20 Significant Mafia Hits
20 Significant Mafia Hits

20 Significant Mafia Hits

Khalid Elhassan - February 19, 2019

20 Significant Mafia Hits
Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles. Pintrest

3. Kid Twist: The Canary Who Couldn’t Fly

Abe “Kid Twist” Reles was a Lower East Side gangster, who ended up as one of Murder Incorporated’s leading hitmen. In 1940, he was implicated in the killing of a minor gangster, and to save himself, he agreed to spill the beans and testify against his colleagues in over 200 murders. It was the first inkling the authorities had of the streamlined contract killing machine’s existence, which by then had carried out over 1000 hits, and it led to the unraveling of Murder Incorporated. Reles turned out to be a savant, with a freakish photographic memory that allowed him to testify in detail about every murder he had been involved in or heard of, including dates, participants, where the killings had taken place, and how they had been carried out.

Once Reles started singing, four other Murder Inc. hitmen turned state’s evidence, and joined him in testifying against their former colleagues. They and Reles were stashed by the authorities in the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Early in the morning of November 12th, 1941, with police guarding the door, Reles fell out of his sixth floor room’s window. Police explained it as an accidental death, but it was clear that the mob had gotten to his police bodyguards, and that one or more of them had pushed him out. As one mobster put it: “The canary could sing, but he couldn’t fly“.

20 Significant Mafia Hits
Albert ‘Lord High Executioner’ Anastasia. Pintrest

2. The Execution of the “Lord High Executioner”

Albert Anastasia (1902 – 1957) was Murder Incorporated’s second in command, second only to Lepke Buchalter. He rose to head the entire operation in 1936, when Buchalter had to go on the lam. Unlike Buchalter, who had kept a low profile, Anastasia enjoyed letting everybody know that he was a vicious murderer. He took such joy in his duties with Murder Inc. that he became the most feared mobster of his era, earning the nicknames “Lord High Executioner” and “The Mad Hatter”.

He survived Murder Incorporated’s unraveling when the chief witness against him, Abe Reles, “fell” to his death from a 6th floor window just before he was scheduled to testify against Anastasia. He went on to found the Gambino crime family, until karma belatedly caught up with him on October 25th, 1957, in the barber shop of NYC’s Park Sheraton Hotel. As the Mad Hatter relaxed in his chair, two assassins, their faces covered with scarves, burst in, shoved the barber out of the way, and riddled Anastasia with bullets.

20 Significant Mafia Hits
Rioters breaking into the New Orleans Parrish prison on March 14th, 1891. Wikimedia

1. The Most Significant Mob Hit Backfired Horribly on the Mob

Perhaps no single mob hit had a more significant or longer lasting impact on the Italian-American mafia than one that took place on October 15th, 1890, in New Orleans, claiming the life of the city’s police chief. Rival Sicilian crime families had been engaged in a turf war over control of the waterfront, and when the violence spilled over, the citizens clamored for the authorities to do something about it. When the police chief launched an investigation of mafia activities, he was gunned down as he was walking home from work. His last words before expiring were “the Dagoes shot me“. The backlash was immediate, and 19 mobsters were arrested and prosecuted.

In a first trial of 9 of them, the defendants successfully tampered with the jury, and despite overwhelming evidence, 6 were acquitted while the other 3 had hung juries. The following day, March 14th, 1891, a mob numbering in the thousands, including some of New Orleans’ most prominent citizens, stormed into the prison housing the defendants, and lynched 11 of them. It was biggest single mass lynching in American history. It had a salutary effect, by demonstrating to the mob that America was not the Old Country, where criminals could get away with brazen defiance of law and order. In response, the mob adopted strict rules against targeting law enforcement, even preemptively killing mafiosi who threatened to go after cops or prosecutors.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

American Mafia History – “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn

Am-Pole Eagle – The Man That Al Capone Feared

Encyclopedia Britannica – Jim Colosimo

Biography – Sam Giancana

Crime Magazine, October 14th, 2009 – The Guileless Gangster

Encyclopedia Britannica – Salvatore Maranzano

Gangster Report – The Last Purple: Harry Millman

J Grit – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, Gangster, Murder Inc.

Mafia History – What Do We Know About Frankie Yale?

Mafia Wiki – Johnny Torrio

Mob Museum – Albert Anastasia

Mob Museum – Who Killed Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel?

National Crime Syndicate – How Did Joe Masseria Get Killed?

New York History Blog – The Corpse in the Grey Suit

NY Daily News, December 15th, 2015 – Paul Castellano Hit, 30 Years Later

Ozy, October 15th, 2017 – The Heroin Don’s Last Meal

Ranker – Most Violent Mob Hits

Wikipedia – March 14, 1891 New Orleans Lynchings

Wikipedia – Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre