The Infamous Massacre

The date was February 14, 1929. The location was a red-brick warehouse known as the S-M-C Cartage Company at 2122 North Clark Street in Chicago...a garage which was doubling at that time as an illicit liquor storage facility. A group of men...five of whom were members of the George "Bugs" Moran gang...had gathered at the warehouse that morning under the assumption that a truck of hijacked whiskey was about to arrive. One of the men was Johnny May, an ex-safecracker who had been hired as an auto mechanic. He was working on a truck, his dog tied to the bumper, while six other men waited for the consignment of liquor to arrive. Among the number waiting were: Frank and Pete Guesenberg, who were supposed to meet Moran and pick up two empty trucks to drive to Detroit in order to collect a shipment of smuggled Canadian whiskey; James Clark (Moran's brother-in-law); Adam Heyer; Al Weinshank (not a gang member who was visiting with the party at the time) and Reinhardt Schwimmer (a young optometrist who was also not a member of the gang, but merely an acquaintance of Moran who hung around the warehouse for the simple thrill of "rubbing shoulders" with gangsters). Moran was running late for the morning meeting. Due to arrive at 10:30 a.m., he failed to leave for the rendezvous (in the company of Willie Marks and Ted Newberry) until several minutes after the half-hour.

While the seven men loitered inside the warehouse, they were unaware that a black touring car had pulled up outside...or that Moran himself had spotted the vehicle and, fearing it to be a police car (given its alarm bell on the running board and gun-rack behind the front seat), had taken cover. Four men emerged from the car, two in uniform and two in civilian clothing, while a third uniformed figure remained behind the wheel. The quartet entered the building and, a few moments later, the rattle of machine gun fire could be heard, breaking the silence of that snow-covered morning. Shortly afterward, four figures left the warehouse...the two in civilian clothes emerging first with hands held high, herded by the couple in uniform as though they were in the midst of an arrest. Entering the waiting vehicle, the party then drove away. Inside the building, May's dog was barking and howling and, when curious neighbors went to check, they were confronted by a blood-spattered murder scene.

Six of the Seven Victims

Moran's men had been lined up against the rear wall of the garage and sprayed with machine gunfire. Six were already dead. However, Frank Guesenberg, with fourteen slugs in him, had crawled twenty feet toward the garage door and was still alive. When questioned in the hospital later just prior to his death, Guesenberg insisted that it was "Coppers done it!" Moran himself was safe. Thinking the arrival of the "lookalike" police car had meant some type of "shakedown," he had hung back and not entered the building. At the sound of gunfire, Moran together with Marks and Newberry had fled the scene. The murders at 2122 North Clark Street virtually broke the power of Moran's North Side gang. Moran laid the deed at the doorstep of Al "Scarface" Capone...correctly so to a certain extent. It is doubtful that Capone masterminded the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. While it may have been in his best interests to eliminate members of the Moran gang, he probably would have preferred it not to occur, well aware that such an action was likely to set the gang wars on a new and deadly course. The true individual (and eager participant) behind the massacre was almost certainly Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, one of Capone's most trusted men who nurtured a personal vendetta against Moran. That having been said, the identity of the killers will probably never be known with any degree of surety.

Even though Moran swiftly targeted Capone with ordering the "hit," the authorities remained baffled. Capone had been in Florida at the time of the massacre and, upon hearing the news, had stated, "the only man who kills like that is Bugs Moran." At the same time, Moran was insisting, "only Capone kills guys like that." This was, perhaps, the act that finally initiated the decline of Capone's criminal empire. Many believed he had gone too far. The authorities and even Capone's adoring public, were ready to finally bring the bootleg wars to an end.

Ultimately, not one person was ever convicted for the Saint Valentine's Day murders. As for the fates of the major players, McGurn (whose real name was James DeMora), an expert with the Tommy gun who had "an eye" for the ladies (particularly blondes) and credited with over twenty-five known "kills" for the Capone Mob, was shot down by five gunmen in a bowling alley on the Eve of Saint Valentine's Day in 1936. By that time, however, he was little more than a "two-bit hoodlum." Two of the killers were ostensibly "friends" with whom he had entered the establishment, although the identities of the men who committed the murder are not public knowledge even to this day. A nickel had been placed in McGurn's right hand and next to the body had been left a comic valentine which read:

Jack McGurn

Following the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, Moran's power dwindled and his luck took a decidedly downhill slide. By the mid-1930s, he had left Chicago, moving first to Wisconsin and then Minnesota. Reduced to near poverty, he eventually drifted back to Illinois, where he took to robbing banks and filling stations. Around 1940, he moved to Ohio and joined the Virgil Summers-Albert Fouts Gang, eventually being arrested by the FBI in 1946. He served ten years in Leavenworth Penitentiary and was released in 1956, only to be immediately re-arrested for an earlier bank holdup. Convicted and sentenced to another ten years, Moran died in prison of lung cancer on February 25, 1957 after receiving the Full Last Rites of the Roman Catholic Church. He is buried in the Leavenworth Penitentiary Cemetery.

Capone, considered a "wonder of the age," known to be the "generous gangster" who "gave to the needy, helped the elderly and was great with kids," was finally indicted by a federal grand jury for tax evasion. In 1932, he was sentenced to an eleven-year prison term, part of which was served on Alcatraz, where he spent the last year of his sentence in the hospital section undergoing treatment for Neurosyphilis, contracted from Chicago brothels, which was destroying his brain. Eventually released for good behavior in November of 1939, physically and mentally shattered by his disease, Capone lived out the rest of his life at his Palm Island estate in Miami, dying on January 25, 1947 of unrelated cardiac arrest...although some insist it was the syphilis that killed him. He was originally buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago, but his remains were later exhumed and transported to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois.

Chicago memorialized the warehouse on Clark Street. It became a tourist attraction and newspapers even printed photographs of the dead men upside-down so that their readers would not have to turn the publication around in order to identify the bodies. In 1949, the front portion of the building was turned into an antique furniture storage business by a couple who had no idea of the location's history. They soon discovered that the place was visited more by sightseers and curiosity-seekers than genuine customers and eventually closed the business. In 1967, the building was demolished. However, the bricks from the bullet-marked rear wall were purchased and saved by George Patey, a Canadian businessman. In 1972, he opened a nightclub with a "Roaring Twenties" theme and rebuilt the wall...in the men's restroom. Three nights each week, women were permitted to peek inside at the macabre attraction. The club continued it operations for a few years and, when it closed, Patey placed the 417 bricks into storage. He then offered them for sale accompanied by a written account of the massacre. The bricks were sold for $1,000.00 apiece, but Patey soon found as many being returned to him as were being sold. Apparently, anyone who purchased a brick became suddenly stricken with bad luck...illness, financial ruin, divorce and, in some cases, even death. According to the story, the bricks themselves have somehow become contaminated with the powerful negative energy of the massacre. Whatever became of the rest of the Clark Street warehouse bricks is not known. So the legend states...other sources say differently...that the bricks were never sold at all, for example.

As for the site of 2122 North Clark Street itself (now only a small area adjacent to a parking lot), even today, people walking along the street at night have reported the sounds of screams and machine guns as they pass by. The building is long gone but the area is marked by a fenced-off lawn which belongs to the nearby nursing home. Five trees are scattered along the place in a line...the one in the middle marks the location where the rear wall once stood. Passersby often report strange sounds of a paranormal nature (including voices), the appearance of sudden mists and the indescribable feeling of fear as they walk past. Those accompanied by dogs also report their share of peculiar happenings. Animals appear to be especially bothered by this piece of lawn, sometimes barking and howling...and sometimes whining in fear.


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