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Al Capone Myths
This web page was created after seeing and reading the daily nonsense being attributed to Al Capone.
Many Capone rumors and myths have been handed down through the years in order to tie Al Capone to a book, movie or product. Some perpetuated by faulty research, some by companies and some even by actual relatives whose faultering recollections seem to recall a certain time, place or product associated with their beloved Al. Some companies will go as far to pay a Capone relative to make it more believable. Repeat a lie many times and it will suddenly become truth. Back it up by a relative and voila! instant fact! Even I have been approached in the past to try and tie a bed and breakfast place with Al Capone. This was an attempt to boost their business. Of course, I refused and have continuing disdain for people trying to make a fast buck by selling lies. From a house owned in Cuba, to a supposed trip through tunnels in Saskatchewan, we explore some of the myths surrounding Big Al. Below I will state the myth and tell the truth about it.
The Myth: Al Capone's home in Miami was originally owned by Clarence Busch of the Anheuser Busch beer company.
The Truth: The house was built in 1922 for the Pennsylvania born Clarence M. Busch. He was a successful realtor and is not a relative to the famous brewing Busch family from St. Louis. These people were never related and that's one of the myths passed down through time. Even when the house was being repetitively sold, this brewmaster myth was being continually perpetuated as fact. The realtor Clarence Busch had this house built with a few others as an investment, because he had a dwelling at the time on Brickell Avenue. The house was actually owned by James W. Popham at the time Capone was interested in it. Capone did not go seeking it, but was actually approached by hotel owner Parker Henderson Jr. and then Miami Mayor John Newton Lummus Jr., who was also a realtor. In 1928, a few realtors in Miami eagerly wanted to sell Capone a home. Henderson and Lummus just figured they could find him a home themselves and showed Capone a few. Capone was immediately hooked on the one at 93 Palm Avenue. James Popham was furious when he found out through insurance records that Al Capone was to be the new owner of the house. As far as the beer family story goes, they didn't even have a family member named Clarence! This easily verifiable myth continues to this day in many books and documentaries.
The Myth: Al had a sister named Rose Capone.
The Truth: No, Rose never existed and was an error on John Kobler's part when interviewing people during his initial research. This was accepted as fact through the years and misrepresented in subsequent books and documentaries. The facts are that Al had 6 brothers and two sisters and they were Vincenzo (James), Ralph (Raffaele), Salvatore (Frank), John (Erminio), Umberto (Albert), Amadeo (Matthew) and Mafalda. The other sister was named Erminia and she was born on August 11, 1901 and died on June 18,1902. There may have been another stillborn male in the family, but it can't be verified through records.
The Myth: Al Capone's voice was recorded.
The Truth: No, there is no known recording of Al's voice. The talking pictures began in 1930, and equipment to make it was very expensive, so chances are Al just missed the time to be recorded. I also don't think Al would ever have wanted to be recorded saying something he couldn't take back. Near the end of his life, great care was made to watch over him in case his pareisis made him spill any mob info.
There was no danger as his disease had regressed him somewhat. Although there is a supposed silent home movie of Al taken in 1929, of Al hanging around his Florida pool with Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Ciro Terranova and others. Photos exist of this encounter. These were taken right before the Atlantic City gang meeting in May. For the film no sound is heard. As far as what his voice sounded like, Chicago American city editor Harry Read wrote in his memoirs that when he first met Capone he was expecting a deep basso voice due to his hulking mass, but instead was surprised to hear a jocular high pitched voice coming from Capone.
The Myth: Al Capone worked as an accountant in Baltimore.
The Truth: While it is possible there is a small possiblilty that Capone could have worked as a book keeper in New York, the timeline of Al Capone's life during this period would have made it impossible for him to have worked in Baltimore. Read Capone's own account of his whereabouts during this period. If this were at all true, then you would think Al would have been proud to have mentioned a legitimate work entry during this interview. Also, all of the sources where this originated from and was repeated thereafter cannot provide any proof whatsoever.
The Myth: President Herbert Hoover made it personal on getting Capone brought to justice.
The Truth: On April, 21, 1930, from Capone's own mouth came the following conversation while on his boat on the bay of Biscayne while they passed by the J.C. Penney's estate.
"Take a good look at that." Capone said his voice was low and serious.
''One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life concerns that place. That's the J.C. Penney estate where Herbert Hoover was a guest just before the inauguration last year." He continued to stare at the place.
"Yes, sir, the biggest sucker move of my life!" he went on.
Jack Sharkey and Young Stribling were fighting down here and Jack Dempsey was the promoter. Sharkey and Dempsey, are old friends of mine. I had a big party at the house every night with plenty of champagne and music".
"Well, one day I met J.C.Penney downtown in Miami. 'You must be having quite a celebration at your place every night.' he said. 'We can hear the music across the bay all night.'
I laughed and said I wouldn't send him a bill for the entertainment. 'Did you know Herbert Hoover is my guest?' says Penney. 'He can hear it, too.' And I said like a chump, " Well, bring him over some time -- bring them all over." It was a poor wisecrack. Penney, of course, told Hoover. I yet haven't seen the trouble that crack made for me." He fell silent and Capone's guest hazarded a question? "How could a
joke like that cause trouble now?"
Capone retorted "I'll tell you how. Right after Hoover was inaugurated President one of the first things he did was call in a Treasury Department agent and ask how much income tax I paid. Of course I've never paid any. I'm told he gave orders to give me the works." The guest interjected, "Perhaps you can settle it; some do," but Capone shook his head dubiously. "I've been trying to but the heat's on me. Everything might turn out okay But I don't know...."
"Why didn't you pay the tax in the first place?" His friend asked.
"Bum guesses by my mouthpieces!" he said "They told me the government couldn't collect on racket income. Now the G says they don't care where I got it -- the tax should have been paid."
The Myth: Al Capone's knickname became Snorky after he became a successful well dressed gangster.
The Truth: According to his brother Ralph, "It's one of his pet names. He calls every kid by that name--- especially his own boy, Al junior. He always says 'Little Snorky' when he speaks of him, and so the outfit got to calling him Big Snorky. Now he's just Snorky."
The Myth: Al Capone was a cocaine fiend because he had a hole in his septum.
The Truth: Another wild myth. Authors will sometimes go to bat with some things they pick up on during research and make immediate assumptions. It also serves them well if it can be sensational enough to edge their books ahead of other previous Capone biographies. It's all about sales and the hopes of Hollywood picking up the book for a movie. The more sensational the better. Laurence Bergreen went with the cocaine bullshit because it made Capone stand out from all the other biographies on him out there.
AMC Making of the Mob took this lie and rolled with it on steroids. Capone looked like Al Pacino in the 1983 film Scarface. I would suggest that AMC concentrate on getting the simplest things right instead of running with Bergreen's nonsense. I couldn't believe them using a 1940 coupe for a 1924 scene or wild west guns as gangster weapons.
The hole in the septum can be attributed to the two following reasons.
1) Capone's longtime illness of syphilis. Most long time sufferers of syphilis have a hole in their septums.
2) Capone had bad sinus trouble and was operated on his nasal region during his stay at the Eastern State penitentiary 1929-1930. Al Capone also had his tonsils removed there on September 5,1929, by Dr. Herbert M. Goddard.
Did Al Capone ever try cocaine? Probably at a party, but was he a cocaine fiend like Bergreen or Making of the mob says? Hell no!
Read story below. Al didn't like dope fiends.
The Decatur Herald August 1, 1931.
Chicago Tribune March 25, 1932.
The Myth: Al Capone's favorite whiskey was Templeton Rye.
There is no proof whatsoever that Al ever drank any hard liquor, let alone the Templeton brand. If this is true then I want to see the concrete proof. Probably just a marketing ploy on behalf of the company that recently associated themselves with a Capone relative. They got the relative to say this was true for some sort of renumeration and now it's sadly believed by so many out there as fact, even by some authors and historians.
The truth is Al Capone did not like to drink whiskey period!
Harry Read, Chicago American city editor, who was a good friend of Al Capone recalls in his unpublished memoirs called "The Capone I knew" that in January of 1929, when asked what was his business exactly Capone replied he was strictly in the beer and gambling business. Read then asked about the hard liquor? Capone said he got that from connections in order to accommodate his clients. Capone exclaimed "Chicago is a beer drinking town. I don't drink whiskey myself. I drink beer and wine. Once and a while I will take a highball just to be sociable, but whiskey and gin are poison for any man."
Capone when questioned by Cuban secret police as to what he was doing there in 1930. Drinking wine.
(Chicago Tribune July 16, 1930)
Great Falls Tribune- March 24, 1931.
I personally work on facts and records, not heresay. I also have researched it to death and have found no records of this brand in connection with Al Capone. They even went so far as claiming on the label that Al Capone kept some Templeton bottles in his cell at Alcatraz? Some of the Park Rangers and Alcatraz authors and historians got a good laugh out of this one!
The plain reality is that Alcatraz was not kind to Capone and he had no pull once there.
Templeton Rye label with wild Capone reference of having whiskey in his cell.
All the facts researched show that Al Capone did not drink hard liquor. Not too surprising as other gangsters selling it such as Dean O'Banion did not drink any alcohol, and neither did Al Capone's mentor Johnny Torrio. Al preferred beer and wine, which was admitted by him in a statement at the Atlanta Penitentiary during his prison interview with a physician. Beer in the summertime and wine for family gatherings, as was normal for Italian families at the supper table. Al also enjoyed cut up fresh fruit in wine. Al once got sloshed on chianti when he was released from Philadelphia prison.
May 18, 1932, Al Capone admits to drinking beer and wine. No mention of liquor.
Enjoying a cold beer! Miami lawyer James Francis "Fritz" Gordon, Al Capone and ex- Atlanta Councilman / furniture businessman Robert A. Gordon (James' father) at the Tropical Gardens, Havana, April 23,1930. In this commonly seen photo, R.A. Gordon is mistakenly identified as Havana Mayor Julio Morales. This is a mistake because the Mayor at that time was actually Mariano Gomez. Julio Morales Coello was a Cuban Navy Commander.
R. A Gordon will pass away at age 61, almost a year after this photo was taken.
Subject Identification research Mario Gomes (Photo Credit : State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/55382).
No hard liquor for Al. He preferred alcoholic beverages such as beer or wine. Interview with John Capone on November 18,1939.
The Myth: Al Capone died a rich man.
The Truth: People tend to forget that most of the money generated by the gang belonged to the gang. Al took his share and he spent it as fast as he got it. The rest was distributed amongst the gang. Other monies were for payoffs to Police, Judges, Aldermen, Lawyers. Money was also used for distilling equipment, trucks etc... Al Capone's business had an extremely high overhead.
After Al's death in 1947, Mae and Sonny continued to live at the Palm Island estate until 1952, when they sold it along with all it's contents to Cleveland realtor named Thomas Warren Miller. They couldn't afford to keep it any longer. Ralph Capone had made a promise to his brother to look after Mae and Sonny, which he did right until his death. Ralph had a big heart. The Chicago Outfit no longer desired to help out Mae and Sonny Capone after Al's passing. Whatever monies Al Capone had in trust that belonged to the outfit went back into the gang coffers after his death.
The Myth: Al Capone was in my town.
The Truth: Chances are he wasn't. If Al was really visiting your town back in the day, you could be sure it would have made the news of your local paper. Perhaps not the same day, but at least in the following weeks. People's recollections through the years make the connection to something or someone they see later on based on assumptions. Grandpa remembers seeing Al capone as a boy when in fact it was a guy who ressembled him in height / weight and dress. He also had a couple of friends with him so we can assume they were bodyguards. I'm amazed at how many photos I have seen of people saying it's Al Capone in there when in fact he's no where in sight. Did Al Capone visit the Tunnels of Moose Jaw? No, probably not! Was Al Capone in Ontario or anywhere in Canada? No, probably not. There's a documentary making such loose claims with less than stellar research. One example: They claim Capone was in Canada and had his tonsils removed by a doctor there. Well Capone must of had two sets of tonsils because he had them removed in Eastern State penitentiary on September 5,1929, by Dr. Herbert M. Goddard.
There's a straw boater that was supposedly left at a Hotel in St. Pierre Miquelon by Al Capone. Truth is the hat is no longer on display. I've seen photos of the said hat and the visible size inside of the boater does not correspond with Al Capone's head size at all, nor does it correspond with Al's preferred straw boater brand which is Bonar Phelps. I'm guessing they mistook another gangster visiting from New York as Al Capone. In reality, it would have been impossible for Al to have been in every conceivable place people have emailed me about over the years.
One example of people thinking they saw Al Capone.
The Daily Chronicle May 17, 1930.
The Myth: Al Capone owned a houses all over the world.
The Truth: I get this question alot. The answer is no. Why? Because the proof shows that Al had enough financial difficulties holding on to the house at Palm Avenue. The facts are that he owned through his wife and mother, the house at 93 Palm Avenue and the Chicago home at 7244 South Prairie Avenue. Other homes, such as a Wisconsin cottage that were used by Al and his family in the summertime were owned by relatives. (Ralph Capone etc..).
The Myth: Al owned a home in Cuba.
The Truth: While it is true through immigration and travel documents that Al Capone visited Cuba on a couple of occaisions, he never owned a home there. He always rented a Hotel room at the Sevilla in old Havana. The situation for a gangster in Cuba even at that time was unsure (Police and military roundups of gangsters). So the long term purchase of a house at a place that was unstable would be unheard of. The specific house often mentioned was once owned by a dentist and now a restaurant near the beach in Varadero. This was NEVER owned by Al capone nor did he ever set foot in there. I think they even mention it somewhere on the outside of the house. People seem to think Capone could go in any country or town and act like a big boss and do as he pleased. This is totally wrong and false! Capone was king in one place and one place only! That was in Chicago circa 1925-1931. Example: Al Capone tried to visit California and was immediately turned around by officials and ecorted out of town like a vagrant.
The Myth: Al Capone had an Italian accent.
The Truth: Being born in New York, No, he didn't. The only accent he had and lost was his New York accent. Johnny Torrio took Al and refined his rough edges in order to make him a tad more respectable for business dealings. As far as what his voice sounded like, Chicago American city editor Harry Read wrote in his memoirs that when he first met Capone he was expecting a deep basso voice due to his hulking mass but instead was surprised to hear a jocular high pitched voice coming from Capone.
The Myth: Al graduated from high school.
The Truth: No, he didn't. He didn't even finish grade school, contrary to what some people claim. You can read it yourself here in the link below. It's Al's own words under "Personal History".
I'm sure if Al had graduated he would have more than proudly stated it in the files recorded at Atlanta.
The Myth: Al near the end of his life was fishing in the swimming pool with his bathrobe on. It must be true because I have seen photos. Even a published author / historian said so on a message board.
The Truth: Well that author is dead wrong! So the answer is no, the photos most people see of Al wearing a bathrobe and fishing is one where he is not sick and doing quite well after leaving the Philadelphia Penitentiary. These are not photos taken near the end of his life in 1947. In these photos he is fishing off his moored boat (not pool) and they were originally taken on April 20,1930, right before he went to Cuba. These photos were taken when Harry Read editor of the Chicago Evening American paid a visit to Capone at his Miami home for an interview. Al Capone was doing well at the time and was not yet affected by his disease.
One of the many newspapers who reprinted the famous photo following the days of it being originally photographed. Note the date. This was not Capone near the end of his life in the 1940's.
Another shot taken from that same day with Harry Read. April 20, 1930. It will be originally published in the Chicago Evening American on April 24, 1930. It appears a day later in the Chicago Tribune and in subsequent papers the following weeks. These photos are now oftenly mistaken for a sick Al near his final days.
His final years, Al Capone relaxing in the sun with his mom on the dock of his Florida Mansion 1946. In this photo, his brain was affected by his disease. Note the fishing pole on the table. Though sick at the time, Al wasn't the babbling idiot in a bathrobe fishing in the pool as is often shown in Hollywood movies. That was made up through time and movies. He was lucid enough and fished off the dock like a regular Joe.
(Mario Gomes Collection)
The Myth: I saw a photo of a sickly Al with his mother after his release from Alcatraz in a recent published Capone bio.
The Truth: Not exactly. This photo in question was actually taken before Al was ever sent off to prison in 1932. Here it is republished below for a 1938 newspaper story. Al Capone was released from Terminal Island in 1939, before moving on to the Baltimore Hospital for treatment. He will finally end up at his Florida home in March of 1940.
Photo of Al and his mother taken before his stint in prison starting in 1932. Here it is reprinted for The Longview News Journal on April 6, 1938. The photo was originally taken in 1930-31, this way before he was released from prison in 1939.
The Myth: Al Capone was haunted by the ghost of massacre victim James Clark. It got so bad he had to go see a psychic by the name of Anne Britt to make it stop.
The Truth: More nonsense on the Capone front. Al never saw ghosts etc.. haunting of the massacre, James Clark, seen a psychic in 1931 named Alice Britt, blah, blah, blah! This is total and utter bullshit!! I want to see evidence, papers, documents from 1931, or at least before 1980. I'm not much into believing paranormal, but let's just say for argument sake if it did happen. The logical thinking would be as follows;
1) If you were delusional and thought that Capone had nothing to do with the massacre like Jonathan Eig does then why would you believe James Clark would be haunting him?
2) If Capone had something to do with the massacre like most of us believe, (which was only giving the go ahead for the hit), then why would James Clark haunt Capone and not any of the actual killers or planners? After a few days of research, this imaginary tale seems to take flight one Halloween in 1980, and is then perpetuated by Ghost tour operator Richard Crowe in 1987, which then ends up as a ghost tale in many Chicago paranormal books!
Yes, I admit it! I've slept in Capone's Miami house, called out his name in the dark at 2 AM taking photos and recording sound. NADA!! Stood quietly at the site of the massacre site and felt absolutely nothing! I have two massacre wall bricks were the guys were lined up and two bullets that went through the bodies right here. Nothing!!
Now Paresis (disintegration of the brain cortex due to syphilis) will cause you to spew out baloney from time to time. Al Capone can be forgiven for that, but people with no brain issues who claim they know the Capone subject should not say stuff that is just not true!
You are as bad as Hollywood.