Is a Hanged Man Buried at Ashland and Taylor?

Chicago has approximately 70 abandoned cemeteries that we know of, the best-known of which is probably the old City Cemetery, where Lincoln Park is now. It wasn’t the largest of them (there were later burial grounds at Dunning and on the southwest side that have FAR more unmarked graves still beneath the ground), but it was far from the smallest. Most of them are just old family plots.

When I was preparing notes for my “Dark Side of Taylor Street Tour” this weekend,  I realized there might just be a particularly small one – just a body or two – at Taylor and Ashland.
On two occasions, in 1857 and 1858, public hangings were held right in the middle of Ashland (then known as Reuben), between Polk and Taylor.  (the only previous hanging had been down near where Chinatown is now, back in 1840).  At the time, Chicago had grown to a city of around 100,000 people, but Ashland was still an area that a correspondent for a Boston paper called “an open prairie.”
Hangings were still a public affair in those days, and stories you hear about them being a popular spectacle are not exaggerated. An crowd variably estimated as being from 5,000 to 25,000 people were onhand for the 1857 hanging of William Jackson including – newspapers were distressed to note – countless women and children. Fewer were present when Albert Staub was executed the next year, largely because of drenching rain, but several thousand still braved the weather.  The Tribune wrote that “As soon as the carriages reached the street, the dragoons (of local militia) formed in the front and rear, and the procession proceeded to the place of execution, followed by thousands of men and boys who had stood for hours in a drenching rain, determined to gratify their depraved tastes by witnessing the death of a fellow creature….Despite the rain and ankle-deep mud, the crowd followed the procession as best they could, here and there going across-lots, and often wading through ponds of water nearly knee-deep.”
It’s in the accounts of Jackson’s execution that I noticed something odd: “Nothing occurred at the gallows to interrupt the carrying out of the sentence, and everything was done orderly and decently. A short time after the execution a temporary platform under the gallows gave way, by reason of too many persons climbing upon it, but no one was injured…..after Jackson had hung…. Dr. Cheney, county physician, pronounced him dead, and the body was cut down, placed in a neat coffin, and buried by Coroner Hansen.”
In that last sentence, I would have expected there to be a line about the body either being conveyed to City Cemetery, or turned over to a medical school. The way it’s written, it appears as though Jackson was buried right there on the site! And no account I had of the 1858 hanging of Alfred Staub on the same site made mention of what what was done with the body, either.
And that’s unusual.  With almost every other execution from those days, something is known about what happened to the body. Papers almost always mentioned it.  We know that  after the previous hanging, in 1840, the body was given to Drs. Boone and Dyer to dissect (incidentally, Dr. Dyer is the source connecting to Chicago to what we now call “vampirism.”). After Jackson and Staub, the hangings were moved to the prison; after the first hanging there, in 1859, the body was given over to the condemned man’s sister. At the next one after that, in 1865, the two bodies were brought to the receiving vault at City Cemetery before being transferred to Calvary Cemetery, where a local priest had them buried at his own expense. And the time after that, in 1873, the body was taken to Graceland.
Burying a body right in the field would still be highly unusual (and I assume that a body buried like that would be dug up by “resurrection men” and on the slab at Rush Medical College in no time). But 1850s Chicago was a strange place, still in transition between being a frontier town and a major city. The transition happened remarkably rapidly, but how many of the city-dwellers of 1857 were still pioneers in their minds? I do still find references to Chicagoans digging graves in their gardens in the 1850s.

The last time a hanging had taken place before Jackson, way back in 1840, City Cemetery hadn’t even been formed yet. And accounts of the 1840 hanging really do sound like something from the Wild West. The body was dropped into a farm wagon (sloppily; it fell over the side), and the rope was cut by a local jack-of-all-trades who was known around time by an epithet no longer in polite usage (“N-word George”). If there hadn’t been a medical school around, they possibly WOULD have just buried it near the gallows.

In the microfilm room the day after the tour, I managed to clear it up. The Chicago Daily Democratic Press gave a very thorough account of Jackson’s life, and of his execution (as well as providing the drawing above, which I was stunned to see; 1857 newspaper seldom had drawings of current events). There, in their account, is the detail others ommitted: “the remains of the criminal were lowered into a neat plain coffin and placed in the black carry-all and thence taken to the cemetery, where the earth closed over the unfortunate and erring man.”
So, Jackson was buried in a cemetery, not in the middle of Ashland, after all. Presumably this was City Cemetery, where Lincoln Park is now, and Jackson was mostly likely buried in the Potter’s Field, where the baseball fields are today. Chances are that he was never moved, unless the grave robbers got him. Which is entirely possibly.
I still can’t find an account of Alfred Staub’s execution that mentions what was done with the body. After he was taken down and placed in a coffin, the hood was removed so that the crowd could gather around and have a look at his face, a display that sickened every reporter on the scene enough to make them leave before the body was disposed of.  But if Jackson was taken to the cemetery, it’s to be assumed that Staub was, too.
The reporters present seem to have universally disdained the spectacle and the crowd, with one even publicly refuting the common notion that children seeing a criminal hanged would deter them from crime. Indeed, he insisted, it probably just made things worse: “whatever may be thought of the necessity of capital punishment, no one who witness the execution of Albert Staub yesterday could have failed to feel that such exhibitions are brutalizing, and have a tendency to create more crimes than they prevent.”
As large as the crowd was, the majority of the public (or at least the majority of the government) seemed to be on the reporters’ side. Shortly after the Staub execution, public hangings were outlawed in the state of Illinois, and henceforth they were carried out in private, first in the old courthouse and then in the prison at Illinois and Dearborn, where they continued until 1927.
The Mysterious Chicago “Hangings in Chicago” tour tells the stories of crimes that led men to the gallows (or very nearly did), plus stories of what happened there. It’s a grim look at a custom – a relic of barbarianism really – that was once very much a part of the fabric of the city, but which has now been done away with (and good riddance, if you ask me).

 

The Chicago Frankenstein Experiment, 1882

I spoke with The RedEye this week about haunted Chicago spots, and an article on their webpage today speaks about about the site of the gallows. Here’s a classic story from the site: 

In the 20th Century, executioners in many parts of the world modernized the process by which convicts were hanged. Weights and measurements were taken, and much of the pomp and ritual was taken out of the proceedings. A really good hangman could get a prisoner from inside the cell to dead at the end of the rope in thirty seconds or less.

Chicago in the 19th century was not so scientific. Though state laws prohibiting public executions were enacted after only a few hangings had taken place locally, newspaper reporters were usually present (and, occasionally, hundreds of people managed to get a pass, as well). There was still a grim death march, and convicts were expected to make a speech. The executions were seldom quick and painless – it was fairly common for prisoners to take twenty minutes until they were completely dead. And even then, there were often doubts.
A tale from our book on hangings in Chicago:


And so, in 1882, an experiment was tried. When James Tracy was convicted of murder after shooting a man during a burglary, he was a remarkably good sport about the whole execution, even though he insisted that he was innocent. He stood on the scaffold and said “I thin it’ll hold me,” then shouted “Good-bye, kids!” to other prisoners, with whom he’d become quite popular. He spent the morning signing autograph cards with his birth day and death day added under the signature.  On the scaffold, before the reporters and officials, he said, “I have no statement to make further than the fact that I am innocent. In a few moments I shall stand before my Maker. Were any man under these circumstances guilty, he would acknowledge it. Innocent as I am, I have no fear to die. I die an innocent man. Truth is mighty and will prevail. I have done.”

It was when they took his body down after the hanging that things got weird.

There had been whisperings that maybe the convicts being hanged were not fully dead when taken down. If they weren’t, that would have led to some odd legal complications. And so, an experiment was tried. Three attending physicians, Drs. Danforth, Bowers, and Haines, took Tracy’s body into a nearby bathroom, rigged it up with electrical wires, and tried to see if they could bring him back to life!

Here are the results of the experiment, as published in a local paper:

“Tracy was pronounced dead by the county physician about twelve or fifteen minutes after the drop fell, but the body was allowed to hang five or eight minutes longer.  Immediately after the body was taken down, we commenced our experiments with electricity by applying one pole over the spinal cord and other over the heart, the latter by means of three needles, one over the apex and two over the (illegible) of the heart, the needles being inserted beneath the skin so as to bring the electrical current in direct commnication with the heart. 
Upon turning on the current the effect was very marked. Muscular contractions began wherever the electricity’s current was reached, but most especially in the face and neck. The heart began to contract feebly but regularly; with the ear over the heart we could distinctly hear or rather feel the heart’s contractions. 
By mining the electrode we would very easily produce a variety of facial expressions; the arms would contract, the legs moved with considerable force, and the muscles of the abdomen contracted strongly. The most significant fact, however, was the rhythmic action of the heart, notwithstanding the neck was unmistakably broken.
It is probable that a considerable proportion of the criminals who are executed in this country are either mechanically strangled – that is, “choked to death” – or killed by shock that is made on the nervous system. In other words, the neck is not broken, and the spinal cord is not lacerated. In such cases we are of the opinion that resuscitation would not be impossible, that electricity frictions, artificial respirations, the hot bath and other well known means of resuscitation might result in resuscitating the criminal. 
If such a case would occur would it not be the duty of the proper officers to repeat the execution? In the present case, resuscitation was impossible as the neck was broken and this leads us to (believe that the sheriff and physicians)  performed their unpleasant duty in a manner worthy of all praise; the arrangements were admirable and admirably carried out.”

In layman’s terms, they got Tracy’s heart to beat, and they managed to make him look like he was smiling, frowning, and perhaps smelling a fart, but his neck was broken, so full revival was impossible. Still, some convicts choked to death and never did have their necks broken. Could they have been brought back?
A few other attempts were made to revive hanged men over the years, though never in the same official capacity – I’ll repost a story or two here this week.
For more stories like this, see FATAL DROP: TRUE TALES OF THE CHICAGO GALLOWS (revised kindle edition) (Weird Chicago)


Carl Wanderer’s Last Song

Carl Wanderer
photographed by the Chicago Daily News

(expanded and updated from an older post after watching the first episode of  Fargo. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say it reminded me a little of this guy’s story)

One day in 1920, Carl Wanderer came up to a drifter on Madison Street and told him he needed a favor. He was in the doghouse with his wife, who was about to have a baby and didn’t think he was enough of a man to be a father. Wanderer had hatched a plan.

“If you come up and pretend to mug us,” he said, “so I can punch you in the face and look like a hero in front of her, I’ll give you ten bucks.”

The drifter agreed, and Wanderer loaned him a pistol to make it all look more authentic. The next day, as he and his wife walked home from the movies, the drifter jumped from the bushes, held out the gun, and waited for Carl to punch him.

Instead, Carl Wanderer shot the drifter to death.

Then he turned and shot his wife to death, as well.

Exactly what was on Carl’s mind depended on who was telling the story later. Some said he wanted to get back into the army. Others say he was in love with an army buddy. Others still say he wanted to marry a 16 year old named Julia with whom he’d been having an affair. In any case, he’d made plans to kill his wife and blame it all on the drifter.

For a couple of days the papers thought he was a tragic hero who’d lost his wife while trying to save her life, but I don’t think the cops ever really believed him. They thought right away that it was odd that he and the drifter had the same kind of gun, and Wanderer’s response, “Oh, they were both my guns. But he took one from me. I don’t know what I was thinking when I said he had a gun!” didn’t make them put any more weight into his story. Why would the guy have taken two guns to the movies? How many people did he expect to have to shoot?

He was soon arrested, and the trial went on for a while. The defense tried to use plays he’d made in poker games to prove he was insane at one point. He was initially sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife, but outcry from the press calling to give him the gallows was so strong that he was rushed back into court to stand trial for the death of the drifter. The drifter was never positively identified (several identities for him have been put forth over the years), and the defense tried to claim that since the man hadn’t been identified, he didn’t legally exist and couldn’t possibly be murdered. But it didn’t hold. Carl was eventually sentenced to hang.

And so, in 1921, Carl Wanderer stood on the gallows near Dearborn and Illinois, ready to hang for the murder of his wife and a “ragged stranger.” As he stood there, reporters asked if he had any last words.

“Not really,” he said.

“Come on, Carl,” shouted one. “Sing us a song!”

And so he did – he sang “Old Pal,” a song popular enough in 1920 that TWO movies would be based on it that decade. It was a real crowd pleaser – one reporter noted that “he should’ve been a song plugger,” though another said that he should have been hanged just for his voice.

“Old Pal” is one depressing song – as parlor songs were wont to be. Some say it was a love song to his wife, but that was probably just reporters selling the drama. Here are the lyrics:

Old pal old gal,
You left me all alone;
Old pal old gal,
I’m just a rolling stone.
Shadows that come stealing,
Thru the weary night;
Always find me kneeling,
In the candle light.

Old pal, old gal,
The nights are long and drear;
Old pal old gal,
Each day seems like a year.
No one left to meet me,
After all I’ve toiled;
No one here to greet me,
It’s an empty world.

The long night through I pray to you, 
Old pal why don’t you answer me?
My arms embrace an empty space,
The arms that held you tenderly.
If you can hear my pray’r away up there;
Old pal why don’t you answer me?

Some say that they’ve heard the ghost of Wanderer singing this song in the space where the gallows stood – I’m almost inclined to believe them just because I don’t know how else they’d know how the song goes!

Scaring up a good recording of it isn’t easy nowadays. Singing the song to tour passengers is a good way to torture them today, but as a song, it’s a heck of a lot better than the song another Chicagoan, Charles Guiteau, sang on the gallows. Guiteau, the forgotten assassin of a forgotten president, sang a song called “I’m a-Goin’ to the Lordy” that he had written all by himself. It was even worse than it sounds.

For more on the courthouse/gallows in Chicago, see the new e-edition of the gallows book:

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Hangman’s Death Certificates

My, the things one finds on genealogy sites! More and more records come online all the time. Death certificates have never been THAT hard to get, but you normally have to pay to get them from the state archives, and I’m pretty cheap. In cases of hangings, I already know the cause of death, after all. But it’s still interesting to see the records on some of these:

Here’s one for Nicholas “The Choir Singer” Viana, who was on his way to choir practice when he first wandered into Sam Cardinella’s pool hall and committed his first murder a week later. He was hanged on his 19th birthday, and, according to legend, was briefly revived after being taken down. Cardinella was a guy who seems to have read Oliver Twist and thought it was a how-to manual. He’d lure kids into his pool hall, then teach them to commit crimes and send them out to rob and kill.



Cardinella himself was hanged sometime later. he had lost a ton of weight, and collapsed on the scaffold – they had to hang him tied to a chair. All this was a part of his own grand plan to escape! Low weight and a shorter drop meant it was less likely that he’d break his neck, meaning that, in theory, they COULD bring him back to life. His friends took possession of the body and loaded it into an ambulance, where authorities found a team of doctors trying to resuscitate him. A similar ambulance carrying Viana had been allowed to drive away, though how successful they were in attempts to wake him are strictly the stuff of rumor. The certificate above indicates that they couldn’t have gotten THAT far, but the story was always that they’d simply gotten him to start groaning a bit before stepping back and letting him die.



Fun fact: no two records I’ve seen spell Cardinella’s name the same way! Some go with Cardenelli, or Cardanella. This one goes with Cardinale.


Read more about it here:

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Death Penalty Banned in Illinois

FATAL DROP: TRUE TALES OF THE CHICAGO GALLOWS
Untold stories of hangings in Chicago from 1840 – 1927
$2.99 on kindle

Don’t have a kindle? Use the FREE Kindle app for PC, mac, iphone, ipad, android, blackberry, etc!

Gov. Quinn is expected to sign a bill that will abolish the death penalty in Illinois last week. Let’s take a brief look at the history of executions in Chicago, some (indeed, many) of which were fairly disastrous.

Chicago’s first execution was a public one, held on a portion of the south side that was nothing but dunes at the time. The hangman was “Black George” (who the town crier and the winning bidder at the city’s first slave auction) and the condemned was on John Stone. He insisted that he was innocent, but admitted that he’d killed a few other people. Such was the world in the 1840s.

A few more public executions were held on what is now Ashland Street between Polk and Taylor (driving over a pothole on that spot is an odd experience). Public executions were banned in Illinois in 1859, though on some occasions an awful lot of people – as many as 1500 for the “trunk murderers in the 1880s – were crowded into the jail to see the spectacle.

Over the years before the state switched the chair in 1927, roughly 100 men were hanged in Chicago alone. Five were hanged in one day in 1912.

There were a number of disasters. On two occasions that I know of, the rope broke. The first time, the man fell several feet to the floor and landed on his head. When asked if he could stand, he was in a bit of a daze and didn’t exactly understand the question. “I can stand twice that,” he said. He was brought up to be hanged again. The next time, the man cracked his head open and bled so badly that they were pretty sure the man was dead, but the sentence called for him to be hanged by his neck until dead, so they had to re-attach a noose and slide the limp body down the trap door.

There were other times when things got ugly. A couple of men had to be hanged while tied to chairs (though one supposedly arranged to be hang that way to lower the chances of his neck breaking so that he could be brought back to life). He wasn’t the first to undergo an attempted revival – the body of James Tracy was cut down and pumped with electricity right away to see if he could be revived (in order to prove that hangings weren’t effectively killing people).

Some men, it could be argued, wouldn’t have been hanged if they’d had better lawyers. Patrick Pendergast, the man who assassinated Mayor Harrison, was clearly insane – the jail physician felt that he was schizophrenic, and it’s fairly obvious in interviews. Had he killed anyone other than the mayor, he would probably have been committed, not executed. Through the annals of Chicago crime, one finds that some men were executed for committing a crime, and others were merely given jail sentences for the same crime. The Haymarket anarchists were executed mainly for being anarchists – certainly all four of them (five, counting Louis Lling, who killed himself before they could hang him) couldn’t have thrown the bomb. Most men who had killed more than once were hanged, but not all. And no female murderer was ever hanged in Chicago (though we sure had a few of those).

And the system never has really improved. The death penalty is being outlawed tomorrow not for moral reasons against capital punishment, but for the fact that the studies showed the system to be subject to a great deal of error, bias, and incompetence. That situation will probably never improve. Writing FATAL DROP was a harrowing experience, and, though I was never crazy about it to begin with, I found it impossible to support the death penalty after writing it.

If you want to go to an appropriate location tomorrow to mark the occasion, the gallows were generally set up where the garages of the fire station at Illinois and Dearborn is now. There was a jail there at the time. And if you’re going to protest, it won’t be the first time such things have happened there. Before the jail was built, it was a market square. Senator Douglas made a speech there promoting the Kansas Nebraska act (which would have allowed slavery to spread) and got pelted with vegetables.

A riot we can be proud of!

We’ve had our fair share of riots in Chicago, from the beer riots on the Clark Street Bridge in the the 1850s to the riots at the chaotic Democratic convention of 1968. Most of them look like dark blots on our city’s history. But in 1854, we had a riot of which we can still be proud.

The riot was over a speech by Stephen Douglas, an Illinois congressman best remembered today for being Abraham Lincoln’s rival in the famous Lincoln Douglas debates. To understand the riot, you have to understand that the most bitter debate in American politics in those days was, as it had been since the days of the first continental congress, slavery. From the beginning, some states allowed it, and some didn’t. Every time a NEW state was added, they’d have to argue about whether to allow slavery there or not. Finally, to stop the debate, there came the Missouri Compromise, which stated that slavery would be legal in Missouri, but, after that, it wouldn’t be legal in any state north of the southern border of Missouri. This cooled people down for a while, though it also clearly made slavery into a North-South issue. The whole point of the Mexican American was was to add more southern states, so the slave-holding states would continue to outnumber the non-slave states. Abraham Lincoln nearly ruined his career by arguing against the Mexican-American war.

Anyway, one of the reasons it took so long for anything to be done about slavery was, well, that America was democracy. You couldn’t become president without appealing to the slave-holding states (at least at the time – Lincoln would go on to win despite not even being on the ballot in most of the South). When Stephen Douglas got it into his head that he wanted to be president, he thought he’d have to do something to make him more attractive to southern voted. Hence, he got behind the Kansas-Nebraska act, which did away with the Missouri Compromise and stated that any time a new state joined the union, they could decide for themselves whether to allow slavery. Slave-holding states actually went so far as to send militia groups into Kansas to make sure that it made slavery legal in a series of battles that were sort of warm-ups for the civil war.

Then as now, the talk in Chicago taverns among old drunks was generally quite conservative. An abolitionist would be best off keeping his big mouth shut in the bars (even in the 1970s, on of Mike Royko’s pieces of advice on tourists who wanted to pass for locals was not to say anything enlightened about race in the bars). But the old drunks didn’t really represent the real mood of the city – all over the south, people sneered about “abolitionist Chicago.”

And, when Stephen Douglas came to town in 1854 to give a speech promoting the Kansas-Nebraska act at Market Hall (which stood at the current site of the Criminal Court building on Hubbard and Dearborn), people came out not to hear what he had to say, but to throw eggs and vegetables at him.

“In the melee that followed,” wrote the Tribune, “nearly everybody got another man’s hat.”

The Strange Tale of the Cardinella Gang: Part 2

Sam Cardinella himself scared the hell out of the guards, who had seen everyone do everything twice. The county physician later said “If I were superstitious, I would say there was something satanic about it.” Others would later describe him as “a human spider, crawling the city, spinning a web of death, and sending boys to carry out his fatal instructions.”

In prison, he was surly and unpleasant. Most of the prisoners ended up making friends with the guards, but Cardinella freaked them out. In prison, he began to refuse to eat, and eventually lost about forty pounds.

The night before his hanging, he was visited by his wife and six children, and finally broke down, crying. The site of this evil, frightening man weeping like a remorseful family man only freaked the guards out further. He spoke in such a thick sicilian dialect that even those who spoke the language couldn’t understand a word he said – except for the name “Viana,” which he repeated over and over.

The next morning, as he was led to the gallows, the frail Cardinella broke down completely, collapsing into hysterical fits. Unable to get him to stand, the guards eventually had to tie him to a chair, and he was hanged chair and all. When he was dead, the body and chair were cut down and released to the custody of his friends, who brought it out to a waiting ambulance.

Weird Chicago Presents:


Fatal Drop: True Tales from the Chicago Gallows by William Griffith(Click for ordering info!)
In honor of our first spin-off book, it’s Hangin’ Week on the blog! We’re telling short versions of a few of the tales from the book, and presenting a new Podcast of our gallows ghost hunt!

Inside the ambulance, prison officials noticed a couple of men who appeared to be doctors. Wondering what was going on, the warden ordered the men to hold the ambulance in the jail yard for an hour. Soon, the reason Cardinella had been talking about Viana would become chillingly clear…

The Strange Tale of the Cardinella Gang: Part 1



Fatal Drop: True Tales from the Chicago Gallows.
Click for info! We’re telling short versions of a few of the tales here on the blog this week!

In December, 1920, Nicholas “The Choir Singer” Vianna was hanged in the old Cook County jailhouse on Illinois Street. His hanging was a bizarre present for his 19th birthday.

Nicholas was, in fact, a teenage choir boy – and a heck of a singer – when he wandered into a 22nd street pool room around 1917. A week later, he was a criminal. The pool hall was run by a man known only as Il Diavolo – Italian for “The Devil” – who taught the kids who came into his pool room to commit crimes.

The gang was an offshoot of The Black Hand, the Italian gangs that had terrorized the city before prohibition – whenever an Italian came into property, he could expect to get a letter from the Black Hand demanding money. If he didn’t pay up, that property would be bombed. If he STILL didn’t pay up, his family could end up murdered. The Black Hand was responsible for hundreds of bombings over the years, and Death Corner, an intersection in Little Hell (a sicilian neighborhood that would eventually be torn down to make room for Cabrini Green) averaged about a murder a week for most of the 1910s.

But Black Hand operations were only a sideline to the gang on 22nd street, led by the mysterious Il Diavolo, who was, in reality, a shadowy mug named Sam Cardinelli (or Cardinella; the records vary). In his pool room, he taught kids to run hold ups, and how to kill. He’d send them out on errands, then take a cut of the the money. As often as not, he’d then cheat the boys out of their cuts with loaded dice. One wonders if Cardinella thought “Oliver Twist” was a how-to manual.

Each crime the gang commited was a puzzle to the police – no thread seemed to connect them until a few members of the gang were captured in 1920. When they began to confess, it came to light that they’d been responsible for about 400 hold ups, and a few dozen murders, in just the last six months.

“I was only a boy when I went into the pool room,” said Nicholas Vianna, who had killed over a dozen people. “A week later, I was a criminal.” Vianna gave crucial information that helped send Cardinella to the gallows, but withheld a great deal more, even though it sealed his own fate, for fear that Cardinella would have his mother and sister killed.

While awaiting his own execution, he regularly entertained the prisoners by singing – his voice was exceptional. “Beat any show you ever saw!” said one guard. As he was led to the Death Cell (the library, the nicest room in the jail, where condemned men spent their last nights), he sung the aria Il Miserer to the applause of all, then shouted a good-bye and good luck to all of the prisoners “Except for you, Sam Cardinella. May your soul go to hell!”

None the guards could understand why, a few months later, on the night before his own execution, Cardinella kept repeating the name “VIana” over and over….

Note: Records vary on whether Sam Cardinella’s name was Cardinella, Cardinelli, or some variant thereof. This is often the case in these things; the records don’t clear anything up, they just confuse things further. I’m going with Cardinella for this series. Sam’s is the longest story in FATAL DROP – I can’t believe that it isn’t in every Chicago crime book already, but as far as I know this is the first time the story has been retold in book form.