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Bowery Boys Bookshelf True Crime

‘The Vapors’: How an Arkansas spa town became a New York gangster paradise

Owney Madden was one of New York’s most infamous gangsters, a bootlegger and murderer who seemed to cross paths with every major cultural marker of the Roaring 20s. He opened the Cotton Club (with Jack Johnson), dated Mae West, and operated a liquor smuggling racket that catered to the city’s busiest speakeasies. In essence Madden […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf True Crime

The Belle of Bedford Avenue: Wild Brooklyn teens in a shocking real-life 1902 murder mystery

I finished reading Virginia A. McConnell‘s true-crime page-turner The Belle of Bedford Avenue and promptly went to listen to my favorite musical cast album — Chicago. Florence Burns, the ‘bad girl’ of McConnell’s tale, easily could have been the inspiration for Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly had she been a 1920s flapper. Burns’ real-life troubles, however, predate those of […]

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Podcasts True Crime

Enter the Tombs, Five Points’ notorious house of detention in the heart of Old New York

PODCAST Many stories of 19th century New York City seem to lead to the Tombs, a stark prison complex with menacing architecture and a fearful reputation. Some might find it strange that the Manhattan Detention Complex — one of New York City’s municipal jails — should be located next to the bustling neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy. Stranger still is […]

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American History True Crime

Insanity: 160 years ago today, Congressman Daniel Sickles shot and killed the son of Francis Scott Key

On the 160th anniversary of the killing of Phillip Barton Key, I’m reposting this article from 2014 which originally ran on the 100th anniversary of Daniel Sickle’s death. We don’t have large, parade-like funeral processions marching up the avenues as they once did during the Gilded Age and in the early years of the 20th […]

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Podcasts True Crime

The Murder on Bond Street: Who Killed Dr. Burdell?

PODCAST A gaslight murder mystery with more twists than an Agatha Christie novel! On January 31, 1857, a prominent dentist named Harvey Burdell was found brutally murdered — strangled, then stabbed 15 times — in his office and home and Bond Street, a once-trendy street between Broadway and the Bowery. The suspects for this horrific crime populated the rooms […]

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The Alienist True Crime

The Alleged New York Murders of Jack the Ripper

HISTORY BEHIND THE SCENE What’s the real story behind that historical scene from your favorite TV show or feature film? A semi-regular feature on the Bowery Boys blog, we will be reviving this series as we follow along with TNT’s limited series The Alienist. Look for other articles here about other historically themed television shows (Mad Men, The […]

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True Crime

Frank Serpico: A new documentary revisits the making of a hero (and a myth)

Frank Serpico is a member of an elite group of important American figures (along with Erin Brockovich and Karen Silkwood) that are almost entirely defined by the actors who played them in movies. Even if you lived in New York City in the early 1970s and remember Serpico from the headlines, most likely you picture […]

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True Crime

‘Dead End’: Reviving a Bogart classic in a space with history of its own

In 1935, the play Dead End by Sidney Kingsley debuted on Broadway, arriving with great anticipation as Kingsley had just won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the previous year with his play Men In White. Today this is probably the least interesting detail about Dead End. You probably know Dead End for one of two […]

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True Crime

A handy guide to the most loathsome saloons on the Bowery in 1903

Many of the bars and taverns found on the Bowery today are unfortunately clean, friendly and even trendy establishments, wonderful safe places to meet with friends and family. Not a ruffian or scoundrel in sight. Where’s the fun in that?! Of course, for most of its history, the Bowery was one of the most notorious places […]

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On The Waterfront True Crime

The tale of Newgate, the New York state prison in the West Village

You may not be aware of the Weehawken Historic District, a collection of 14 buildings of unique architectural character in the far West Village.  It lies at the foot of Christopher Street and centers around the one-block-long Weehawken Street. You really should take a stroll down here. It will take you all of one minute; the street […]

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True Crime

‘Days of Rage’ and Nights of Terror

Right before noon on March 6, 1970, an explosion tore open a lovely Greenwich Village townhouse at 18 West 11th Street and awoke New York City to a violent new threat. The remains of three bodies were discovered in the smoking debris but they weren’t residents of this quiet neighborhood. They were members of The Weather […]

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True Crime

Terror on Sunday: The failed plot to blow up St. Patrick’s Cathedral

On the afternoon of October 13, 1914, a bomb exploded in the northwest corner of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, sending deadly iron shrapnel flying through the room. A stained glass window was shattered and an 18-inch hole (shown in the picture below) was blown into the floor.  While the pews were partially filled with worshipers, there was only a […]

Categories
True Crime Wartime New York

In 1914, a Jersey City fireworks and munitions plant exploded. Was it sabotage by the Germans?

One hundred years ago today, the Detwiller & Street fireworks plant, located in the Greenville section of Jersey City, exploded in a horrible shower of fire and glass.  Four men were killed instantly and dozens of employees were injured.  Several surrounding buildings “fell to pieces like houses of cards.”   The rumble shook buildings throughout […]

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Mysterious Stories True Crime

The Dictaphone Murder Trial of 1914: A Mystery In Pictures

Does this woman look like a murderer to you? This is Florence Carman, the wife of Dr. Edwin Carman, one of the most respected men in Freeport, on Long Island’s south shore.  Mrs. Carman would be at the center of a murder trial that captivated New Yorkers 100 years ago. Dr. Carman received a visitor […]

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True Crime

That rascal Daniel Sickles, the beloved politician and veteran who killed the son of Francis Scott Key

We don’t have large, parade-like funeral processions marching up the avenues as they once did during the Gilded Age and in the early years of the 20th century. These events were times of public mourning and a bit of festivity.  Most often they involved the passing of a well-connected political leader or a popular entertainers. […]