by Tea Krulos
There is no more famous name in American crime history than Alphonse Gabriel Capone—former gangster, bootlegger, racketeer, head of the Chicago Outfit, and potential wandering spirit. Capone ruled Chicago through a haze of cigar smoke with an iron fist in the roaring 20s and is a more recognizable historical figure than many US Presidents. Larger than life, Capone died in 1947, but some say his strong will and personality has carried on beyond the grave. There’s also stories of ghosts chasing after Capone– one of the earliest ghost stories related to him comes from when he was still alive.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre
It started when Capone’s mob executed the brutal Saint Valentine’s Massacre on Feb. 14, 1929. Capone’s men, dressed as policemen, entered a garage on Chicago’s North side owned by Capone’s rival George “Bugs” Moran. There they told seven of Moran’s men to stand and place their hands against the garage wall where they were gunned down in a hail of machine gun fire. It was a sensational, sick story of violence that made the general public call for an end to mob violence. Capone himself was soon rounded up and sentenced for carrying a concealed weapon. He was sentenced to serve time and spent 8 months at Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania from 1929-1930.
Capone was provided with a lavishly furnished cell, complete with oriental rugs and a cabinet radio, but suffered in a different way. The story goes that Capone was tormented by the ghost of James Clark, one of the victims of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Clark was Moran’s brother-in-law, and legend says Capone could be heard at night by other inmates begging Jimmy to leave him alone. Stories say the ghost of Jimmy Clark continued to dog Capone after he was released from Eastern State, following him around to harass him. The prison was abandoned in 1971 and remains a favorite spot for paranormal investigators.
Speaking of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, that site is said to still be haunted. The building is no longer there, but people report seeing outlines of bodies on the ground on snowy days. You can hear more about it on the Chicago Hauntings Lincoln Park tour as well as the Original Chicago Hauntings Bus Tour.
Al Capone's Vaults
The Lexington Hotel was a 10-story building owned by Capone, nicknamed “Capone’s Castle.” His ghost was spotted there going room to room, with lights turning on by themselves. It’s also the infamous spot where Geraldo Rivera created one of the most disappointing moments in television history, the 1986 “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults” special, in which he narrated a construction crew unbricking a “secret vault” that contained…a few empty bottles. The hotel, which stood at 2135 S. Michigan Avenue was demolished in 1995.
Capone in Prison
In 1931, Capone was sentenced to 11 years prison time and was sent to Cook County Jail before being transferred to a federal prison in Atlanta. Sick of Capone’s ability to leverage the system, the decision was made to transfer “Public Enemy Number One” to America’s most famous prison, Alcatraz, where Capone was to be just another name and number.
Capone was shipped off on a prison railroad car to the Rock in 1934. After settling in, Capone filled his time by playing banjo in the prison band. He often practiced playing the banjo in the empty shower room. Tour guides and visitors have reported hearing a ghostly banjo twang in the shower room and from his cell B-181 (later renumbered B-206).
Other gangster ghosts have been spotted—“Machine Gun” Kelly in the prison’s chapel and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis in the prison bakery and kitchen. D-block is considered to be a hotspot for ghosts by several paranormal investigation teams.
Suffering declining health from an untreated case of syphilis, Capone was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institute of Terminal Island before being released in 1939. He retired to Palm Island, Florida to live out the rest of his life. His ghost has been spotted there, too, hanging out on his beloved boat.
Al Capone's Ghost
There are many other places Capone’s ghost has been spotted– it seems like every bar that used to be a speakeasy has some story. Capone’s ghost is alleged to stalk the ruins of the Maribel Caves Hotel aka “Hotel Hell” in Maribel, Wisconsin, which supposedly was a front for his bootlegging business. People have claimed to have Capone encounters at the Old Baraboo Inn in Baraboo, Wisconsin, a former brothel, and he’s been spotted at the Bachelors Grove Cemetery in Midlothian, Illinois, where it’s said that Al Capone and his gang used the secluded cemetery’s lagoon to dispose of dead bodies they accumulated during Prohibition.
Capone died on January 25, 1947. His final resting place, alongside other members of the Capone family, is the eerie Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. Besides Capone, a rogue’s gallery of other mobsters, like Frank Nitti, Sam Giancana, and “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn (suspected of being one of the executors of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre) are buried there. Visitors often leave a small gift on Capone’s grave—a cigar, flower, coins, bottles of alcohol. Be respectful when visiting—if you’re not, it’s rumored Capone’s ghost will chase you out.