FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE
Real Name: Fred Goetz
Birth – Death: February 14th, 1897 – March 21st, 1934
Lore: Before his bank-robbing, bootlegging and kidnapping career, Shotgun Ziegler was supposedly one of the gunmen involved in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 Chicago.
Reality: This has been disputed by many sources since many more men have been hailed as Valentine’s Day Massacre gunmen than were actually involved in the event. My personal bet is that Ziegler’s day of birth being Valentine’s Day led to his claims being taken more seriously than assorted others, simply because that’s how legends and traditions seem to take their deceptive hold over the public’s imagination – through meaningless coincidences and poetic license.
At any rate, since I’m a World War One geek I find it more interesting that in 1918 this figure really, DEFINITELY did serve as a U.S. Army pilot during that conflict.
Criminal Career: From June to October of 1925, Goetz was accused of assaulting 7 year old Jean Lanbert and of involvement in an armed robbery of a physician. The former was never proven, as Goetz skipped bail and the latter cemented his fugitive status and change of name.
“Shotgun Ziegler” associated with professional criminals from this point on, especially the Chicago Outfit. Our “hero” and his wife Irene settled into married life and were described by their landlord as ideal tenants.
If legend is to be believed, Shotgun fled his former associates at some point after taking part in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Later that year Ziegler along with 5 others robbed Farmers & Merchants Bank in Jefferson, WI of $352,000 IN 1929 MONEY. (Obviously it would be worth a much higher amount now.) Continue reading
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Real Name: Frank Nash
Birth – Death: February 6th, 1887 – June 17th, 1933
Lore: Frank Nash got his nickname “Jelly” from the chemical jelly explosives he used to crack safes.
Reality: Supposedly the nickname was actually short for “Jellybean,” which Nash was called in his youth because it was a slang term for a sharp dresser. As ZZ Topp said “Every girl’s crazy ’bout a Jell-eee-beeeeeaan.”
Criminal Career: After serving in the U.S. Army from 1904 to 1907, Jelly Nash began applying some of the skills he picked up in the military to committing criminal acts. Tradition holds that Nash robbed close to 200 banks during his career.
Frank was so successful that his first conviction didn’t happen until 1913, and then only because he showed some uncharacteristic greed and treachery. He and “Humpy” Wortman stole around $1,000 from an Oklahoma store and while Wortman was digging a hole to hide the loot, Jelly shot him in the back and made off with all the money.
(Lore: Humpy Wortman got his nickname from his tendency to hump the legs of his fellow criminals. Reality: I just made that up.) Continue reading
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THE TRI-STATE TERROR
Real Name: Wilbur Underhill, Jr
Birth – Death: March 16th, 1901 – January 6th, 1934
Lore: Underhill is so overlooked today there are times when it seems like there IS no lore about him. That is good, actually, since rabid criminals like this don’t deserve the romanticized treatment they usually get.
Criminal Career: In 1918 Underhill was convicted of burgling the home of his family’s next-door neighbor in Joplin, MO and was sent to prison. He was released in 1922 and began robbing necking couples who were parked in cars, making him one of many “Lover’s Lane Bandits” across the country.
Underhill, still just a One State Terror at this point, was convicted of armed robbery after police decoys caught him one night in 1923 pulling off a Lover’s Lane holdup. Wilbur was sentenced to five years but was released on parole in 1926. He celebrated Christmas of 1926 by robbing an Oklahoma drug store with “Skeet” Akins and killing a 19 year old customer in the process. Continue reading
With John Dillinger folklore given WAY too much attention, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at some of the legends versus the ugly reality regarding some of his contemporary gangsters.
Real Name: Francis Crowley
Birth – Death: October 31st, 1912 – January 21st, 1932
Lore: Crowley was supposedly born out of wedlock to a German-American woman and a New York police officer who refused to marry Crowley’s mother. This supposedly accounts for his intense hatred of the police.
Reality: Such shallow, Pulp Magazine thinking doesn’t seem likely. The young man was adopted by a family in which Francis grew up alongside a cop-killing older brother named John Crowley. John himself would be killed in a battle with police.
This background seems a more likely explanation for Francis’ issues than some mythical hatred of an unknown father who abandoned him and his mother.
Criminal Career: By age 19, Crowley had a reputation as a competent holdup man and hit & run armed robber who never slipped up enough for a conviction. He might have escaped suspicion entirely if not for his excessively belligerent attitude when questioned by authorities.
On February 21st, 1931 Crowley, packing the omnipresent pair of hand-guns that earned him his nickname, crashed an American Legion dance in the Bronx. Two-Gun was accompanied by a pair of male accomplices, one of whom was believed to be frequent associate Rudolph “Fats” Durringer.
When the Legionnaires attempted to expel the uninvited trio Crowley whipped out his pair of firearms and opened fire, wounding at least two innocent men before fleeing. With charges of attempted murder now hanging over his head, Two-Gun was about to enter the busiest period of his career. Continue reading