On the corner of Saratoga and Livonia Avenues in Brownsville, Brooklyn, there used to be a 24 hour candy store.
During the 1930s and 40s, the Midnight Rose Candy Store, located under the elevated portion of the 3 subway train, was run by a little old lady in her 60’s, Mrs. Rosie Gold. It’s hard to imagine a more innocuous and unoffending picture. But all was not as it seemed at the Midnight Rose, for this was the secret headquarters of one of the most infamous and deadly groups in the history of organized crime: Murder, Inc.
Murder Incorporated was created in the 1930s to act as the execution squad of the newly formed National Crime Syndicate. The death squad was comprised of mostly Jewish and Italian gangsters centered around the Brownsville neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Exact numbers aren’t known, but it is estimated that Murder Inc., carried out 400-1000 executions, making the innocent looking candy store responsible for more murders than anywhere else in the United States.
The National Crime Syndicate was the ruling elite of East Coast organized crime, counting amongst their ruthless members Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and Dutch Shultz. Murder Inc. was run by Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and Albert Anastasia, known as the ‘Lord High Executioner’. The group of killers were paid a basic retaining salary and a freelancer fee for each hit of anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Rosie Gold kept a wall of pay phones along the back wall of the candy store; the members of Murder Inc., would pass the time at the Midnight Rose, sipping on Rosie’s malted milks until one of the phones rang, giving the details of the hit.
The group included such cold blooded killers as Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, Allie “Tic Toc” Tannenbaum, and Martin “Buggsy” Goldstein. As the murders were carried out by men unknown to the victims, Murder Inc., was able to remain unassociated with executions that took place all along the East Coast, and as far west as Detroit. Strangers were often dispatched at the whim of the National Crime Syndicate with the preferred weapon of choice for Murder Inc., the ice pick.
The assassins eventually met their downfall in 1940 when “Kid Twist” Reles was caught by a police informant. Ratting on each of his colleagues, the majority of members of Murder Inc., would go on to meet their own grisly ends in the electric chair at Sing Sing. On November 12th, 1941, whilst staying at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island under 24 hour police supervision, Kid Twist was found dead after falling seven stories from his room. The case was never solved, but it seems likely that he paid the price for turning informant. As one member of the National Crime Syndicate is supposed to have said of Reles, “the canary could sing, but he couldn’t fly.”
With most of its members in prison or executed, Murder Inc., faded into memory; but immortalized in film, literature, and television shows such as “Boardwalk Empire” and Neil Kleid & Jake Allen’s comic book “Brownsville” (2006), their name has passed into legend.
Rosie Gold disappeared into obscurity, but her corner candy store is still there, on the corner of Saratoga and Livonia. For the past three years it has been a 24 hour bodega. The current owner when interviewed had no idea that his corner deli was once the headquarters of one of the most feared collection of assassins in American history. The row of telephones have gone, and with it the ring of an incoming call that would have meant the end of someone’s life at the deadly hands of Murder Incorporated.
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