Al Capone and the Burlington WI Tunnels
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  1. #1
    Gypsyheart~ Queen of Rust

    Nov 2005
    294 times

    Al Capone and the Burlington WI Tunnels

    Not only do we have the fallacy that these tunnels were made for and used by the Underground Railroad, we have others that simply deny their very existence.

    Although many still ‘insist’ these tunnels do not exist, Al Capone is living proof that these tunnels not only existed, but he and his ‘bootlegging’ associates used them to distribute liquor their bootlegged alcohol and as travel routes from one place to another to avoid detection.
    When Congress passed the eighteenth amendment, alcohol consumption was prohibited. Regardless of the prohibition, there was a great demand for it. Many would pay top dollar for a drink . This opened many opportunities for those who were willing to take
    risks and bootleg illegal alcohol to the country.

    With money flowing like water, for many of these gangsters, greed and corruption grew rapidly. They began to explore more demoralizing fields of work. These gangsters began to open speakeasies with prostitution, gambling, and of course drinking. The speakeasies always had cover charges ranging from five dollars to twenty-five dollars, depending on the price of alcohol at the time. And
    with America’s obsession for alcohol , the owners were able to charge any price they wanted.

    The historic district of Burlington had their share of speakeasies and was notorious for their brothels . Just to name of few was the brothel located on Pine Street. Another on Chestnut Street of which is now Coaches Sports Bar and Grill of which we found three underground tunnel entrances. And another was located on Hwy 11, where the First Banking Center sits today. The latter was
    also found to have a tunnel running under it.

    A Burlington local gave me an interesting story of the day that her father met Al Capone at the speakeasy on Hwy 11. She also told me that he owned a home near Browns Lake on Hwy W which also had rumors of underground tunnels.

    One evening a gentleman came in to our Center to inform us of a ‘speak easy’ located just around the corner from us. It was one of the more elaborate ones in Burlington. This one had it’s own bowling ally which was located under the parking lot between Reineman’s
    Hardware Store and St. Vincent De Paul. From what he and another gentleman told me, there is an entrance to it at St. Vincent DePaul.Thrift Store. We feel there is a great possibility that this old ‘speak easy’ connects Coaches Bar and Grill via tunnel.

    So many Americans were sneaking around the law that moral values began to dwindle. Gangsters moved up in the ranks and began more vicious crimes including murder and robbery. They felt that these crimes were necessary to protect their operations and keep them alive.
    Murder was widespread because some people who were being paid to keep quiet would talk, in return they were dealt with…very harshly. Some Burlington residents claim that Burlington was used as one of the ‘dumping’ grounds for some of those poor souls that crossed Capone and his gang. Some of them were disposed of in surrounding lakes and others in the underground tunnels of Burlington.

    In the search for the underground tunnels, all we need to do is trace down the underground travel routes of Al Capone and the ‘Speak Easy’ bars . For example, the basement speakeasy that used to operate, where Coaches is today, has three sealed tunnel entrances. These tunnels were used to distribute bootlegged liquor, travel to and fro, and escape routes. Capone and his gang could travel
    all over Burlington and never be seen..unless they wanted to be.

    Al Capone utilized the underground tunnels from Chicago all the way up into Canada! A known Capone hangout in Canada is Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I found this information in the November 16, 2004 New Yorks Times article, written by Clifford Krauss.
    “In a country that fancies itself as an angel in an imperfect world, the peccadilloes were largely hushed up until 1985, when a truck fell through a downtown street, revealing a tunnel that led into a vast underground network. After some investigation, anthropologists and
    local historians concluded the tunnels connected several hotels that were long rumored to have hosted brothels and saloons during Prohibition. An Alberta magazine began poking around, followed by a mayor's task force, and piece by piece an unsavory past emerged that the townspeople had a hard time squaring with their wholesome self-image.

    During the Prohibition era, from 1919 to 1933, the police force fell into the well-greased palms of organized crime - reputedly controlled by Al Capone, who was said to run gambling dens and houses of prostitution up and down River Street, connected by the tunnels.
    Prohibition, of course, was an American idea, one that made little impression north of the border. Some of Canada's provinces experimented with controlling alcohol in the early 20th century, but it was legal throughout Canada through most of Prohibition. Yet, as a major railroad center that connected western Canada to Minneapolis and Chicago, Moose Jaw emerged as a prominent trafficking hub for liquor and drugs.

    Once the tunnel thing exploded, people went 'Wow,' and instead of calling Moose Jaw 'the friendly city' it became 'Little Chicago."' Within a few years, the tunnels became the centerpiece of a marketing scheme aimed at reversing years of economic decline.
    Now, rather than a skeleton in the closet, "Uncle Al" is more like a founding father. Stores sell Al Capone coffee mugs, fedoras and toy Tommy guns. The coffee shop by the bus depot calls itself "Big Al's Cafe," and one of the seediest motels in town renamed itself "Capone's Hideaway." A mural above the slot machines at a new casino depicts Al Capone smoking a cigar while a waiter
    pours some whisky into his coffee cup.

    "Uncle Al is a big draw," said Mike Darling, the manager of Capone's Hideaway. "People are jumping on the bandwagon."
    Actually, that is not entirely true. Descendants of the old establishment and some churchgoers found the whole phenomenon embarrassing. Local politicians debated how and whether to subsidize tourist businesses that use Al Capone as a marketing tool
    in local elections a few years ago, and the pro-Capone slate won handily. Today, a portion of the tunnels have been converted into two underground tours: The Chicago Connection and the Passage to Fortune, and are Moose Jaw's largest attractions.”

    Back in The United States, I found a great story in Troy Taylor’s , Prairie Ghosts’ about Al Capone’s treasure in the tunnels under Chicago and Geraldo Rivera. As the story goes, in 1986, television reporter and talk show host Geraldo Rivera took a national television
    audience into the old Lexington Hotel, where Capone had his headquarters, located on Michigan Avenue and 22nd Street. Rivera was in search of lost treasure, a fortune that Capone had allegedly left behind in secret vaults under the hotel.

    Earlier in the 1980’s, a local construction company, while investigating the hotel for renovation, had discovered passages leading to hidden underground tunnels connecting local bars and brothels. Capone was using them as , among other things, escape routes from
    police raids and attacks by rivals.

    It was rumored that Capone had hidden caches of treasures in these tunnels and Geraldo Rivera was determined to discover them and do so on national television. In 1986, Rivera and his camera crew went out , telecasting live, in search of the hidden treasure. In a
    basement chamber, the crew blasted away a 7,000-pound concrete wall that was believed to be hiding a secret compartment that contained thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars. Even the Internal Revenue Service had agents on hand to make sure they got their share of the monies found. Unfortunately for Rivera, it was a bust. If anything had been there , it was gone - or so they thought.
    After all the promotion of this underground treasure and press , it was Harold Rubin, who worked for another production company, that eventually found the lost loot.

    In my opinion, they missed the greatest treasure of all. They were so blinded by the search for the treasure , they forgot the treasure of the tunnels themselves and the hidden knowledge and history they represented. After the hype over the lost loot was over, everyone lost interest and as far as we know, no one has ventured down into the tunnel systems for further exploration. It seems that only
    Capone took the time to follow out their routes.

    Another place in Illinois to see more Capone connected tunnels is the Widow McCleary Bar in Thornton. By viewing photos you will see that the construction of these tunnels is almost identical to the construction used in the basement and tunnels of the Malt House Theater in Burlington, WI., which , like the Malt House, was once used as a brewery before prohibition.

    During prohibition AL Capone owned the place and it was a Mob hangout. It was rumored that the enemies or people that ‘ruffled the feathers’ of the Capone gang were dumped into the tunnels. Who knows what all happened down there. What we do know about the tunnels is that it would have been out of earshot from the rest of the world.

    I have often asked myself ‘ what are the possibilities that these tunnels may still be in use today by those that are doing deeds unacceptable to our society?’

    In the town of Rochester, WI , one of the elders told us that before sealing the tunnels, they used to hear wails and moans coming from deep within. They superstitiously believed that these sounds were coming from Hell itself. Could these tunnels today be used for satanic practices? Or could there even be practices of even a darker nature going on down there? After all , now that the tunnels have been sealed, it would be difficult to hear the echoing screams of the victims?

    Another possibility brought up to me is Meth Labs. .From what I understand from various sources, the police of Wisconsin state that meth is all over the place but they are having difficulty finding the labs that make the meth. Would it not be feasible to investigate the underground tunnels for such activities?

    During the Prohibition Period, Speak Easies , Safe Houses and Underground Taverns were springing up all over the state. One that proudly boasts of Al Capone’s patronage is ‘Capone’s Bar Next Door’. The front was known as the ‘The Wonder Bar’.
    The Wonder Bar was built by a gang from Chicago's northwest side. They controlled all of the unions, and had a lucrative booze distribution business. They transported their beer from place to place undercover in large oil tanker trucks, even supplying Al Capone with the much-needed beer he couldn't find elsewhere.

    When the building was constructed it was built bullet proof, bomb proof, and even had a tunnel that led to a nearby lake for a quick getaway. Now can you imagine the size of the tunnels to be able to run large oil tanker trucks through! And yes, these tunnels are that big!

    From “Gambling Magazine, Stories of the Mob”, I was able to trace Al Capone to one of the Burlington Wisconsin Families still residing in the area. Following is this very colorful story:

    Al Capone and Burlington, Wisconsin
    By John William Tuohy

    Leading Capone's assault on the labor unions was George "Red" Barker and his first assistant Murray Humpreys.
    When the decade of the 1930s opened, George Red Barker was, as one Chicago cop put it, "riding on top of the world." Barker all but controlled the Chicago teamsters and was reported to be earning $200,000 a year as a result.
    A West side Irishman who, before he took to a life of crime, had been an honest bookkeeper, Barker was literate, devouring every union newsletter and newspaper he could find from anywhere in the country and paid for information on locals as well.
    Barker would get a copy of the financials and study it. If the union had potential, Barker recommended the takeover to Ralph Capone and Frank Nitti who talked it over with Al Capone. If Capone agreed, and he almost always did, Barker and his boys went after the union.
    In early 1931, Capone urged Barker to go after the Coal teamsters. Barker approached James "Lefty" Lynch, a semi-honest thug who owned the coal teamsters local 704, which delivered fuel to the entire downtown district where every office building depended upon the local for fuel to warm its buildings against the brutal Chicago winters.

    Barker told Lynch that Capone expected him to turn over half the control of his union to him as well as his seat on the prestigious and important joint teamsters council. In exchange, Barker offered not to kill Lynch. On the upside, Barker told Lynch, Capone intended to double the union's membership and as a result Lynch's income would double as well. Lynch sat through Barker's speech and then tossed the hood out of his office. It was his union and he wasn't going to give it up to Capone or anyone else.

    Capone waited. Later in the month, Lynch went to his summer home with his family to Brown Lake outside Burlington, Wisconsin. The family was preparing a barbecue, and seated around a long picnic table, when Danny Stanton and Klondike O'Donnell, two of the meanest hoods in Chicago, drove into the yard and parked. They climbed out of the car slowly. They were in no hurry. There were no
    cops or witnesses around for miles. They were armed with shotguns, pistols and rifles. Stanton walked over to Lynch and said, "The Big Fellow back in Chicago sends this message. You just retired from local 704. From this moment on, you stay away from the Union hall. You stay away from the office. You stay away from the joint council...You understand?" Lynch nodded his head and Klondike added, "Well, just so's you don't forget what was said ..." and pulled out his pistol and shot Lynch through both of his legs while his wife and children looked on in horror. Lynch fell to the ground, groaning in agony. Stanton bent over Lynch to make sure he was alive and said, "You got balls, I'll give you that." He stood up and turned to Lynch's daughter and said, "Get him to a doctor and he'll be alright."

    At the next meeting of the joint council, Red Barker and Murray Humpreys appeared at the door with a dozen heavily armed Capone torpedoes. Barker, carrying a baseball bat, stood in the center of the room and asked, "Which one is Lefty Lynch's chair?" Somebody pointed to a large leather chair in the middle of the room and Barker sat there. He looked around the room and announced that he
    was now running the Coal Teamsters Chauffeurs and Helpers Union Local 704 and that everything would remain just the way Lynch had left it. The only difference was that the entire treasury was turned over to Capone except for $1,000, which was left to cover administrative payrolls.

    After that, Barker went to the fuel dealers in the district and informed them that they were only hiring union members and that they were giving all of their drivers a massive pay rise or else Capone would see to it that not a lump of coal was delivered downtown.
    The dealers had no choice but to agree and passed the cost along to the real estate developers who rose the price of office space in the area to make their money back.

    Capone kept Lynch on the payroll to avoid a revolt in the ranks. However, he never appeared at another union
    function for the rest of his life.
    I go a great distance,while some are considering whether they will start today or tomorrow

  2. #2
    Apr 2005
    Sardinera, Mona Island
    GTI2500,Seahunter Mark II, Eagle eye two box
    6 times

    Re: Al Capone and the Burlington WI Tunnels

    hey Gypsyh.

    Do you like to write story?

    "Live your Adventure"

  3. #3
    Dec 2004
    Long Island New York
    White's XLT
    25 times

    Re: Al Capone and the Burlington WI Tunnels

    Great article gypsy, thanks for posting!




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