In 1932, times were tough for a bar owner. Prohibition had been in place for a decade and there were a number of speakeasies – secret bars – in towns and cities throughout the country. Because they were not legal establishments, they had limits unlike those of normal businesses. Collecting on unpaid bills could be difficult, for example, when regulars could threaten to tell government officials about your storefront.
One such drinking hole was run by a man named Tony Marino, and one of his regular customers was a coffin polisher named Mike Malloy. Malloy was a drunk of the first order, even during Prohibition, and one night while he was passed out at Marino’s, the bar owner and a couple of his friends decided they had their newest target.
Marino had already successfully committed insurance fraud by starting a policy on a homeless woman, getting her drunk enough to pass out and then dousing her mattress and blankets in ice water before leaving her underneath an open window in freezing weather. She developed pneumonia and died. Malloy, well-known locally as a boozer, was considered a perfect second choice for Marino’s fatal attentions.
One of the friends was undertaker Francis Pasqua. He went into action. Over the course of the next five months, he arranged for life insurance to be filed for Mike Malloy, with each of the three friends being the recipient of one of the policies.
At this point, everything was in place to make some quick money.
To Malloy’s undisguised delight, Tony Marino granted him an open-ended tab, saying competition from other saloons had forced him to ease the rules. No sooner did Malloy down a shot than Marino refilled his glass. “Malloy had been a hard drinker all his life,” one witness said, “and he drank on and on.” He drank until Marino’s arm tired from holding the bottle. Remarkably, his breathing remained steady; his skin retained its normally ruddy tinge. Finally, he dragged a grungy sleeve across his mouth, thanked his host for the hospitality, and said he’d be back soon. Within 24 hours, he was.Smithsonian
They tried again the next day. And the next. Each time, Malloy would down incredible amounts of liquor, then leave. On the fourth day, the gang had had enough, and they decided to engage in a bit more risk. A person who drank as much as Malloy probably wouldn’t be checked for what type of alcohol he was imbibing. They switched his shots from whiskey to wood alcohol, which is poisonous.
It didn’t stop Malloy. He’d been drinking heavily for most of his adult life, and his body was used to poison. He drank the wood alcohol for days, then finally dropped to the floor of the speakeasy one night. The group checked the body… only to discover Malloy had merely fallen asleep.
Next they tried oysters soaked in denatured alcohol, washed down with wood alcohol. No effect. They continued the “free food” tactic, giving him rotten sardines coated with sharp metal shavings… to no effect. The broken glass sandwich didn’t bother him either.
Feeling desperate, they waited for another night where the alcohol put him to sleep, then brought his passed out body out to a park. In the middle of a freezing winter night, they sat him on a bench and drenched him in ice water.
The gang was surprised when, the next day, the unkillable Malloy walked in without so much as a runny nose.
Finally, the exasperated would-be killers bribed a cab driver to run over Malloy in a nearby street. And – just their luck – a policeman found him after the accident and took the battered victim to a hospital. Malloy was back in the bar, bragging about a broken collar bone, asking for a drink, a few weeks later.Gizmodo
By the end of February, the exasperated would-be murderers found their perfect weapon. They rented a house with gas lamps in it and ran a hose directly from a fixture. When Malloy next passed out, they brought him to the house and pumped natural gas directly into his body.
With that, months after the attempts had started, Malloy was dead. Unfortunately, the story of how damnably impossible Malloy had been to kill was just too good for people not to share. When the insurance company investigators heard rumors of homicide, they found that the multiple attempts had left plenty of evidence behind. All three of the conspirators were sent to the electric chair in 1934.
Question of the night: What’s the most unpleasant thing you’ve drunk or eaten?