In addition to being the saint’s day of Valentine, martyr and patron of lovers, February 14 is the anniversary of a number of bloody deeds that have nothing to do with love or romance.
Certainly this holds true for the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre, the bloodiest episode in Chicago mob history. A culmination of a turf war between “Scarface” Al Capone and an Irish mobster named George “Bugs” Moran, its intent was to get Moran out of the way. Two things intervened that day to save Moran; he saw a couple of men in police uniform entering 2122 North Clark Street, where the massacre took place, turned around and left, while a Capone gunman mistook Moran gang member Albert Weinschenk for Moran himself, thus setting the massacre in motion before Moran’s arrival.
There are stories that the empty lot that once was 2122 North Clark Street is haunted to this day by phantom gunshots and the traumatized spirit of a German shepherd, the pet of one victim. Less well-known, perhaps, is the haunting that followed none other than Scarface himself, beginning in 1929 and, it’s said, continuing until his own death in 1947.
Capone thought it expedient, once the smoke of the massacre had cleared somewhat, to get out of Chicago for awhile. He and an associate took a road trip to Pennsylvania, where they fell afoul of local weapons laws and were sentenced to eight months in Philadelphia’s infamous Eastern State Penitentiary. Capone’s money insured that, in theory, he did not do hard time.
Or did he?
It was during his stay in Eastern State that early reports surfaced of a weeping, terrified Capone begging someone he called "Jimmy" to leave him alone.
Jimmy, it transpired, was the specter of James Clark, one of the seven men who died on that bloody February 14th. Born Albert Kachellek, Clark was Bugs Moran's second in command and brother-in-law. Why he, of the seven–not to mention all the other men who, down the years, had died on Capone's orders–should show up to haunt Scarface Al is a mystery. Some have suggested that Capone was already suffering from softening of the brain and possible hallucinations due to neurosyphilis; others, that Clark was a fragment of Capone's guilty conscience, if such Capone had; or even, perhaps, was a ghostly union rep of sorts, leader of all those whose secondhand blood stained Capone's hands.
There were those among Capone's guards and close friends, however, who would claim to have seen Clark's ghost, staring fish-eyed at Capone as Capone begged for mercy.
Capone is said to have called in a medium named Alice Britt in 1931 to try to find out what Clark wanted. Apparently, Britt was unsuccessful, and Clark continued to follow Capone: through his trial for income tax evasion, through the first years of his eleven-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, and then, in 1934, to the Rock–Alcatraz, where Capone did three turns in "the hole" for rules infractions, played a fifteen-hundred-dollar banjo in a prison band and in the shower, was confined in solitary after attempts were made on his life, and slowly lost his mind.
Paroled in 1939, Capone left Alcatraz a broken man. Back in Chicago the mob had moved on; new leaders had taken his place, and even those loyal to him realized, once they saw him, that Capone would never control the mob again; as one observed, "Al's nuttier than a fruitcake."
Capone died, ironically, in his bed, of cardiac arrest following a stroke and a bout of pneumonia, in 1947. The ghost of James Clark, it's said, was with him till the end.
After Capone's death, no one reported an encounter with James Clark's spirit again.
The Haunting of Al Capone at prairieghosts.com
Dennis William Hauck, The National Directory of Haunted Places (1996 edition)
Ursula Bielski, More Chicago Haunts: Scenes from Myth and Memory (2000)
Jeff Belanger, Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World (2005)
For stories specific to the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre:
Dale Kaczmarek, Windy City Ghosts: The Haunted History of Chicago (2000)
Richard T. Crowe and Carol Mercado, Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2000)
And may your Valentine’s Day be a happy one–just sayin’– 😉