A sobering story that I discovered on Wikipedia this week – You can’t help but feel sorry for the plucky irishman in this tale of greed from the 1930′s…
Michael Malloy, alias Mike the Durable and Iron Mike, was a homeless Irishman living in New York in the 1920s and 30s who has since become posthumously famous as a result of surviving a number of attempts on his life by five men who were attempting to commit life insurance fraud.
The events leading to Malloy’s death began in January 1933. Five low-level street thugs who were acquainted with homeless alcoholic Malloy hatched a plot whereby they would take out life insurance policies on the befuddled booze addict, before persuading him to drink himself to death. This group of five n’er-do-wells would later become known in headlines as “The Murder Trust”. After getting Malloy drunk and confusing him into signing the bottom of three dubious, yet legal, policies they stood to gain a large windfall if Malloy died an accidental death.
One of The Murder Trust was the owner of a speakeasy divebar, and gave Malloy unlimited credit, thinking that he would abuse it most heartily and drink himself to death. Malloy grabbed this opportunity of endless booze with gusto – yet even after drinking continuously though every minute of every day, it did not kill him. To remedy this, antifreeze was substituted for alcohol, but still, Malloy would continue drinking until he passed out, wake up, and come back for more. So the antifreeze was substituted with near-lethal turpentine, followed by horse liniment, and finally a mixture of all these liquids blended with crushed rat poison. Still, Malloy lived.
In desperation the group then tried raw oysters soaked in methanol. Then came a sandwich of spoiled sardines mixed with poison and carpet tacks.
When that failed, it was concluded that it was unlikely that anything Malloy ingested was going to kill him, so instead the gang decided to freeze him to death. On a night when the temperature reached -14 °F (-26 °C), Malloy drank until he passed out, was carried to a park, dumped in the snow, and had five gallons of water poured on his bare chest. Nevertheless, Malloy reappeared the following day for his drink. The next increasingly desperate attempt on his life came when the gang contrived to hit him with a car travelling at 45 miles per hour. This put Malloy in the hospital for three weeks with broken bones. Hearing nothing, the gang presumed he was dead but were unable to collect the policy on him. When he again appeared at the bar, they decided on one final approach.
On February 22, after he passed out for the night, they took him to a bedsit, put a hose in his mouth that was connected to the gas, and turned it on. This finally killed Malloy, death occurring within minutes.
He was pronounced dead of lobar pneumonia and quickly buried. However, the five members of the gang proved to be their own worst enemies—they talked too much and squabbled among themselves over the division of the loot. Eventually police heard rumors of “Mike the Durable” in speakeasies all over town, and upon learning that a Michael Malloy had died, they had the body exhumed and forensically examined.
The five men were put on trial. One went to prison, and the other four members were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing.