Al Capone, Alcatraz escape and kidnappings: Top 7 mobster and gangster stories - Best of The Vault 2022
Where did Al Capone and other mobsters hunker down in in the Upper Midwest? Who was 'Creepy' Karpis? What happened in the Bohn kidnapping? All these stories and more in Best of The Vault 2022.
While Minnesota and the Dakotas are likely the first places that come to mind when people think "mobsters" and "gangsters," the region has seen its fair share of organized crime and conspiracy.
Our Best of The Vault 2022 include the following seven stories featuring notables such as Al Capone and less notables such as 'Creepy' Karpis and others who terrorized the Upper Midwest in their time.
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1. Al Capone slept here
Many mobsters cooled their heels at lodges at the lakes, shores and northwoods of the Upper Midwest, including perhaps the most famous of them all: Al Capone.
Some of these sites are still active destination for us non-mobster types, while others locations are now local legends, including one forest ruin.
2. The Bohn kidnapping
How do you know you're a bad kidnapper? When you score a ransom and still the story of the kidnapping is the degree to which the job didn't pay off.
That's the tale of the Haskell Bohn kidnapping in 1932. Bohn was a scion of a wealthy Minnesota family founded on a refrigeration fortune.
As it turns out, that didn't necessarily make him the best target, or set his kidnappers up for a lifetime on Easy Street.
- Part 1: Unlikely millionaire's heir held captive for 6 days in Minnesota basement in 1932
- Part 2: Police transcript reveals 6-day kidnapping ordeal of heir of Minnesota millionaire
- Part 3: Minnesota millionaire's kidnapping ends in tragedy for captor
3. 'Creepy' Karpis
In the fall of 1932, 46-year-old bookkeeper Ruth Whipps was the only woman who worked at Citizen’s National Bank in Wahpeton, North Dakota.
On Sept. 30, she was grabbed by a bank robber, forced to cling for dear life to the outside of his speeding getaway car, and riddled with bullets.
For decades, she never knew the identity of the man. But as it turns out, the man who took her hostage was one of America’s most notorious gangsters, “Public Enemy No. 1.”
- How an ND woman kidnapped by gangster 'Creepy' Karpis and shot in his getaway car finally got justice
4. The Alcatraz escape
Three men pulled off the impossible in 1962 and escaped Alcatraz, the legendary maximum security prison in San Francisco Bay. What happened to them remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the U.S. prison system.
Their story became the inspiration for the 1979 hit movie starring Clint Eastwood: “Escape from Alcatraz.” And as it turns out, there are tantalizing clues about where the three real-life prison escapees ended up, including ... North Dakota?
- He escaped from Alcatraz, but did he escape to North Dakota?
- New images show what Alcatraz escapee would have looked like while living in North Dakota
5. The teenage bootlegger
In the 1920s, Engolf Snortland started running with a bad crowd, later kidnapped the wrong man, and went to prison. He moved home to North Dakota for a fresh start, only to be shot dead.
In the years to come, the fallout from his unusual case would reach the state Supreme Court and inspire groundbreaking legislation in North Dakota.
- He had been a 14-year-old bootlegger, but wanted a fresh start. His murder sparked the 'slayer law' in ND
6. The O'Connor 'Agreement'
It became a glorified permission slip for mobsters.
What was known as "The O’Connor Layover Agreement" was created by Saint Paul Police Chief John O’Connor in 1900. It essentially gave criminals free rein to lay low in St. Paul, as long as they followed some rules, kicked some bribes over to the police department, and didn't commit crimes in the city.
Everywhere else, though, was fair game — and it made Minnesota a hub for organized crime.
7. The 'Beer Baron'
No one can quite figure out why the kingpin of one Minnesota town's illegal liquor business would mastermind a bank robbery, then try to attract the attention of the police on the way out of town.
No matter why he did it, Jake Schumacher helped put the nail in the coffin of gangster life in town.
After being back-stabbed, 'Beer Baron' unleashed a weird crime
A family of five was shot to death by Neil M. Pladson in 1970. Pladson was imprisoned, then released to a halfway house in 1987. A year later, he was found strangled to death in his apartment.