'Clutch Hand' Confusion
Mafia Boss of Bosses Giuseppe Morello
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A great deal of confusion surrounds the existence, location and use of what became known in the press as the "Murder Stable." Sources agree only on the most basic details: There was a property with a stable on it within the control of the Morello-Terranova clan in East Harlem in the early 1900s, and the Mafiosi used the location to introduce rivals, traitors and uncooperative extortion victims to their Makers.
A 1915 newspaper sketch
depicting the "Murder Stable"
But the rest of the Murder Stable story has, like so much of American Mafia history, become the stuff of legend. Upon reading some accounts, one can almost see Paul Bunyan residing on the premises, hacking people to bits with his great ax.
Craig Thompson and Allen Raymond indicated in Gang Rule in New York City that the stable was located on East 108th Street and that it was owned by Ignazio Lupo and Ciro Terranova. The Thompson-Allen story changes later on when it seems that the Morello brothers are in control of the stable. Gang Rule states that 23 men were killed on the site from 1900 to 1917. While Terranova was certainly in training in Lupo-Morello criminal enterprises in 1900, he was unlikely to be the owner of any significant property - he was just 12 years old.
In The Frank Costello Story, author Bill Brennan accepts the Thompson-Allen location for the stable on E. 108th but hands complete ownership of the building to Terranova, neglecting that Mafioso's young age. Brennan ups the Murder Stable body count to 30.
Oddly, Herbert Asbury, whose The Gangs of New York was published a dozen years before the Thompson-Allen book, insisted that the Murder Stable was much farther north. He wrote that the structure was on East 125th Street, which seems an out-of-the-way location for the time. Sid Feder jumped on that bandwagon and insisted that E. 125th was the right spot.
Asbury refused to put a number on the killings which took place at that location, but he noted that it ranked second to the "Bloody Angle" of Chinatown in terms of blood spilled. Asbury further noted that the Lupo mob had been credited with 60 murders in all.
Well, Asbury never should have used the number "60" because that seems to have prompted both David Leon Chandler and Carl Sifakis to announce that 60 bodies were found at the site of the Murder Stable. Both of those authors, however, moved the stable back down into East Harlem, placing it at #323 East 107th Street and giving sole ownership to Lupo.
Those authors also added the wrinkle that the three-score bodies were found by authorities tearing the structure down. Chandler states that the U.S. Secret Service did the dismantling. Sifakis decided to put the date of the stable demolition in 1901 but offered no explanation for how Lupo came to be so far uptown at that point or why government officials would have seized such a structure at such an early date.
Asbury, who unknowingly contributed to the vast escalation of the Murder Stable victim total, offered another tidbit to describe the brutality of Giuseppe Morello. Morello, the author wrote, tortured and murdered his own stepson when he was suspected of betraying Mafia secrets.
We may never be able to get at the truth of the Murder Stable. Considering the most common mode of transportation at the time involved horses, there were probably stables on every property owned, rented and even visited by Morello and Lupo. Since those men had ruthless reputations and their enemies had a habit of disappearing, it is only natural that the neighborhood folk would develop the Murder Stable legend.
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