5 Of The Most Bizarre Crimes In New York City History

From riots about hats to keeping gators in apartments, New York City sure has its share of crazy crimes. 

By Gina Tron

To quote the 1948 film noir movie The Naked City (which takes place in New York City): "There are eight million stories in the naked city." There sure are plenty of stories in NYC, many of which are absolutely insane. Here are five of those stories. 

1. Straw hat smashing orgy

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In the 1920s, there was a riot over straw hats. It was described as a "straw hat smashing orgy" by The New York Tribune. According to Slate, straw hats for men were considered warm-weather apparel only. Wearing them in autumn was not only a fashion faux-pas but it was considered downright offensive to some. After September 15, it was considered extremely tacky to wear a straw hat, tacky enough to start a riot. To protest this fashion no-no, people began snatching straw hats from heads and trampled them. Outbreaks of hat-snatching gangs began popping up all along the East Coast in 1919. However, the epicenter of this anti-straw hat epidemic took place in New York City in 1922. That year, groups of straw hat haters terrorized the streets of the Big Apple during a three-day-long straw hat riot. Hundreds of young men got into fights. Hats were destroyed using sticks covered in nails. Lots of hats met their doom, but no humans died. There were several injuries to both people and straw hats.

2. Tiger and alligator kept in apartment


Harlem resident Antoine Yates bought a baby tiger named Ming and brought him to live with him in his apartment located in a public housing complex. Ming soon grew into a 500-pound tiger that ate multiple buckets of raw chicken a day. Also living in the Harlem apartment was a 7-foot long alligator named Al. Yates claimed that Ming and Al “used to get nose to nose and sort of interact.” In 2003, Yates got injured when he tried to break up a fight between Ming and another one of Yates' pets: a housecat. When he went for treatment, the hospital tipped off the police. Authorities confiscated the two animals from the apartment.

3. Cashing a corpse’s check


In 2008, two Manhattanites wheeled their dead friend through the streets of Hell’s Kitchen in a red office chair so they could cash his $355 Social Security check. The chair had no arms, so the pair struggled to keep the corpse in the chair as they strolled down a very crowded Ninth Avenue. An NYPD detective looked up from from his lunch at a nearby restaurant to see what he at first thought was a mannequin being wheeled around. But, he noticed that the mannequin was oddly pale and stiff and that the two chair pushers were sweating.

"I said, well, this is a dead guy," the detective said. The men and their dead friend stopped outside a Pay-O-Matic check-cashing shop and struggled to wheel him in. A crowd gathered to watch as the detective walked over from the restaurant and identified himself to the pair.

4. Mailmain hoarded over 40,000 pieces of mail


A postal carrier named Joseph Brucato was caught in 2014 hoarding 2,500lbs worth of mail in his tiny Brooklyn apartment. It was an accumulation of a decade worth of bills, birthday cards, and every kind of junk mail imaginable. That's approximately 1.25 tons of mail! It took five people five hours to remove all of it. Brucato said he kept the mail because he was a depressed alcoholic.

5. Gangster kept lion in bar


This story is pretty crazy, alright. And, it's about someone nicknamed "Crazy" and their wild pet. In the 1950s, a gangster called Crazy Joe Gallo kept a lion named Cleo in the basement of a bar. The establishment was apparently owned and operated by Mondo, a mafia “midget” mascot. Gallo was often seen taking his lion on walks through the neighborhood, as an act of intimidation. Gallo also used Cleo to scare those who owed him debt. There is even a memoir about the lion and the events surrounding its owner called Lion in the Basement.

[Image of NYC: Pexels]


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