Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mafia Myths


Since my interest in Mafia history was first piqued in the early 1970’s, many so called “ historical facts “ have been proven false.  Too many authors simply repeated the same old stories, without researching them properly.  Modern researchers and authors, helped by greater availability of information via the Internet, have been much more thorough in authenticating their research. 
So here are some of the more obvious cases, and a brief explanation of their exposure : -
1 – Origin.
Many sources state that the Mafia was first founded in Sicily in the 1200’s, after the uprising called the Sicilian Vespers.  This is self-evidently untrue, as the first mention in official documents date from the 1800’s.  The Neapolitan Camorra was an older society, possibly originating from an earlier Spanish one called the Garduna.
2 – The Commission.
It is only half true that the American Cosa Nostra invented the organization known as the Commission.  Italian Police records state that occasional commissions were used to arbitrate conflicts between Families as early as the 1890’s.  But it seems to be true that the Cupola, the Sicilian permanent Commission, was formed after the 1957 Palermo summit.  When Joe Bonanno, and other American Mafiosi, advised on its formation.
3 – Only one Society.
There were many different criminal societies in Sicily in the 1800’s, such as : - Fratuzzi [Bagheria], Stoppaglieri [Monreale], Oblonica [Girgenti], , Fratellanza [Agrigento Province], Fontana Nuova [Misilmeri], Scattialora [Sciacca], Scaglione [Enna], ect.  While in mainland Italy secret criminal societies existed in Campania, Calabria and Puglia.  As recently as the 1980’s a society called the Stidda, based in Gela, actively fought the local Mafia.
4 – Unione Sicilione / Siciliana.
Founded as a social welfare society in Chicago in the 1890’s, but later criminalized by Mafiosi.  This was reportedly a nationwide organization, headquartered in NYC, and led by Frankie Yale.  In fact it existed only in the mid-west, and had no branches in New York.
5 – The Purge [Night of the Vespers].
This myth, first expounded by Dixie Davis, has been discredited for some time now.  The handful of casualties in the aftermath of the “ Castellammarese War “, hardly constitutes a nationwide purge of 60 old “ Mustache Petes “.  But reading the available sources [ Gentile, Bonanno, Valachi ], we find a small, non-violent purge did take place.  Bonanno called it a re-alignment, as several Maranzano supporters were deposed.  Sabella in Philadelphia, Badami in Newark and Scalice in NYC were demoted, and Siracusa in Pittsburgh was eliminated.
6 – Luciano and the Masseria murder.
We all know the story of Lucky playing cards with Joe the Boss, then going to the mens room, as Masseria was killed, and returning to tell the Police he knew nothing about it.  But a check of the NYPD records state that the only person present when the Police arrived was the owner Gerardo Scarpato.  In Alan Blocks book East Side / West Side he quotes an extortion victim as stating that “Augie  Pisano” was present at the murder site.  The same source claims Scarpato, who was murdered a year later, was connected to the Masseria Family.
7 – Luciano invented the Consiglieri  position.
Again early Sicilian pentiti revealed that Counselors existed in some Mafia organizations as early as the 1920’s.
8 – Membership “books” closed 1932-1954.
Although no direct evidence is known, it is possible that new members were inducted during this period as replacements for deceased members.  Recordings in Sam De Cavalcantes’s office prove that important individuals like Boiardo, Catena, DeCarlo, Bruno and Decavalcante were “made” in the 1940’s.  In NARA records, an unidentified Bonanno member stated that he was inducted in a LES basement in 1951. 
Although not strictly Mafia connected, one of the oldest OC myths has recently been exposed.  For years books and newspapers have repeated that Paul Kelly [Paolo Vaccarelli] was the leader of the Five Points gang.  A recent book, called Manhattan Mafia guide by Eric Ferrara, has used contemporary newspaper reports to demolish this theory.  Kelly headed his own gang, the Paul Kelly Association, and was in fact an enemy of the Five Pointers.  They shot him in 1905, and drove him out of the LES.  The actual leaders of different factions of the gang were Giovanni DiSalvio [Jim Kelly], Chick Tricker [Tricca] and Jack Sirocco.  The gang eventually broke-up and fought among themselves.