Criminals are everywhere, probably in their rooms, quietly plotting their way to get what they aim for.
Maybe you’re already a target, but you will not know it. They’re hiding behind the darkness, watching you everywhere you go. They might be the one who was sitting across you at your favourite coffee shop earlier, or maybe the one who asked you for directions the other day. It can also be your seemingly aloof neighbour, or the friend of your brother who asked where the comfort room is. Either way, whoever it is, you will never know.
MOST criminals move cautiously but some just aren’t scared of going against the authorities. Except them. The most notorious ones. The dangerous ones. The ones you wouldn’t want to meet. Them.
1. Ted Kaczynski
Ted Kaczynski should have led a great life and been known for other reasons than being one of the most notorious criminals of all time, as he was a genius with a huge IQ who enrolled in Harvard at 16.
However, Kaczynski is known as the Unabomber, a domestic terrorist responsible for over a dozen bomb attacks that caused many serious injuries and a few deaths.
The Unabomber believed that the industrialised world and technology was a disaster for the human race, and he wrote it all down in between bombings at his isolated cabin in the Montana wilderness – his manifesto was even published in the Washington Post. His attacks sparked the largest and most expensive manhunt in FBI history, ending with his capture in 1995. He mailed his explosive packages to airlines, university professors, computer salesmen, and anything else he deemed associated too closely with modern society.
2. Alphonse Gabriel Capone
Al Capone, also known as ‘Scarface’.
An American gangster and businessman, and co-founder and boss of the Chicago outfit, is straight out of central casting when you think mobster, and during the 1920s he became one of the most notorious criminals who ever lived. He ran a violent empire in Chicago known as the Chicago Outfit that dealt in bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling.
Capone was also connected to the bloody St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, where many members of a rival gang were cut down by machine guns. It was largely due to the rival Irish gang hi-jacking Capone’s liquor shipments, and for this he shot up an entire city block.
3. Robert Franklin Stroud
Robert Franklin Stroud, known as the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’, was a convicted murderer, American federal prisoner and author who has been cited as one of the most notorious criminals in the United States.
Robert Stroud became a pimp, a person who controls prostitutes, when he moved to Alaska. He was a dangerous guy, assertive and wasn’t scared of anyone. His first crime was committed in 1909, where he killed a bartender who attacked one of his prostitutes. For that, he was sentenced 12 years of imprisonment in the federal penitentiary in McNeil Island. A few years after he was sent to jail, in 1916, he killed a guard and was convicted of first-degree murder. His 12-year sentence had turned into life imprisonment in solitary confinement.
While in solitary confinement, he managed to write a book entitled ‘Dseases of Canaries’ and do different activities, like making alcohol out of prison equipment, which became the reason for his transfer to Alcatraz in 1942. He continued his sentence in Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary as inmate #594. In 1959, he was transferred to the Medical Centre for Federal Prisoners as he was diagnosed as a psychopath by Romney M. Ritchey, a psychiatrist. He stayed there until he died in 1963.
4. John Dillinger
Bank robber John Dillinger became one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century after a series of high profile heists that caught national attention and made him public enemy number one.
Dillinger was also a killer, as many folks met their fate from his machine gun, but the press loved him for his looks and style. He famously escaped prison with a fake wooden gun, and the hunt for him only intensified. Eventually, the law caught up to him and he was shot walking out of a movie theatre.
5. Billy Hayes
In the year 1970, while attempting to go back to the United States with his girlfriend, he was arrested by the Turkish police as it was found that he’s carrying 2 kg of hashish, an illegal drug.
Wanting to get away, he said that he was just forced by the cab driver to accept it in exchange of his release. While the police was going after the said cab driver, Billy tried to run away but was recaptured. He was then sent to the local jail.
A few days later, he found himself in the Sağmalcılar Prison where he met Jimmy, Max, and Erich, as a prosecutor charged him for drug smuggling. But at the end of the trial, the lead judge decided to give him only a 4-year sentence for drug possession. 53 days before the end of his sentence, however, he found out that his case was sent to the Turkish High Court. He was now guilty for drug smuggling and had to stay in prison for 30 years.
After he was transferred to a prison located in an island, as he was disheartened and eager to get out of jail, he stole a boat and rowed himself up to Greece, and it was successful.
6. George Kelly Barnes
George Kelly Barnes, better known by his nickname ‘Machine Gun Kelly’, was an American gangster from Memphis, Tennessee, during the prohibition era. His nickname came from his favourite weapon, a Thompson submachine gun.
Machine Gun Kelly was a bootlegger as a teenager. After having been deprived of the opportunity to work legitimately when he grew up, he went back to bootlegging and in 1927, he was caught and was sent to jail in New Mexico. He stayed there for a few months. After his release, he was caught again selling liquor and was sent to Leavenworth Prison in Kansas. There, he met and befriended bank robbers and his interest in bank robbery began.
In 1930, he went to Minnesota and robbed a bank together with Keating and Holden, two of the bank robbers he met in Leavenworth Prison. After that, he’d been involved with several bank robberies that took place on different states.
Perhaps the most profound crime he’d done was when he and his gang kidnapped Charles F. Urschel, a wealthy oil man in Oklahoma, on which they asked for $200,000 ransom just for him to be released. Urschel was released, and even though he was blindfolded the whole time, he was able to give clues and information about the perpetrators of the kidnapping.
7. Ellsworth Raymond Johnson
Ellsworth Raymond Johnson, known as ‘Bumpy’ Johnson, was an American mob boss and bookmaker in New York City’s Harlem neighbourhood. The main Harlem associate of Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano and what would become later known as the Genovese crime family, Johnson’s criminal career has inspired films and television.
At an early age, Bumpy already developed hatred towards the world, especially the white people. His hatred, however, became more intense when he moved to Harem with his sister, and that’s where he began to be eager to do crimes. He got involved in different crimes, such as pimping, burglary, theft, and murder, and had spent almost half of his 30 years of existence in prison. He was short-tempered, had quarrels with fellow inmates and the guards, and it resulted for him to be transferred to different prisons until he was released in 1932.
The time he was released, he met Stephanie St. Clair, a mob boss, and he worked for her as an associate. Bumpy and St. Clair went against the New York mob boss Dutch Schultz and it resulted to over 40 murders and a lot of kidnappings.
8. Arthur R. Barker
Arthur R. Barker was an American criminal, the son of Ma Barker and a member of the Barker-Karpis gang, founded by his brother Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis. Generally known as ‘Doc’, Barker was typically called on for violent action, while Fred and Karpis planned the gang’s crimes.
Arthur Barker’s crimes began in the 1920s. In 1918, he was imprisoned for stealing a car in Missouri. When his escape became successful in 1920, he began to commit more severe crimes, such as armed robbery and murder. A year after, he was arrested again for killing a night watchman at a hospital, which started as just a simple robbery, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Ten years later, he was paroled.
Upon his release, he continued his crimes, now with the help of the Barker-Karpis gang, and robbed the Third Northwestern Bank and the Stockyards National Bank, both in Minnesota, in which there was a total of 4 persons that were killed. In 1933, the gang kidnapped the wealthy William Hamm and Edward Bremer, in two separate events, and asked for $100,000 and $200,000 ransoms, respectively.
Barker was again sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1939, he attempted to escape from the prison together with Henri Young and Rufus McCain but was caught. Barker was killed by the guards and the other two were sent to solitary confinement.
9. Alvin Francis Karpis
Alvin Francis Karpis, a Depression-era gangster nicknamed ‘Creepy’ for his sinister smile and called ‘Ray’ by his gang members, was a Canadian-born criminal of Lithuanian descent known for being a leader of the Barker-Karpis gang in the 1930s. Karpis led the gang along with Fred Barker and Arthur ‘Doc’ Barker.
Karpis began committing crimes at the age of 10. In 1926, he was imprisoned for 10 years at the Kansas State Industrial Reformatory but managed to escape, together with Lawrence De Vol. Both of them, after having been able to leave the jail, committed much more crimes until De Vol was caught. Karpis went home and lived with his parents. In Missouri, he was sent back to the reformatory for stealing a car. He met Fred Barker when he was transferred to Kansas State Penitentiary. In 1931, after he was released, Karpis teamed up with Barker, and the Barker-Karpis gang was established.
The Barker-Karpis gang was powerful and fearless. In 1933, they kidnapped William Hamm, then a few months after, Edward Bremer. The ransoms were $100,000 and $200,000, respectively. It got the attention of the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and put them into the ‘Most Wanted’ list. In 1934, the other members of the gang died and the only one that’s left was Karpis. In 1936, Karpis was spotted in Louisiana and was caught, sentencing him to life imprisonment. In 1969, he was paroled.
An autobiography of Alvin Karpis was published in 1971.
10. Meyer Harris “Mickey” Cohen
Meyer Harris “Mickey” Cohen was an American gangster based in Los Angeles and boss of the Cohen crime family. He also had strong ties to the Italian American Mafia from the 1930s through 1960s, ‘King of Los Angeles’.
After Cohen was defeated by World Featherweight Champion Tommy Paul, he went to Chicago and got involved in a mafia organisation called the Chicago Outfit. However, after having been accused of taking part on the killings of several gangsters, he was arrested. After he was released, he started to do other illegal gambling operations but was forced to move to Cleveland because of an argument with a rival gambler. There was not a lot of work in there so he transferred to Los Angeles together with Siegel, his superior.
When Siegel was murdered, Cohen was triggered and stood against the assassins that killed him. He went to Hotel Roosevelt and fired his two .45 caliber handguns at the lobby hoping that the assassins will appear. They didn’t. When the police arrived, he ran away.
In 1951, he was convicted of tax evasion and was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. When he was released 4 years later, he suddenly turned into a celebrity. However, in 1961, he was again convicted of tax evasion, was sent to Alcatraz, and got released in 1972 due to stomach cancer. He died 4 years after, in 1976.
11. Charles Manson
Charles Manson is one of the more famous figures in American history, and one of the most notorious criminals of all time by any measure. Manson was a charismatic cult leader who became the bad side of the hippy movement, as he and his family tried to spark a race war by killing Sharon Tate and several of her friends in the Hollywood Hills.
Oddly enough, Manson thought he heard the messages in between Beatles songs. The term ‘Helter Skelter’ was the name he gave the race war between whites and blacks, but it’s actually a cut off the White Album. Strangely, some think none of this would have happened if critics had been more responsive to Charles Manson’s music.
12. John Wayne Gacy
Known as Pogo the Clown, John Wayne Gacy is one of the most notorious criminals in American history, as well as one of the most prolific serial killers ever. Gacy was convicted of murdering 33 young boys between 1972 and 1978, stuffing them into the crawl space of his home.
Dressed in his clown uniform, Gacy would perform at various fundraising events, while also giving him access to tons of children. Gacy was put to death by lethal injection in 1994.