Carl Wanderer and Sam Cardinella: BFF?

It’s always interesting when two crime stories intersect – and in a real way, not another case of the newspapers making wild stabs at a game of “connect the dots” with criminals (like the attempts to connect Johann Hoch to HH Holmes, Louis Thombs, and every other criminal of the day).

In 1920, Carl Wanderer was jailed for murdering his wife and trying to blame it all on a drifter (whom he’d also killed). Whether he was trying to get away from his wife to rejoin the army, be with a 16 year old girl, or with an army buddy with whom he was in love depends greatly on who’s telling the story, but one clue is how he behaved in prison.

While in jail, he grew bored with the monotony of prison life and the lack of opportunities for exercise. Hence, he asked for (and received) permission to raise an army of convicts and drill them in military formations. His seven men would perform drills at his command, using brooms instead of guns. Two others asked to join, but they were black (this army was not integrated), and, having killed only one man each, seen as unsuitable material for this particular army, which was made up of multi-murderers (the papers listed the average murder per soldier as three).

One of the soldiers was Sam “Il Diavolo” Cardinella, the leader of the “murder clique”that had terrorized the city. He may have joined the ranks to help his master plan to escape: he was losing a lot of weight as part of a plot to make sure he would be strangled by the gallows without his neck breaking. After his execution, the police found his friends trying to resuscitate the body.

Also present in the army was Harry “The Lone Wolf” Ward, whose execution was also nearly foiled by a crazy plot to bring him back to life (more on him in future posts). Most of the others were members of the Cardinella gang.

Stories of both of these guys are in William Griffith’s book, shamelessly plugged below:

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