Gangster Gats: Colosimo the Vampire or Colosimo the Vampire Hunter?

Near this table the police found an order blank which contained various words and names in pencil. The police believe the paper may contain a clew. A phone number on the paper is 4020 Calumet. This is the number of the National Rubber Products company. There is the name of Samuel Lavine, with an address on Vernon avenue; the words, “So long vampire,” and “Saturday evening.”… the word “buffalo” is also jotted down there, and “So long, Letty.”

Chicago Daily Tribune, “Colosimo Slain; Seek Ex-Wife, Just Returned” (12-MAY-1920


On the afternoon of 11-MAY-1920, Giacomo “Big Jim” Colosimo stepped into the vestibule of his restaurant, the famous Colosimo’s Café at 2126 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Colosimo was the head of a powerful criminal organisation that would soon be known as the Chicago Outfit. Right now, he had taken a telephone call and presumably wanted to return to his new wife. At this moment, a man previously hidden in the cloakroom stepped into the vestibule and fired two shots from a .38-calibre handgun ‒ newspapers, covering all bases in the face of knowing nothing, claimed it was “a revolver, or perhaps an automatic pistol.” The first shot missed, the second entered Colosimo’s big head behind the right ear and went into his brain, killing him. Colosimo never managed to draw his own pearl-handled .38-calibre revolver. The shooter, short, stocky, moon-faced, swarthy, and nattily dressed including a derby hat, disappeared.


The city was baffled. The police first entertained the idea that the family of Colosimo’s first wife of almost 20 years was behind the murder, since he had left her shortly before for a beautiful singer 12 years his junior.

The more likely solution, however, was this: Colosimo had dropped the ball on his business. Once a fierce fighter, he was now content running his restaurant and tending to his new wife. That didn’t sit well with his colleagues, especially with two relative newcomers from New York, one Donato “Johnny” Torrio, Colosimo’s second-in-command and also his former nephew-in-law, and one Alphonse “Scarface Al” Capone, Torrio’s youthful protégée and the manager of The Four Deuces brothel just a few blocks over, at 2222 South Wabash Avenue. These two chaps saw the possibilities of Prohibition right away, and they wanted to be in from the get-go. Between them, they almost certainly engineered Colosimo’s death, probably by bringing in Francesco “Frankie Yale” Ioele, an undertaker from New York who had been Torrio’s former partner and Capone’s former boss in New York. Suspiciously, Ioele had come to Chicago only the day before. Even more suspiciously, the description of the shooter matched him perfectly. Naturally, the murder remains unsolved to this day. Ioele probably returned to Chicago in 1924 to help murder North Side Gang member Dean O’Banion but was rubbed out himself in 1928 by shooters sent to New York by the Chicago Outfit that probably included Fred “Killer” Burke.

Either way, Colosimo was dead and the rise of the Chicago Outfit could begin.

And now for the weird part. In the restaurant, the police found papers saying, among other things, “So long vampire.” Now, at the time “vampire” wasn’t exactly the household term it is today. What, if anything, did the scribbling mean? Was Colosimo the vampire? Was Colosimo after a vampire, perhaps with others? Was he in fact a vampire hunter in addition to or in spite of being a gangster? Was the entire vampire thing completely unconnected? Curious, curious.

It is worth pointing out that in 1929, a chap named Vincenzo “James Mad Bomber” Belcastro, an important member of the Chicago Outfit, was arrested in connection with a virtual vampire-slaying kit.

At the Movies

Interpretations of the hit are shown, among others, in Boardwalk Empire #1.1 “Boardwalk Empire” (set in 1920) and in the Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones #2.5 “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” (set in 1920).