On this date in 1964, Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy and his crew pulled off the largest (at the time) jewel heist in US history. Murphy and Alan Kuhn broke into the American Museum of Natural History in New York, while accomplice Roger Clark waited in the getaway car and acted as lookout.
When Murphy and Kuhn broke in, the alarm didn’t sound. It had been turned off to save electricity. They broke into several display cases and stole a number of gems. One of the cases–the one containing the Star of India Sapphire–had a separate, battery-powered alarm. Murphy and Kuhn didn’t realize this until they had already started cutting the glass. They went ahead and finished the job anyway. No alarm sounded. It had a dead battery, as it turned out. A sudden sound in the corridor surprised the thieves, and they beat feet out of the museum.
The crew made tracks for Miami with their swag. The haul of 24 gems included the Star of India, which at 563 carats was the largest sapphire in the world (valued at $410k in 1964). They also stole the Delong Ruby (100 carats), the Eagle Diamond (14 carats), and the Midnight Sapphire.
Once the boys got back to Miami, it was party time. The celebration was short lived. Like most thieves, their plan for the heist was better than their plan for the getaway. The police got a tip from a suspicious bellhop who noticed that they were suddenly flush after a short trip out of town. The cops arrested them 24 hours after the burglary. They say the best parties always seem to end too soon.
The Star of India, the Delong Ruby, and some of the other stolen gems were eventually recovered. The Eagle Diamond was among several that never were. I guess that’s the price you pay for shutting off the building alarm and using cheap batteries in the display case alarm.
Thursday’s the night. The boys from Rifftrax will be giving Anaconda a good riffing. If you’re planning to go, you might want to grab your tickets now, before they’re all gone. I picked mine up last week. No sense taking any chances. Here’s the trailer, if you’re interested.
If you’re still not sure what this whole riffing thing’s about, here’s a smaple of the boys giving the treatment to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
The graves of Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers in Boot Hill Cemetery.
On this date in 1881, the feud that had been brewing between the Earps and the Cowboys came to a head in Tombstone, AZ. Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp, along with their friend Doc Holliday, confronted Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McClaury, and Billy Claiborne in a lot next to the OK Corral. Ike Clanton (who was unarmed) and Billy Claiborne fled the scene unscathed. Billy Clanton and the McClaury brothers stayed and shot it out with Holliday and the Earps. The gunfight lasted maybe 30 seconds, and when it was over, two of the Earps (Morgan and Virgil) and Doc Holliday were wounded, and Billy Clanton and the McClaury brothers were dead.
My 2007 blog post on the gunfight (with pictures from my trips to Tombstone)
On this day in 1957, mob chieftain Albert Anastasia was gunned down while getting a haircut in New York City. Anastasia, born Umberto Anastasio in Calabria, Italy, was head of what would come to be known as the Gambino crime family. His resume also included being “Lord High Executioner” of the mob hit squad that had been dubbed Murder, Inc.
On the morning of October 25th, Anastasia arrived at the Park Sheraton hotel to get a haircut. After he sat down in the barber chair, his bodyguard conveniently went for a stroll. Minutes later, two gunmen walked into the barber shop and shot Anastasia several times. The killers walked out the door and disappeared into mid-morning traffic.
The killers were never caught, and several of Anastasia’s former allies–including his underboss, Carlo Gambino–were thought to be behind the hit. The Park Sheraton, back when it was known as the Park Central, was also the place where gambler Arnold Rothstein (architect of the 1919 Black Sox scandal) was murdered in 1928.