The festive gathering which was no doubt full of laughter, and other drunken revelry. Turned into a more serious occasion when after the honored guests were praised they were then beaten to an unrecognizable bloody pulp at the hands of Al Capone, and his henchmen. The coup d’état of the evening was highlighted when a handgun was brought out and the lives of the treasonous trio was ended.
After the brutal murders, the bodies of Anselmi, and Scalise were shipped back to Sicily for burial. While Giunta was laid to rest in a ten thousand dollar bronze casket with a glass top cover for viewing. Giunta’s burial outfit included attire that would impress even the most discerning dandy of the era. Adorning the suit was an assortment of diamonds, and other jewels. Giunta was laid to rest peacefully in section 26 of Mount Carmel Cemetery. He’s roughly in the middle of the section facing north. The burial location is marked by a large obtrusive granite monument that is extremely hard to miss if you know what you’re looking for (see photo below).
The interesting thing about the burial site of Joseph Giunta is that until I tracked it down the last time I was in Chicago a few years ago. The monument was an extremely elusive one for me to find. Take a look at the photo below of me leaning next to the monument. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. This monument is just one big chunk of granite. Which I’d imagine cost a small fortune to produce.
Photo of me at the graveside of Chicago mobster Joseph Giunta.
If you have any questions or comments about the five hoodlums featured above, or any other “reputed” mobster buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, feel free to leave your questions and comments below.