Michael Malloy (1873 – 1933) was a homeless Irish immigrant who lived in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s, and became legendary for surviving repeated murder attempts by acquaintances who befriended him, then sought to kill him in order to collect life insurance policies that they had taken out on him, which earned him the nicknames “Iron Mike” or “Mike the Durable”.
Malloy was an alcoholic, and a longtime and loyal client of Marino’s, a rundown speakeasy in the Bronx where he drank on credit until he passed out on the floor more often than not, paying when he could whenever he drifted into temporary employment such as street cleaner or coffin polisher and letting the tab run for months when he drifted out of employment and had no money.
In June of 1932, the speakeasy’s proprietor and namesake, Tony Marino, concocted a plan with four acquaintances whereby, with the connivance of a corrupt insurance agent, they would take out life insurance policies on Malloy, get him to drink himself to death, and collect when he perished. After taking out the policies, Marino extended Malloy unlimited credit at the speakeasy.
The assumption was that Malloy would drink himself to death, but day in and day out, the old Irishman drank all his waking hours, without suffering much. To speed him along, the plotters began adding antifreeze to his booze, but old Malloy simply drank until he passed out, then asked for more when he came to. Marino and his co-conspirators then upped the ante, substituting turpentine for antifreeze.
Malloy was unfazed. They switched from turpentine to horse liniment – basically, liquid Bengay. Malloy quaffed it down and asked for more. They then added rat poison to the mix. Malloy’s constitution did not seem to notice. Oysters soaked in wood alcohol did not do the trick, nor did a spoiled sardines sandwich sprinkled with metal shavings.
Finally deciding that nothing he drank or ate at would kill him, the plotters decided to freeze Malloy to death, and so one cold winter night when the temperature dipped to minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit, they waited for him to pass out, then carried him to a park, dumped him in the snow, and poured 5 gallons of water on his chest to make sure he froze solid. Malloy showed up the next day for his booze on credit.
They then ran him over with a taxi owned by one of the plotters, but that only put Malloy in a hospital for three weeks with broken bones, and he reappeared at the speakeasy upon his release. Finally, on February 22nd, 1932, they stuck a gas hose in Malloy’s mouth after he passed out and turned on the jets, which finally did the trick.
The plotters collected on the insurance, but rumors of “Mike the Durable” began making the rounds, and when they reached the insurers and police, Malloy’s body was exhumed and reexamined, and the truth came out. The plotters were tried and convicted in 1934. One got a prison sentence, while the other four, including Tony Marino, the speakeasy’s proprietor, got the death sentence and were executed in Sing Sing prison.