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  • John 1:03 pm on September 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Floorplan @ 8763 Wonderland Ave. 


    • Bobby 3:19 am on September 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Sheesh, what a dinky little abode it was. Must’ve been a sweltering hotbox back in the summer of ’81 considering I don’t remember seeing any air-cons.. just those crappy pedestal fans.
      Anyway, glad to see this ship steered back on course to Wonderland Ave😉

      • John 3:47 pm on September 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        If you go to the Zillow page, it’s for lease right now. $3500/month. Lots of nice interior photos. Joy and Billy had a window unit, don’t remember one for Ron’s room though. He was sweatin’ to the oldies down there!

  • John 3:01 pm on September 20, 2016 Permalink  

    This Short Story Was Submitted To A True Crime Magazine 

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  • John 11:01 am on September 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: commodore nutt, lavinia warren, tom thumb   

    Rivals In Love: Commodore Nutt vs. General Tom Thumb 

    Trigger warning: The cuteness factor is off the charts in this tale


    General Thumb, Lavinia, Commodore Nutt and Lavinia’s sister Minnie

    At its peak during the 1800s, P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York was raking in $3,000 per day. Such was the general public’s fascination with human oddities and strange exhibits at the time (and even today). Part showman-part fraudster, Barnum was always looking for the next big attraction to draw in crowds at his house of sideshows, special people and exhibits. As friends who had made a fortune together, Tom Thumb and Barnum had parted ways while Thumb sought new ventures out west. Barnum needed a replacement.

    Born George Washington Morrison Nutt to a farming family in New Hampshire, Nutt was spotted working in a circus when Barnum offered him a huge $10,000 per year contract to appear at his New York museum. Standing a little over two feet tall, and unlike his predecessor Thumb, who was a peaceful man – Nutt was the polar opposite. With a temper as short as his stature, Nutt immediately saw Thumb, who had come to visit Barnum, as his competition. When Thumb was present, Nutt strutted the walk like he was a rooster of the coop. It would only get worse when a lovely little lady showed up in Barnum’s employ.

    Lavinia Warren was a pretty young lady who had once been a school teacher. Standing a bit over two feet tall, it must have been an interesting sight in the classroom – all of her little students being taller than she was. Her little sister Minnie was even more tiny. The girls had been born to a family of regular-sized folks.

    Like Thumb, George Nutt was to travel the world and become very rich and while meeting interesting and powerful people along the way. At a meeting with Abraham Lincoln in the White House, and upon his departure, Abe offered the little Commodore some advice:

    “Commodore, when you are at sea with your fleet and the battle is turning against you and when it is certain you will become a prisoner – I would say that you should just wade ashore” (Lincoln assumed Nutt’s tiny ship would not be in very deep waters). To which Nutt replied with his quick-wit while staring up at the tall man: “Mr. President, that’s easy for you to say”.

    Tom Thumb had been hit by a thunderbolt from the blue. He had just arrived at Barnum’s and met Lavinia Warren. The General immediately went to Barnum’s office for love and marriage advice. Barnum asked him to calm down and take his time. He then set up a long weekend hook-up at his home in Connecticut, but he made the mistake of inviting Lavinia in the presence of Nutt, who was also in love with her. Nutt asked if he could come visit also and Barnum obliged, but only after Nutt’s Friday night scheduled appearance in New York City.

    Even before love complicated the two men’s lives, Nutt had often started squabbles with Thumb, and on one occasion even taking the older man down to the floor for some ground-and-pound. Nutt was a scrappy lil gent, so when Barnum and wife turned in early that night, leaving Thumb and Lavinia to talk in the living room, Nutt finally showed up banging on the door and yelling from outside. Once inside however, Nutt went banging on Barnum’s door, “Mr. Barnum, does Thumb board here!?” Only to be told that Tom and Lavinia were now engaged to be married. “My fruit is now plucked!” cried the little Commodore. But alas, he swallowed his pride and relented, becoming Tom’s best man. Lavinia’s sister Minnie was maid of honor.


    Of course, Barnum made spectacle and attraction out of the nuptials. He sold $75 tickets to the reception of 5,000 people at the New York Metropolitan Hotel. All kinds of celebrities and dignitaries attended. The Lincolns sent the couple some exotic Chinese fire screens. Tom and Lavinia stood on a piano and greeted the guests as they arrived. The Commodore died unmarried in his thirties – a love unrequited. When Thumb died at age 45 of a stroke, over 10,000 people in Bridgeport attended his funeral. The mob consisted of mostly women and young girls.

    A strange thing has been going on for the past 150 years. Parents have been staging Tom Thumb Weddings with their children posing as bride and groom, in full regalia and with no half-measures taken whatsoever. It’s a very strange phenomenon.


    Very Special People by Frederick Drimmer

  • John 10:49 am on September 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: clubber williams, hungry joe lewis, thomas byrnes   

    Hungry Joe Lewis Swindles Oscar Wilde 

    Hungry Joe was originally born Frank Alvany in Chicago (or was it Baltimore?), but as a swindler and confidence-man (con-man), was so popular for his deeds around New York City, that the infamous policeman Alex “Clubber” Williams, once recognized him as the man who swindled his brother on a ferry ride, he then grabbed the huckster by the shirt and tossed him out the door of the station house into the street. Joe’s game of chance in which to con those wishing to part with their money quickly, was Banco or Bunco. Bunco is a dice game, played in teams with three dice.

    Hungry Joe would set his foundation of the con by say, staying at a nice hotel or by traveling on a ship or train, establishing his new identity, and finding his mark (generally someone of means and wealth). He would then feign recognition of the person and through thorough research on the person, be able to walk right up to them and feel like an old chum, or a local from the hometown. He had the gift of gab, and was especially successful with more trusting, elderly men. Joe reeled in many takers with this scam: Civil War General John Logan (whom is credited with the advent of the Memorial Day holiday), Joe only “borrowed” fifty bucks from him and disappeared, a hotel detective giving away his identity; tycoons and bankers; politicians like the grandson of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, Sr., whom Joe, when he saw the aging grandpa’s bankroll, simply grabbed it and ran out the door; and also the Irish writer, Oscar Wilde.

    Lewis met Wilde while the latter was in New York at the starting off point of his now famous 1882 American lecture tour. Lewis worked up the con over several days, gaining Wilde’s friendship and trust along the way. How he eventually got these men of means into a greedy game of street dice is by having meals with them and retiring to a “friend’s” parlor to play a friendly game. Alas, playing on their human needs and feelings: greed, easy money, excitement, etc., as often happens to marks.

    Lewis alleged to have gotten $1,500 in cash from Wilde, even before being written a check for another $5,000. But as Wilde began to realize he had been conned, he simply stopped payment on the check. But his legend was sealed, Hungry Joe was to become one of the most famous, or infamous, con-men of the era. NYPD police inspector Thomas Byrnes humorously said of Wilde, that he “reaped a harvest of American dollars with his curls, sun flowers and knee-britches” he was no less a swindler than Lewis, “only not quite so sharp.”

    In 1885, Joe was said to be working in a new protege named Oliver. But by 1888, Joe was busted conning a Baltimore businessman out of $5,000 and sentenced to nine years in prison. Upon his release, Joe returned to NYC, but jail had not been kind to the handsome flim-flam man: a bit slower in step, eyes not as bright as before, hair sprinkled with silver. Hungry Joe was said to have rounded out his days selling cigars or as Joe put it, doing honest work for a change: working as a bookmaker, or selling his own gambling tip-sheets at the horse races.

    Joe passed away a few years later in 1902. He was about fifty.


    Low Life by Luc Sante
    Professional Criminals in America by Thomas Byrnes
    NY Times
    Brooklyn Daily Eagle

    • Gayle 7:34 pm on September 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve never replied to one of your posts this way?? Does it get sent to the same blog email address?

      Wow!! I love this story and Hungry Joe, what a sly swindler. He looks like he could’ve been very attractive from looking at that photo. I’m sure his looks helped a lot. I love that photo, he’s definitely wearing black eyeliner like they used in the old silent films. It makes him look creepy. Unbelievable! How he conned all those dignitaries and Oscar Wilde!! I wonder if he did straighten out when he got out of the pen.

      I enjoy all of your posts, but I truly enjoyed and loved this one!! 🙂


      • John 9:54 am on September 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        He died a few years after prison at about 50 years old. RIP Hungry Joe and Oscar.

  • John 1:32 pm on August 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Collyer Bros – Setting The Benchmark In Hoarding 

    Unmarried – Lived with parents until middle-age – Sounds suspicious! Oh and they collected all kinds of things in their Manhattan townhouse – to the tune of 130+ tons of junk and mementos, including fourteen pianos, rusty bicycles, 25,000 books, three dress-making mannequins, old beds and box springs, everything once owned by their mother and father, broken furniture, pickled human organs in jars from their father’s medical practice, boxes of empty soda and beer bottles, eight live cats and untold dead ones. The only thing not found in the house was Howard Hughes.

    Oh, and their home was booby trapped. Because being strange was not enough, the brothers were also paranoid that someone was going to steal their useless junk. And this was in 1947.

    The brothers were born during the Gilded Age in New York City. Both were very intelligent, having gone to college and graduated. One was a talented concert pianist, having played at Carnegie Hall. Enough with the words, let’s look at some photos! (and I don’t know why but strange NYC cases bother me more than the other things I’ve seen on this planet)

    Sorry ladies at Grey Gardens, these two gents have you beat! A pile of empty cat food cans doesn’t count. I think I saw a book or two available on these brothers, maybe a movie also. Go digging if you want to know more.

    Oh, and cops don’t get paid enough. Look at that detective going ledge to ledge!




  • John 10:54 am on August 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , widow   

    Legs Diamond’s Widow: I’m Tired Of Protecting Mugs! 

    To bookend the sordid tale of Legs’ murder two weeks ago. There is no closure in this one.

    Those apartments in Brooklyn certainly maintain themselves. Someone is renting Legs’ old lady’s pad and they probably don’t even know about it. Except for the ZZ Top cars in the first picture, and the duct tape on the BMW in the second (and the window a/c units) you might think it’s the same photograph.

    Something tells me Kiki Roberts, the other woman in Legs’ life, got whatever cash he had squandered away…


  • John 1:26 pm on August 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: jacob riis, new york city, newsboys   

    The Little People Of Old New York City 

    “That ignorance plays its part, as well as poverty and bad hygienic surroundings, in the sacrifice of life is of course inevitable.”

    –Jacob Riis

    * * * *

    Estimates vary, but in the late 1800s there were anywhere from 20-to-40,000 homeless children making it on their own in New York City. The legends of the newsboys and the girls who sold corn-on-the-cob on street corners demand our attention today.

    One-hundred and twenty-six years ago, when Jacob Riis took his photographer’s lens to the slums and tenements of old New York City, he was embarking on uncharted territory – that of a photojournalist. His actions, by way of his book “How the Other Half Lives”, actually helped to foster change in the slums. He did it with in your face guilt by way of the children and the elderly poor. In reading an engaging story from history, it is not uncommon to have feelings for the subjects. Then, the mind starts to wander and one has to reel themselves back in with something similar to “My goodness, here I am waxing sentimental for someone who’s been dead for eighty or ninety years!”. Then, I find that I have collected enough husks to share, so why not make a blog post.

    Children were to be invisible. Seen and not heard. Older street boys who were not yet old enough to join a real gang, but too old to be playing marbles carried with them the moniker “street arabs”. They made money as bootblacks and some were probably just your local bullies of the block. The younger boys were called of course, newsboys. Such a romantic and affectionate role the newsboys had at the time, there was even a former newsboy who became a crowd-favorite, bare-knuckle prizefighter named “Swipes the newsboy” (real name Simon Besser). He was said to have killed a man in the ring. All of this long before regular and sanctioned bouts and modern rules of the sweet science.

    Young girls would sell items on the street corners, whether food, sweets or trinkets. Girls aged 12 to 18 could waitress and serve booze at any of the hundreds of dives, wearing skimpy outfits. Family ties are what usually indentured a girl or boy to work in a dangerous factory, to help the family with money, etc. When one sees the old photos of child labor – it was not the child’s choice, and a homeless child would rather risk life in the street than succumb to such hell as factory work. Street girls did what they had to do also.

    However small these lads were, it was still a man’s world, so the street arabs and newsboys also had their social time: mini-saloons and watering holes for a game of faro or craps. The street arabs and newsboys alike could get a “three-cent whiskey” or curry favors from the little girls that worked in the backrooms. And these are the more or less homeless children, seen back then as some sort of miniature adults in society. Most poor kids were expected to take care of themselves at a certain age, and whether they left the house voluntarily or were kicked out remains to be seen. Certainly, there were religious ministers and relief agencies aplenty, but the city was just too enormous.

    An adolescent gang of boys who called themselves the “Baxter Street Dudes” even operated their own little theatre in the 1870s – they charged admission, put on “blood and thunder” plays of the era, which are not unlike the lure of “action movies” for boys in the present day. Under their leader, Baby-Faced Willie, the Grand Duke’s Theatre functioned for many years as a hideout and dive for these young people. Constant fighting at the theatre finally led cops to shut the ad hoc playhouse down. But as legend would have it, these kids wrote and starred in their own plays and musicals, something that would be mimicked forty years later on film in Hal Roach’s “The L’il Rascals” television show.

    But back to Jacob Riis’ books (he did a few sequels), of which the saddest case studies are of Katie and Pietro. This is because they spoke to us. And we don’t know what happened to them. Luckily, both kids were with their families, Pietro sitting at the kitchen table of their tenement flat, as he seems eager to learn his letters and school lessons – his proud father, probably tired as hell after a long day at the docks or pushing a cart looks over his son and with his broken English he says “Pietro is a good boy”.

    Father and Pietro

    Father and Pietro

    And across Manhattan, while Katie helps her mother by cleaning and doing chores. When asked by Jacob Riis what the little one does all day, she simply replied “I scrubs”. But she also went to school. Katie took care of the house, as everybody else in the poor family worked.



    And we sign off today by bringing you, the dear reader, a rare photo of The Short-Tails, or Shirt-Tales, a well known NYC gang during the era. They numbered in the fifties. Most of these gangs were just drunks who loved to fight and steal. It’s also hard to look tough wearing a bowler hat, but they did. At least two of them have what seems like that thousand-yard stare from being in one too many battles.

    Photo taken by NYPD police boat under a pier as the boys shared a pail of beer

    Photo taken by NYPD police boat under a pier as the boys shared a pail of beer


    Low Life by Luc Sante

    The books of Jacob Riis


  • John 2:21 pm on August 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , prohibition   

    Legs Diamond: Cheap Mug & Package Thief 

    In the old news articles, if you were a crook on the business end of crime piece, they were bound to have fun with your odd physiology – if you possessed anything noteworthy. Criminals were often referred to as being short, fat, having a swarthy complexion. If it was a female then maybe she was “a bit on the heavy side” or how the “femme-sneak thief had stunningly beautiful raven hair”. And in the more innocent human interest stories they always maintain that “so-and-so, a smart and pretty girl, won the bake sale”.

    Legs was one of those gangsters who was adored by the public, for whatever reasons.

    Diamond’s ostrich-like limbs seemed to start at his Adam’s apple … he ran like an ostrich … and so he made his getaway by legging it:

    Posthumous article.

    Posthumous article.


  • John 11:11 am on August 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    A Gallery Of Mob Funerals 


    A mobster’s family and his friends will spare no expense on his final day above ground. When Joe “the Boss” Masseria was gunned down in 1931, his casket cost $15,000:


    In contrast, when Mad Dog Coll was rubbed out the following year in 1932 in a Manhattan phone booth, hardly anyone attended his funeral. Mad Dog was not well liked for he was a kidnapping-for-ransom and extortion thug. He also shot up a sidewalk full of children in 1931 while attempting to kill another gangster. This incident became known as the “Harlem Baby Massacre”. A dozen people showed up in the mud for Mad Dog’s burial. The writer casts it as a spooky scene, almost:


    And here is the promised gallery – many a rogue’s final day on Earth:

  • John 10:36 am on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: landship recruit   

    The Landship USS Recruit 

    After two years in Manhattan, she was to be dismantled, moved to Coney Island and reassembled, but her fate after this initial docking in Union Square remains unknown.

    USS Recruit, also known as the Landship Recruit, was a wooden mockup of a dreadnought battleship constructed by the United States Navy in Manhattan in New York City, as a recruiting tool and training ship during the First World War. Commissioned as if it were a normal vessel of the U.S. Navy and manned by a crew of trainee sailors, Recruit was located in Union Square from 1917 until the end of the war. In 1920, with the reduced requirements for manning in the post-war Navy, Recruit was decommissioned, dismantled, and moved to Coney Island. The New York Times reported at the time that the “Landship” had helped the U.S. Navy recruit 25,000 men into the service—625 times the size of her own crew, and enough to crew twenty-eight battleships.

    • Gayle 11:48 am on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This is very interesting. That’s a lot of recruitments made from just the site of a ship. Photos of old war submarines or displayed in a museum are cool. It wouldn’t have taken much to recruit me at the site of one of those back then!

    • Gayle 12:08 pm on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      …and great photos too!

    • Matthew Wright 12:11 am on August 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Amazing story – it must have been almost surreal, back then, to see a ‘dreadnought’ sitting in the middle of New York!

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