The Golden Age of Organized Crime and My Hometown


By: J. Arens

I live in a small town. And I love it. It feels like everyone knows everyone. And, in a strange sort of way, some people around here have the same odd half obsession with the golden era of Organized Crime I do. That, for the record, would be the 1920s and 1930s. Prohibition Era was a wild time, and difficult on small towns. The vein of…pride-for lack of a better word-or protection for the men that came to town with expensive cars, thick fur coats and expensive shoes, is still very much alive in 2023. I’ve only lived here about five years, and what follows is the small list of five stories that have been dropped in my lap. In fact, most came up naturally.

Sunken Car

Just a few miles from where I call home is a small lake. It’s not anything particularly special, but the secret it hides is. In that lake is a car from the last few years of The Roaring Twenties. None one knows exactly why it ended up there, but it’s there, still stirring up stories. According to the locals, after a little bit of scuba diving, it’s still there. It’s only about 20 feet under water, sunk to its door handles in the muck. The car guys in the nearby town have spent hours around the breakfast table, sipping coffee, discussing how to rise the wreck. It’s almost to the point that it’s become the local Titanic. They have tossed many theories around. They’ve talked about hook trucks on land and a salvage boat in the lake. Honestly, the plan reminded me a lot of the scene in the Pixar movie Cars when the tow truck was fishing in the canyon and found his hood. I’m told that the car appears solid enough door handles up. The problem is below those door handles. Muck is a metal eater. No one wants to be the one to pull the body from the frame. Because well, if they raise it, they also want to resurrect it. Put it in the nearby auto museum. So far, the car still sits there, no one willing to wake her from her slumber and risk pulling her apart.

The Accountant’s Cottage

Just up the sharp incline from the sunken car is a cute little lake cottage that’s been on the lake edge for a full century and some change. According to the local legend, this is where Capone’s accountant liked to summer. It’s from that driveway the aforementioned car came. No one knows when or how the car was sent to its watery grave. Some joke it was the accountant’s idea. Some sort of tax write off. Others think that might have been a fluke accident. The parking brake wasn’t engaged, and the car wandered off on its own.

The Farmhouse

Directly across the street from the little cottage on the shore of the lake is an old rambling farmhouse. It’s been there longer than the cottage, but this is where Capone stayed when he came to spend time with his accountant (who should have been fired, tax evasion…really). The house is still there. There used to be a tunnel between the farmhouse and the cottage on the lake. The locals whisper Capone would come into town and go to the farmhouse, but wouldn’t be seen again until he left. Of course now, everyone is convinced that the tunnel has been filled in and the two ends stopped up. The farmhouse is owned by someone different than the cottage. And as far as I’ve been able to tell, no one has even bothered to look for them.

The Doctor’s House

Just a few miles away from that lake, there’s a grand Victorian house that’s set back from the road. In the 1920s, a very wealthy doctor lived there. Well liked by the local townspeople, from what I’ve been told, but with a…poorly guarded secret. Under the house is supposedly a large number of tunnels, and from what I’m led to believe, they used to rival the tunnels under Barracks Three in Hogan’s Heroes. Apparently, most of the reason this doctor was so well-to-do was his less than…upstanding morals. I hear through the local grapevine that The Purple Gang appeared on his doorstep immediately following The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. He patched them up, and sequestered them in these fantastic tunnels and fed them until they were back to full health.

The Motel

The Purple Gang apparently really enjoyed this side of the state. Just south of town on M40 South, there’s a small motel that’s been there forever. And, like most places, they don’t protest as long as the money is green. And when The Purple Gang stirred up a little more heat than they could handle down in The Windy City, they would duck town and come up to the little motel on M40 South. They would stay there and spend money in town while they waited for the local boys in blue back in Chicago to get distracted by something else. Then they’d pick up and go back home. From what I understand, it was a rinse and repeat sort of situation.