Located in Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside,
Illinois is the grave of the man who once ruled the city of Chicago... it is not the
grave of a mighty king. There is a stone monument here that is mostly obscured by
shrubbery and a flat marker that lies even with the earth. The name on this marker speaks
volumes about the man buried beneath it however.
If you find this grave site, you will notice that something has probably
been left behind in memory of the legend that lies buried here. It is not uncommon to find
cigars, flowers, a coin or two or even a bottle of alcohol placed on top of the stone
marker. Cemetery workers are often clearing away these offerings, but why do people leave
them? Is it in memory to the glories of yesterday, or perhaps to appease what may be a
Al Capone was perhaps the most powerful crime boss of his day and remains one of the most recognized names in American history. During the years of Prohibition, Capone could rightfully claim that he "owned" the city of Chicago.
He employed over 1000 gunmen in his service, up to half of the city's police force was on his payroll, and he had "in his pocket" dozens of aldermen, state's attorneys, mayors, legislators and even congressmen. His organization's domination of Chicago and such suburban areas as Cicero was absolute. When he wanted to control elections, he did so when threats and terror and he placed many people into power who would look the other way. During his time, Capone controlled a crime empire worth millions of dollars.... but he didn't start out that way.
Capone was born in Brooklyn in 1899 and attended school through the sixth grade. After that, he learned his lessons in the streets with tough street gang members like Johnny Torrio and a kid who would remain a close friend throughout his life, Charles "Lucky" Luciano.
When Capone was in his teens, he was hired by Torrio to be a bouncer in a Brooklyn saloon and brothel. Capone was slashed by a hood named Frank Galluccio and he ended up with a huge scar on his face that would later inspire his hated "Scarface" nickname.
In 1920, Torrio left New York and moved to Chicago to work with his uncle, mobster Big Jim Collisimo. He brought Capone along with him. Torrio had plans to gain control of the booze market, now made illegal by Prohibition. Collisimo stood in his way so he and Capone had him killed. The two of them worked together to wipe out all opposition in the city, including the 1924 assassination of Dion O'Banion, the head of the Irish north side mob. This move resulted in an all-out war in Chicago and got Torrio nearly killed. He turned business over to Capone and went back to Brooklyn.
Capone was now 26 years old and had in his control a crime empire worth over $30 million. He became the top man, employing over 100 people with a weekly payroll of over $300,000. His secret of success was to limit the mob's activities to those rackets which had a strong demand from the public... liquor, gambling and prostitution. He have the people what they wanted and they loved him for it. Capone became a local celebrity and was even cheered when he went to a ball game.
But of course, not everyone loved Capone.... he had surrounded himself with men that he could trust but there were still many assassination attempts. In September of 1926, the O'Banion's sent an entire convoy of cars loaded with machine-gunner's past Capone's Lexington Hotel headquarters. They poured over 1000 rounds of hot lead into the building but Capone escaped injury.
Capone appeared to be invincible, but he was doomed to fail when he ordered the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in an attempt to get rival Bugs Moran. See our section on the history and the ghosts related to the massacre. After this, the public would have had enough of the savage bootleg wars and Washington would apply immense pressure to shut Capone down. It was during this time that Eliot Ness and his band of "Untouchables" would come to Chicago.
In the end, it would not be murder or the Prohibition laws that would get Capone... but tax evasion and he was sentenced to the Federal Prison in Atlanta for 11 years.
In 1934, Capone would be transferred to the most brutal prison in American, Alcatraz, and this would finally signal the bitter end to his career. Alcatraz was a place of total punishment and few privileges, using terrible methods to exact vengeance against the prisoners. One of the most successful methods of punishment were the prison's "holes", places that were little more than dungeons and where prisoners could be severely beaten for the slightest infractions.
Capone spent three stretches in the "hole" during his years at Alcatraz. The first years of the new "escape-proof" prison were known as the "silent years", for no prisoners were allowed to speak to each other, sing or even whistle. Talking was forbidden except for three minutes during the morning and afternoon recreation periods and on weekends for two hours.
Capone, of course quite arrogant when he arrived at the prison, had no idea the rule of silence applied to him. He found himself in the "hole" for two stretches for this offense and once more for trying to bribe a guard for information from the outside. On all three occasions, Capone returned from the "hole" just a little worse for wear.
Eventually, it would break him.
Many of the Alcatraz prisoners went insane and Capone was possibly one of them. The attempts on his life, the beatings, a stabbing and the prison routine began taking a terrible toll on Capone. After several attempts on his life in the prison yard, he was excused from going outside and later joined the four-man prison band. Gifts to Alcatraz inmates were forbidden, but musical instruments were allowed, so Capone's wife, Mae, sent him a banjo. He would often sit in his cell and play when the other prisoners were outside.
After five years, Capone's mind snapped and there were times when he would refuse to leave his cell and go to the mess hall to eat. Sometimes he would crouch down in the corner of his cell and babble to himself in baby-talk. Another inmate recalled that sometimes Capone would stay in his cell and re-make his bunk over and over again.
He spent the last portion of his time at Alcatraz in the hospital ward. He was being treated for an advanced form of syphilis, which he had been carrying since his youth. He left Alcatraz in 1939.
Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, who was running the mob in Capone's absence, was asked by a reporter if Capone would take over control again after his release. "Al, " said Guzik, "is nuttier than a fruitcake."
Strangely, although the ghost of Al Capone has never been rumored to haunt, a ghost researcher who was gathering evidence about the haunting of Alcatraz, spoke to a National Park Ranger (the prison is now a National Park site) about something strange that happened in one of the cells.
The ranger had no idea who had once been housed there, but he was sure that he had heard spectral banjo music coming from inside of the chamber.....
The cell had once belonged to Al Capone.
After his release, Capone retired from the public view to his mansion in Miami Beach. It was said that he spent the next eight years wavering between lucidity and psychosis. Some believe that it may have been the ghost who actually drove Capone to insanity. Those who scoff would say that Capone's early senility had produced the so-called phantom, but Capone actually spoke of it years before.
While Capone had once killed off most of his enemies, he could not get rid of one of the spirits. It was the ghost of James Clark, the brother-in-law of Bugs Moran and a St. Valentine's Day Massacre victim, who Capone claimed hounded him from 1929 to his grave. There were many times when Capone's employees would hear him begging for the ghost to leave him in peace... and this was in his lucid pre-Alcatraz days. On several occasions, his bodyguards broke into his rooms, fearing that someone had gotten to Capone, only to have their boss tell them of Clark's ghost.
Could Capone have created this ghost out of guilt for his many misdeeds? Possibly, but for a man who had been responsible for the deaths of more than 500 people... why create only one ghost?
And again, for those who believe the ghost was created out of Capone's madness.... why did he contact a psychic named Alice Britt to get rid of the ghost.... in 1931, years before the ravages of the disease would effect his mind?
Many believe the ghost of James Clark followed Capone to his grave. The ex-crime boss of Chicago died on January 25, 1947 of bronchial pneumonia and a brain hemorrhage in Florida. He was returned to Chicago and buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Later, he was moved in secret to Mt. Carmel Cemetery, where he remains today.
Al Capone left a great imprint on the city of Chicago and perhaps the spirits of his victims, and maybe even Al himself, has left one too. Take a walk through Mt. Carmel some day, and perhaps along Clark Street past the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre..... you just never know who you might meet.
Mt. Carmel Cemetery is located in Hillside, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. The easiest way to find Capone's grave is to enter the cemetery off of Roosevelt Road and take the first turn to the right. The grave site is along this road and the memorial markers are located in front of a tall stone marker with bushes in front of it.
COPYRIGHT 2000 BY TROY TAYLOR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.