Thursday, January 31, 2019

Death in the City Beautiful [2]

Fatty Walsh, the ghost of the Biltmore: March 7, 1929

Thomas “Fatty” Walsh was a well-known New York mobster and a close associate of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Jack “Legs” Diamond and “Dutch” Schultz with whom he shared various business interests. Earlier in his career, Mr. Walsh had been employed as a bodyguard for Arnold Rothstein, the legendary gangster, famous for fixing the 1919 World Series. Ironically, Walsh was also suspected of murdering Rothstein over a gambling debt in 1928.

But, on March 4, 1929, less than a year after Rothstein’s assassination, Walsh had his own problems with a gambling debt. The details remain murky, but Walsh appears to have been running a card-game in a Prohibition era speakeasy he was operating from his suite on the 13th floor of the Biltmore Hotel. The suite is commonly known as the Al Capone Suite, named after another of Mr. Walsh’s business associates who shared his affection for the Coral Gables hotel. Following a possible misunderstanding over cards played, or money owed, Walsh was shot dead by a rival underworld figure, Edward Wilson, who then fled to Cuba.

Possibly because his murder remained unpunished, the ghost of “Fatty” Walsh continues to haunt the hotel, especially on the 13th floor. During his lifetime, Mr. Walsh was known as a ‘ladies’ man’ which perhaps explains why the elevator, unexpectedly and unbidden, often delivers attractive young women to the 13th floor. One young couple pressed the button for the 4th floor where they were staying but arrived at the 13th floor for no reason. No sooner had the wife stepped out than the elevator slammed shut and returned her husband to the hotel lobby. Strange sounds in the 13th floor suite, lights turning on or off, the elevator behaving erratically are all signs that “Fatty” Walsh is restless and seeks company.

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